The Rolling Stones

Waiting on a Friend

Composed by Keith Richards / Mick Jagger

Song Review by

Tattoo You's closing track, the lazy ballad "Waiting On a Friend" has a graceful, low-key ease. Although the song was originally recorded in Jamaica (in 1973, during the Goats Head Soup sessions; although this wasn't well-publicized at the time, Tattoo You consists almost entirely of outtakes and leftovers with some minor alterations and overdubs), it doesn't have the expected reggae vibe. Instead, the song's direct antecedents are Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller's Latin-influenced hits for the Drifters in the early '60s: "This Magic Moment," "Spanish Harlem," that sort of thing. In particular, the way Bill Wyman's melodic, wood-toned bass drives not just the rhythm section but the tune as a whole sounds like a direct nod to the likes of "On Broadway." However, the song is primarily notable for two elements, a simply lovely extended sax solo by jazz legend Sonny Rollins that is probably the best use of reeds in the Stones' entire career, and Mick Jagger's uncharacteristically emotional and open-hearted lyric about the importance of long-term relationships, not normally a subject one immediately thinks about in his case. The chorus, "I'm not waitin' on a lady/I'm just waitin' on a friend," can be taken either as a me-and-the-boys bonding statement, or (perhaps more interestingly) as a statement of dawning realization that his current relationship stopped being a one-night stand some nights back.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Tattoo You 1981 Universal / Universal Music 4:34
Rewind (1971-1984) 1984 Columbia / Rolling Stones Records 4:37
Jump Back: The Best of the Rolling Stones (1971-1993) 1993 Polydor / Universal 4:34
No Security 1998 Virgin 5:02
LP Sleeve Box Set 2005 Toshiba EMI
The Singles: 1971-2006 2011 Universal Music 4:34
GRRR! 2012 Universal Music / Universal Music Canada
From the Vault: Hampton Coliseum (Live in 1981) 2014 Eagle Rock
From the Vault: The Complete Series, Vol. 1 Eagle Vision
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