The Rolling Stones

Factory Girl

Composed by Keith Richards / Mick Jagger

Song Review by

If the Rolling Stones could claim that they were not taking a mocking tone on Beggar's Banquet's other country-infused numbers, "Salt of the Earth" and "Dear Doctor," they would have a real hard time defending "Factory Girl" against a similar charge. But, in the end, the intent is not malicious; Mick Jagger's characterization of a "girl, her knees are much too fat," from the point of view of her beau, is simply too funny. The valid, though politically correct, argument could claim that, if Jagger had been poking fun at poverty-stricken blacks instead of poor Appalachian whites, the song would be little more than minstrel entertainment. But Jagger has always been an equal opportunity satirist; witness the song "Some Girls." As usual, the music itself strives for and attains a certain degree of authenticity. In the case of "Factory Girl," the main inspiration seems to be the sort of Appalachian folk ballads that Harry Smith turned the music community on to with his famous compilation of obscure folk artists, Anthology of American Folk Music for Folkways in 1952 (re-released in 1997). "Factory Girl" in fact shares its title with a traditional Irish ballad. The Stones' song is sparse, with only Keith Richards on open-tuned acoustic guitar, percussionist Rocky Dijon on conga drums, and Traffic's Rik Grech and Dave Mason on violin and mandolin, respectively. Jagger, in a convincing howling hillbilly style, sounds like a vocalist on an old field recording, lending the Stones' 1968 recording an ancient feel. As with his affectations on "Dear Doctor," Jagger is clearly approaching the subject tongue-in-cheek, but it is also clear that he has studied the music closely and reverentially, thus his ability to perfectly capture the colloquial flavor: "Waiting for a girl, she's got stains all down her dress/Waiting for a girl and my feet are getting wet/She ain't come out yet/Waiting for a factory girl." Jagger drags out "she ain't" so awkwardly that it is downright hilarious. It is really only the fact that listeners know he was a late-'60s hipster from an upper middle-class British upbringing that causes the source of the music to be questioned. There is no contempt hidden in his delivery; in a way, he seems to be self-consciously poking fun at himself for assuming he could ever co-opt such foreign material. Boston's left-of-center early-'90s blues outfit Treat Her Right -- notable for being the band that featured pre-Morphine Mark Sandman and Billy Conway, as well as Jim Fitting, who went on to play harmonica with The The -- recorded a swampy but faithful version on Treat Her Right in 1991.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Beggars Banquet 1968 Digital 2:08
Flashpoint 1991 Capitol / Universal 2:47
No Image 1997 Colosseum
Beggar's Banquet/Black & Blue 1999 Rolling Stones Records
Remastered Series 2004 ABKCO Records 2:09
The Rolling Stones 1964-1969 [Vinyl Box Set] 2010 ABKCO Records / Universal Distribution 2:09
No Image Cool Blokes
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