7 super song facts about “Paint It, Black” by The Rolling Stones

rolling stones paint it black

The Rolling Stones have probably released more iconic tracks than any other band in history. Hardly surprising when you learn they’ve been together for over half a century and hold the record for the most recorded songs of all time. One of the most iconic of their incredible 439 tracks is “Paint It, Black”. Released in 1966, it was the first single from the fourth album, Aftemath, and became an anthem for the Sixties counter culture.

What’s more, it’s one of our favourite tunes ever. Two very good reasons to dig deeper and discover more about a song, music critic Richie Unterberger said, “qualifies as perhaps the most effective use of a sitar in a rock song.”

1. The original version was entitled “Paint It Black” without a comma. Keith Richards later said that the comma was added by the record label, Decca.


2.There was no specific inspiration for the lyrics. When asked at the time why he wrote a song about death and depression Mick Jagger replied: “I don’t know. It’s been done before. It’s not an original thought by any means. It all depends on how you do it.”

3. In 1966, the single topped both the United States and the United Kingdom charts, making it the first ever US and UK number one single to feature a sitar. Nearly forty years later, in 2004, it was ranked number 176 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.


4. Jagger got the line “I turn my head until my darkness goes” from James Joyce’s Ulysses.

5. Talking on his Absolute Radio show, Stones’ co-guitarist Ronnie Wood disclosed that Keith Richards has trouble remembering how to play this song. He revealed, “We always have this moment of hesitation where we don’t know if Keith’s going to get the intro right.”

6. In the late 1980s, “Paint It Black” became associated with the Vietnam War due to its use in both the ending credits of the 1987 film Full Metal Jacket and its use as the theme song for Tour Of Duty, a CBS-TV show about the Vietnam war which ran from 1987-1990.

7. Sadly, for The Rolling Stones, “Paint It, Black” is one of the tunes they no longer control. They sold the rights to it during the Sixties to ex-manager Allen Klein.

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23 replies

  1. I was Four when I first heard this song and it’s been my all time favorite since. The symbolism in this song is just…there are no words to explain it. Rock on guys 😀

  2. Let’s face it, 19 year old Mick Jagger must be one of the few people to ever actually read James Joyce’s Ulysses.

    • It’s a shame that teachers don’t teach even the youngest students that these “bad-ass” guys read literature. Imagine. I wish I had understood that about – well, most anyone who was a “star” in any field. (And the trend is to slay the liberal arts. What fools).

  3. You forgot to mention one more fact, this song’s sample is from a Turkish song named “bir eylül ak?am?” by Erkin Koray.

  4. It makes sense that a Turkish song would be the inspiration for Paint it Black. The tune has a sort of middle eastern vibe to it.

  5. Stop to spread this bullshit everywhere.
    Paint It Black was recorded in March 1966 and released in May.
    Your turkish song was also released in 1966, Erkin Koray most probably took it from the Stones.
    It’s not like turkish were not known at that time to make rough copies of western music and cinema.

  6. Erkin Koray recorded Bir eylül ak?am? in 1962 and played it on bars etc but he couldnt publish it until 1966 because of some problems. Mick Jagger also admits Paint it Black “was a kind of Turkish song” in one of his interviews.

  7. I used to watch Tour of Duty mostly because of the song. I never knew what the song was or who sang it until high school. Still listen to this song proably at least once a week. I would say its the best rock song ever.

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