The Rolling Stones

Honky Tonk Women

Composed by Keith Richards / Mick Jagger

Song Review by

"Honky Tonk Women" was the last and one of the greatest of the Rolling Stones' classic 1960s singles, reaching number one in 1969. Most Rolling Stones classics are based around a primal blues-rock riff, and in "Honky Tonk Women," there could have been several: the clipped circular one at the beginning of the song, the responsive ones that echo Mick Jagger's vocal through the verses, or the ones played by a combination of guitars and horns in the instrumental break. Also crucial to the musical greatness of the track was Charlie Watts' funky, no-frills drumbeats, which lead off the song and ricochet throughout the song with great authority but absolutely no bombast. Although "Honky Tonk Women" is rock & roll, there's a lot of country and blues influence, perhaps even more country than blues. That Southern country quality is drawn out by Jagger's drawling vocals, projecting a sense of slight drunkenness and nonchalant angling for a good time. The chorus is one of the easiest to sing along with in any Rolling Stones song, and sounds a bit like mates at a bar or pub getting together for a bit of a shout. Melodically, it is also one of the most country-like sections of the tune; it's not too hard to imagine it being performed, at a slower tempo and with steel guitar, by some Hank Williams-like performer. In fact, the Stones did do a far more country-oriented variation on the song, "Country Honk," on their 1969 album Let It Bleed, although it was much inferior to the arrangement on the "Honky Tonk Women" single. The barroom atmosphere of "Honky Tonk Women" has, naturally, made it a favorite for innumerable bar bands since the late '60s as an obvious song to get the customers in a good flirtin', drinkin', singalong mood. It was also covered, in concert and on record, by plenty of established artists, including Joe Cocker, Mott the Hoople, and, more improbably, Rick Nelson. The most well-known cover may be a silly live one on Elton John's concert album 11-17-70, which highlighted a cappella renditions of the chorus that came to a dead stop, filled in by audience laughter. As such, it reflected the original Rolling Stone Record Guide's description of that Elton John album as "a cheerfully idiotic and self-indulgent mess."

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Through the Past, Darkly: Big Hits, Vol. 2 1969 ABKCO Records
Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out! 1970 Time Life
Sticky Fingers 1971 Polydor / Rolling Stones Records 3:20
No Image 1971 Decca
Hot Rocks: 1964-1971 1972 ABKCO Records
Rolled Gold: The Very Best of the Rolling Stones 1975 ABKCO Records 3:01
No Image 1975 Berkeley
Stones Story 1976 Decca 3:00
Love You Live 1977 Polydor / Universal / Universal Music 3:19
No Image 1977 Arcade Music
No Image 1979 Excitable
No Image 1984 EMI Music Distribution
No Image 1985 Import
Brussels Affair (Live 1973) 1988 Promotone 3:10
The Complete Singles Collection: The London Years 1989 Universal Music 2:59
No Image 1990 Swingin' Pig
Greatest Rarities, Vol. 1 1991 [Bootleg]
Live at the Max [Video] 1995 Polygram
No Image 1995 Totonka
No Image 1996 Midnight Beat 3:21
No Image 1998 RSP Records 5:09
No Image 1999 Cool Daddy 3:28
Forty Licks 2002 Virgin
No Image 2002 3:04
Sympathy for the Devil 2003 Universal Distribution
Remastered Series 2004 ABKCO Records 3:02
Live Licks 2004 EMI Music Distribution 3:24
Singles 1968-1971 2005 ABKCO Records / Universal Distribution 3:00
The Biggest Bang 2007 Universal Distribution / Universal Music
No Image 2011 Eagle Rock
Some Girls: Live in Texas '78 2012 Eagle Rock 3:38
GRRR! 2012 Universal Distribution 3:00
Crossfire Hurricane [Video] 2013 Eagle Rock
Hyde Park Live 2013 Universal Music 6:58
Sweet Summer Sun: Hyde Park Live 2013 Eagle Rock / Eagle Vision
Sweet Summer Sun: Hyde Park Live 2013 Eagle Rock / Eagle Vision 6:58
From the Vault: Hampton Coliseum (Live in 1981) 2014 Eagle Rock 3:42
From the Vault: L.A. Forum (Live in 1975) 2014 Eagle Vision 5:29
From the Vault: Hyde Park 1969 2015 Eagle Rock
From the Vault: Live at the Tokyo Dome 2015 Eagle Rock / Eagle Vision 5:00
From the Vault: Live in Leeds 1982 2015 Eagle Rock
Totally Stripped [Video] 2016 Eagle Rock 4:53
The Rolling Stones in Mono 2016 ABKCO Records 3:03
Havana Moon [Video] 2016 Eagle Rock
Bridges to Bremen 4:42
From the Vault: The Complete Series, Vol. 1 Eagle Vision
No Image SCRO
No Image Halcyon 4:13
No Image
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