The Rolling Stones


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"Happy" is pure Keith Richards, a musical declaration of the Richards outlaw credo and one the best songs on Exile. Unlike some of the other tracks on the album, "Happy" was not an old idea reworked, but was born at Nellcote, the villa the Stones used as the group's home base and makeshift recording studio. The house had a loose vibe with all sorts of musicians and hangers on coming and going and the jams often had the feel of pick-up sessions, with various members of the band missing and being augmented by whoever happened to be there. In the case of "Happy," which employed a driving guitar riff, Richards' well-earned swagger, and not much else, producer Jimmy Miller played drums and Bobby Keys played sax while Richards laid down the basic guitar parts and overdubbed the slide leads and bass later. The result is pure rock & roll, a literal blueprint for anyone wanting to understand the essence of the genre. The track also featured in one of the most poignant and tender scenes in the otherwise crass Cocksucker Blues tour documentary. In it, Richards excitedly cues up an acetate of the song and huddles around a tiny record player to hear his handy work, playing air guitar to demonstrate the slide licks to a bemused Mick Jagger. "Happy" was eventually released as a single and over the years has become Richards' signature tune in concert where he often delivers such rag-tag versions that his whiskey-stained vocals are barely audible. It's only fitting considering he's singing "always took candy from strangers/never want to get me no trade/never want to be like poppa/working for the boss every night and day." Amen.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Exile on Main St. 1972 Virgin 3:05
No Image 1973
Various Artists
Warner Bros.
Made in the Shade 1975 Capitol / Hip-O 3:04
No Image 1995 Totonka
No Image 1997 Midnight Beat 3:06
Forty Licks 2002 ABKCO Records 3:05
LP Sleeve Box Set 2005 Toshiba EMI
The Singles: 1971-2006 2011 Polydor 3:05
GRRR! 2012 ABKCO Records 3:06
Honk 2019 Interscope 3:05