Friday, January 25, 2019

"Harlem Shuffle" by The Rolling Stones

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2659
Date:  03/15/1986
Debut:  47
Peak:  5
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  In the three years since the Stones issued out their 1983 album Undercover, tensions between Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were at an all-time high. At the center of their turmoil was Jagger's decision to go off and do a solo album, which irked Richards. Also causing stress on the band was Charlie Watts' drug and alcohol addiction. At one point the Stones seemed on the brink of breaking up, but they had signed a contract with a new label, CBS, so they had obligations to meet. Jagger and Richards set aside their spat in order to convene and record a new album titled Dirty Work. Co-producing with Jagger and Richards was Steve Lillywhite, who had the task of keeping everyone together and the project going. Once the album was ready, this first single was pushed out. It would be a hit at Rock getting to #2 and it also did well on the Dance chart reaching #4. At Pop it would become the band's 22nd Top 10 hit. The song's success would help the album reach #4 and go platinum. A tour to support the album was planned, but Jagger backed out of it apparently due to concerns about Charlie Watts' health.

ReduxReview:  While this song fits the Stones well and was a hit, it wasn't one of their greatest hits. I think this tune was helped along by its video and from Jagger's popularity coming off of his solo album and his #7 duet with David Bowie "Dancing in the Street." For me it's a moderately interesting old school soul jam performed well by the band. A tune like this is just a walk in the park for these guys and I guess that's kind of what it feels like to me. It lacks the excitement and electricity of previous lead-off singles like "Start Me Up." The original (see below) has a lot more swagger and a horn arrangement, which is sorely missing from the Stones' more pop-oriented take. It's a good song, but it's one that would never come close to making a list of the band's best singles. (Note - if you were wondering who the other male vocalist is on the track riffing a few lines, it is soul singer/songwriter Bobby Womack.)

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This is a remake of a song originally recorded by the R&B duo Bob & Earl. Written by the pair, the song was issued out as a single in late December of 1963. It was a minor chart entry getting to #44 at both R&B and Pop. In the UK, the single was a flop when released there, but then in 1969 the song got some attention and a reissue ended up reaching #7 on the chart. Keith Richards was a fan of the song and had wanted to record it with the Stones for many years thinking it was perfect for Jagger to perform. Apparently, Richards put the Bob & Earl song on a bunch of cassettes and would then place them around with other demos and such for Jagger to find, yet Jagger didn't bite. While in the studio one evening, Richards and the band started toying with the song as they were warming up. Jagger walked in and started singing the tune and they all realized it was exactly the right song for them. They recorded it in a couple of takes and a hit single was born.  2) The video for this song was an elaborate mix of animation and live action. The live action portion was directed by Ralph Bakshi, the writer/director of the infamous X-rated animated film Fritz the Cat (1972). The animated portion was directed by John Kricfalusi. Kricfalusi would later become famous for developing the characters and creating the 1991 Nickelodeon TV show Ren & Stimpy.


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