Wild Wild HorsesSeptember 20, 2009
Well. There goes another of my favourite tracks that I can never listen to again in the same way. Hot on the heels of one reality TV star’s murdering of ‘Hallelujah‘ comes the news that oor ain wee Susan Boyle, SuBo to the rest of the world, will be releasing her own version of The Rolling Stones‘ ‘Wild Horses’. It’s leaked online and it’s eh, no’ as bad as you might think. Aye! A sweeping-stringed, soulful and passionate, inner-demon bearing affair, on first listen it actually brought a tear to my eye.
Who am I kidding? It’s shite. Aye, it brings a tear to my eye, but for all the wrong reasons. But you knew that already. The original version of Wild Horses is a stone cold rolled gold classic. It’s always been my favourite Stones track, from the Nashville ‘n’ open G tuning twin guitar arrangement via the fragile melody right through to Jagger’s incredibly adult lyrics. Whilst hardly a teenager, it’s hard to believe he was only 26 when he penned it. 26! Sure, in rock n roll terms thats practically pensionable, but given that yer Stones are still a going concern (albeit a limping and wheezing pastiche of their former self) for Mick to have written such a serious, grown up lyric like that the age of 26 amazes me. The Stones will always be known for the down and dirty rock n roll stuff, but songs like this are often by-passed in favour of blustery rammalamma like Satisfaction and Street Fighting Man and (insert yer own Stones title here) I don’t think even Paul McCartney was writing songs as mature as this at the age of 26, and he was always 20 going on 40 at the height of Beatlemania. There’s certainly no way any of today’s young turks could go balls out rock one minute then pen as tender a lyric in the next. Certainly not The Cribs. Or Biffy fucking Clyro. I’m as fond of a Gabba Gabba Hey as much as the bext man, but I wish I’d have been able to write a Wild Horses in my mid 20s.
Yer actual Mick n Keef, 1969 Muscle Shoals Sessions
In 1969, Keith Richards wrote the music and the “wild horses couldn’t drag me away” lyric as a lament to his young son Marlon who he frequently had to leave as he embarked on tour after tour. Jagger re-interpreted the lyric as a paeon to lost love. Marianne Faithful later claimed the first words Jagger said to her after an operdose were “wild horses couldn’t drag me away“. So. Lots of interpretations. You can make of it what you will. What is fact is that regular Stones keyboardist Ian Stewart didn’t actually play on the Stones version. He refused to play on the session because he hated playing minor chords on the piano! Numpty. Famous sessioneer Jim Dickinson (Aretha, Big Star, Rod Stewart to name but a few) played on the track instead.
What is also fact is that Keith gave the track to Gram Parsons and the first commercially available version of Wild Horses was by the Flying Burrito Brothers. Since then, there’s been a zillion different cover versions. Here’s a few of the better, more interesting ones.
The Sundays Wild Horses (superb soul baring bedroom indie version)
LaBelle Wild Horses (smooth discosoultastic version from 1971)
Leon Russell Wild Horses (former Spector sessioneer’s southern fried piano-led version)
Rolling Stones Wild Horses acoustic version. Taken from the Muscle Shoals ‘Sticky Fingers’ sessions bootleg.
Rolling Stones Wild Horses alternate version. Reverb-heavy outtake featured by mistake on some Dutch Rolling Stones compilation album before bveing hastily withdrawn. This version sounds wonky – the tape is running at the wrong speed for half of it.