The Rolling Stones

2000 Light Years From Home

Song Review by

Sure, it's a nod to the psychedelic trends of the era, but really, "2000 Light Years From Home" is just a minor-key variation on the 12-bar blues that the Rolling Stones had been practicing since the beginning of their career. The common consensus amongst critics and many fans of the Stones is that their 1967 album, Their Satanic Majesty's Request, is merely a weak attempt to cover some of the same ground that the Beatles had broken on their legendary Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The criticism, however, is misleading; if a work of art can be at once groundbreaking and overrated simultaneously, then that is certainly the case with Sgt. Pepper's, a historically momentous record with moments of sheer genius -- in songwriting and production -- though, not the group's best record and weighed down by moments of overwrought tedium as well. Their Satanic Majesty's Request does not come anywhere close to the heights attained by the Beatles' record, and it also reaches some pretty low depths. Nevertheless, the record has some excellent moments. The Stones injected their psychedelic forays with a hearty dose of hard-rocking blues and R&B, especially on "Citadel" and "2000 Light Years From Home," while the heaviest the Beatles got on their record is "A Day in the Life" and the record spends more time covering ground usually left to bad musical theater. "2000 Light Years From Home" is downright spooky -- exploring inner-space as outer-space, the realms of human consciousness, perhaps subject matter already covered by bands like Pink Floyd and writers like Ray Bradbury, but predating the eerie lost-in-space subject matter of David Bowie's "Space Oddity" by a couple of years. Beginning with a strum and bang of a piano's strings, creating a dissonant crash, Charlie Watts kicks "2000 Light Years From Home" into high gear after a wicked Latin-tinged/suspense film guitar lick introduction by Keith Richards. Bill Wyman keeps the bass footed in the blues. But Brian Jones layers on prominent Mellotron strings and effects, giving the song a surreal and cinematically epic sweep, and creating the desired soaring effect that drives Mick Jagger's vocals. The lyrics are, on the surface, about space travel, but ultimately about distance and loneliness -- perhaps a metaphor for drug use and the increasing gulfs between youth culture and their elders, the "home" in the song. Jagger apparently wrote the lyrics in jail, the same time he wrote "We Love You," after being arrested in an infamous drug bust at Keith Richards' estate, a fact that would certainly play into the lonely feel of the lyric. The song is often cited as an exception to the overall subpar effort of Their Satanic Majesty's Request, a record that even the Stones themselves have sought to distance themselves from, variously dismissing it as a product of over-indulgence of drugs and a moment of spite directed at their then-manager and producer Andrew Loog Oldham. The Stones realized, though, the record's good moments, and on tours in the mid- to late '90s resurrected "2000 Light Years From Home" in a powerful rendition. The band Sky Cries Mary gave the song an ambient, spooky take on their 1998 Fresh Fruits for the Revolution.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Their Satanic Majesties Request 1967 ABKCO Records 4:45
Through the Past, Darkly: Big Hits, Vol. 2 1969 ABKCO Records 4:46
More Hot Rocks (Big Hits and Fazed Cookies) 1972 ABKCO Records 4:47
Rolled Gold: The Very Best of the Rolling Stones 1975 Universal Distribution
No Image 1977 Arcade Music
The Complete Singles Collection: The London Years 1989 ABKCO Records 4:44
Greatest Rarities, Vol. 1 1991 [Bootleg]
Remastered Series 2004 ABKCO Records 4:46
Singles 1965-1967 2004 ABKCO Records 4:44
The Singles: 1971-2006 2011 Polydor 3:29
GRRR! 2012 ABKCO Records 0:00
The Rolling Stones in Mono 2016 ABKCO Records 4:45