Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Another famous song about the color black – this time it’s “Paint It Black” by the Rolling Stones. This particular one was a hit in 1966, right at the beginning of the “Pallenberg years” when the Stones wrote many of their most memorable (to me anyway) songs. Anita Pallenberg, for those who may have missed it (easy to do) was a sort of combination muse and figurehead of the Stones for a while. She had two documented relationships with Stones members, and at least one rumored/unattested hook up with another. Some people think Paint It Black was inspired by Pallenberg, and others say it was Marianne Faithfull. Well, I don’t really want to get into a dissertation on the Rolling Stones love lives here, it would take up way too much time and space, and you can easily find all the info you might want at Wikipedia, so I’ll just sum it up and say that I don’t think the timeline works for either of those ladies.

Basically, this song seems to be about a guy who has lost his girlfriend –lost as in dead – and features all kinds of bleak imagery, including a funeral procession. For this reason, Paint It Black has been used to set a certain dark mood in many pop culture sectors, most especially movie soundtracks and TV episodes: Full Metal Jacket, Tour of Duty, For Love of the Game, Nip/Tuck, Stir of Echoes, The Sopranos. And, just as you might expect, a lot of people see a lot of different themes in it: depression, war, drugs, nihilism, even race relations (hey, I didn’t say they made any sense). Speaking of sense, or make that nonsense, I very briefly tried to find out if Weird AL had done a parody of Paint It Black, with no luck. My attention span just wasn’t up for anything in depth, so maybe someone out there knows and will tell us. Anyway, if he didn’t write one, he should. Paint It Black is just about sitting up on its hind legs begging for Al to pat it on the head.

For those who like their music trivia really small, there’s the matter of the comma in the title. You can see it on several album releases as “Paint It, Black” but Keith Richards has stated that the comma was a later addition by the record label, and not intended to be in the original title. That’s why I don’t use it here. Beside, I don’t like it myself, either. It sounds a little stuffy, like the way James Bond might request something painted. “My name is Bond, James Bond, and I wanted it painted, black. Painted, not papered.” I could probably think up a few more bad Bond puns, but you’ll be relieved to know that I’m not going to try. So let’s have a listen, and let the pounding drums and winding sitar take us back.

This video provides lyrics, including some inaccuracies, typos, and grammar glitches, but it has decent audio.

Photo from
Video by YT member emilyrose6894


Poetikat said...

Have you seen "Full Metal Jacket"? It's a great movie! I went through a Vietnam War-movie phase.

Oh, and I had a copy of "High Tides and Green Grass" when I was in Grade 11. It was one of those old Decca records and it was thick enough to eat off of. Someone stole it. I really miss that album. It was sooo good!


P.S. I read "Up and Down With the Rolling Stones" in high school and it constantly amazes me that any of them are still walking this earth.

Anonymous said...

No, "Paint It Black" has so far missed the Weird Al treatment. However, a healthy selection of Stones songs have found their way into Weird Al's polkas. These aren't parodies; the lyrics don't change. Al just does a medley in polka tempo, to accordion accompaniment. These are the songs he's used:
It's Only Rock 'n' Roll (But I Like It)
Brown Sugar
You Can't Always Get What You Want
Honky Tonk Women
Under My Thumb
Ruby Tuesday
Miss You
Sympathy For The Devil
Get Off Of My Cloud
Let's Spend The Night Together
(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction
Harlem Shuffle
Jumpin' Jack Flash

Al also did a full-on parody of "Ruthless People," about which, the less said the better. But the polkas are splendid. ~OE

Deborah Godin said...

@Kat - oh yeah, those old records were the best!

@Anon - Big thanks for the 411, great job!