The Rolling Stones

Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadow?

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With "Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadow?," the range of sounds with which the Rolling Stones had been experimenting in 1965 and 1966 was widening into psychedelia, although that term has rarely been used to describe the track. However, this 1966 single was certainly stranger than anything the group had previously released, both in production and words. The principal riff was executed not by a fuzz-rock or bluesy guitar, as had been the custom with the group, but by peppy horns. The first bars of the track were devoted to discordant, distorted guitar twanging Wall of Noise that set the listener up for the barrage of shifts and textures to follow. The verses, backed by those horn riffs and a pounding barroom piano, were lyrically obtuse, perhaps reflecting the influence of then-contemporary songs by Bob Dylan and others that took rock wordplay to new limits of obscurity. It was the sort of song that invited far-fetched interpretations, if only because the only possible literal interpretations were ones that could be deduced from much speculation and extrapolation, thereby inviting outrageous ones. Could the Stones have been asking, for instance, whether listeners had seen their mothers turning tricks or doing fixes in the alley (an interpretation that, had it been widespread, would certainly have caused a radio ban)? Or, on a more highbrow level, could the Stones have been implying that people can see dark sides of themselves, or people they think they know very well (such as their mothers), if they look hard enough, in the shadows? The psychological and musical subtlety of the song is certainly enriched by a much quieter and more reflective bridge, in which, against an almost folky lilt of guitars, the group implores someone (their mothers?) to tell them stories about how they adore them and live, glimpse, and hate via the shadow. The backing on this bridge steadily grows louder and fuller, with brass re-entering the picture, until it's back at full-tilt speed for the final charge through the verse. The track ends in a cacophony of heavily reverbed instrumental guitar twang, like the aftermath of a car crash. For all its weirdness, and a dense mix that made the lyrics difficult to penetrate (not an uncommon occurrence on Stones recordings), "Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadow?" was fairly catchy. That's why it made the Top Ten, but it was probably too far out for some radio programmers and listeners, as its chart performance was disappointing in comparison to the 1965-1966 singles it followed. Perhaps the group would have been better off issuing "Under My Thumb" sales-wise, but "Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadow?" was certainly a worthwhile and admirably experimental outing.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
No Image 1964 ABKCO Records 2:30
Big Hits (High Tide and Green Grass) 1966 ABKCO Records 0:00
Flowers 1967 ABKCO Records 2:35
Through the Past, Darkly: Big Hits, Vol. 2 1969 ABKCO Records 2:35
More Hot Rocks (Big Hits and Fazed Cookies) 1972 ABKCO Records 2:32
Rolled Gold: The Very Best of the Rolling Stones 1975 Universal Distribution
No Image 1976 Decca
No Image 1977 Arcade Music
Digital Dreams [Video] 1985 Classic Pictures
The Complete Singles Collection: The London Years 1989 ABKCO Records 2:33
No Image 2001 Decca Bootleg
Forty Licks 2002 ABKCO Records 2:36
Hang All DJ's, Vol. 2 2003
Various Artists
Wax / Waxed Soul Recordings 1:25
Remastered Series 2004 ABKCO Records 2:35
Singles 1965-1967 2004 ABKCO Records 2:35
GRRR! 2012 ABKCO Records 2:37
The Rolling Stones in Mono 2016 ABKCO Records 2:35