The Rolling Stones

Bitch

Song Review by

One of the better and more popular numbers on Sticky Fingers, "Bitch" had more than enough hooks and oomph to make it as a hit single, though it was only used as a B-side (to "Brown Sugar"). Another of the group's endless series of killer riffs -- a series that would start to grow stale and less exciting within a year or two, although no one knew that at the time -- gets pulled out of the hat in the opening bars, with propulsive unison guitar-bass lines, interrupted by a wiry interjection of a single sustained note. It's that riff that keeps the blood pumping during the verses, while the bridge gets just a bit noisier and brassier, ending with the kind of high, ecstatic wordless exclamation that the group was using often in this period (as in "Brown Sugar," for instance). Horns join the guitars to blare out the core unison riff, and as is the case with other Stones tracks of the time like "Honky Tonk Women" and "Brown Sugar," the combination packs an extremely effective punch. The song's title has led some to assume that it's another sneering, misogynistic Jagger/Richards effort. In fact, the lyrics are not so much sexist as vague, though delivered with panache. When people dug into the lyric of "Brown Sugar," they found something that was more disturbing than they suspected; on the other hand, digging into the lyric of "Bitch" might reveal that it's less disturbing than suspected. For one thing, the song is not about a "bitch," but declaring that love itself is a bitch. (In fact, the group could have easily given the song a different title, as the b-word is barely uttered.) For another thing, the lyrics are, even by the standards of Rolling Stones songs, hard to even make out due to the slurred execution and getting half-smothered by the production; try singing along with it, with actual words, if you doubt that. Mick Jagger generally states, not too coherently, that he's in an energetic, messed-up state, and if anything he is the one panting for sex, as in a line about salivating like Pavlov's dog (you really need to get a lyric sheet to suss that one out) and expecting to get laid out. The line about kicking the stalls indicates that Jagger might even be assuming the part of an actual horse for the song. But Jagger's voice is not there so much to deliver meaningful lyrics as to provide another husky instrument, as part of the song's overall dance-rock mix.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
No Image 1971 Rolling Stones Records 3:42
Sticky Fingers 1971 Virgin 3:37
Made in the Shade 1975 Capitol / Hip-O 3:36
No Image 1979 Rounder 3:33
Jump Back: The Best of the Rolling Stones (1971-1993) 1993 Virgin 3:37
No Image 2000 Rattlesnake Records 4:30
No Image 2002 3:38
Singles 1968-1971 2005 ABKCO Records 3:36
LP Sleeve Box Set 2005 Toshiba EMI
The Rolling Stones Box Set 2009 Promotone 3:37
The Singles: 1971-2006 2011 Polydor 3:36
GRRR! 2012 ABKCO Records 0:00
Bitch Polydor 5:53
December's Children (And Everybody's)/Sticky Fingers CD Maximum