The Rolling Stones

I Just Want to Make Love to You

Song Review by

As Robert Christgau wrote in his essay on the Rolling Stones in The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll, Mick Jagger "didn't so much sing Muddy Waters' 'I Just Want to Make Love to You' as get it over with." The blues classic was originally released by Waters on a 1954 single in which the rhythm dramatically, sexily lurched and swayed, leading up to Muddy's repeated exclamations at the end of the verses that he just wanted to make love. Some of the Rolling Stones' early covers were pretty faithful to the originals, but not so with "I Just Want to Make Love to You," a highlight of their 1964 debut album. The group takes the song at a breakneck pace, built around repeated crackling downward guitar licks and wailing, chugging harmonica. Whereas Muddy Waters sang the song as if he was worming his way into his woman's favors with sly, cocky charm, Jagger had a take-no-prisoners assault, halting only briefly for breath near the end of the verses, when the band briefly crashed through stop-starts as the title phrase was delivered. The tempo accelerated yet more for the bridge, where the band seemed like a train threatening to derail from sheer speed, again coming to a climax on a couple of brief stop-starts before launching back into the verse. The sense of untamed wildness became overwhelming again on the instrumental break, where the harmonica built up to a frenzy before those stop-starts served as the lynchpin of a devastatingly authoritative blues-rock guitar lick. Some critics feel that the way the Stones overhauled the tune lacked sensitivity and subtlety, and was an indication of how ill-suited young British white boys were to interpret classics by the Chicago African-American masters. Actually, however, it's a tremendously exciting version, quite different than (and certainly irreverent of) the Waters original. But there's room in the world for both versions, which are each excellent in their own right. Certainly the overheated sexual enthusiasm of the lyric was an indication of the path the Stones would follow for much of their material in their lengthy career. While it could be fairly observed that the song has some objectification of women in its uninhibited desire, it should be pointed out that it wasn't the Stones who wrote the words, but top blues songwriter Willie Dixon. The song got more exposure in the States when it was the B-side of their 1964 hit "Tell Me," and the group performed it even more frenetically onstage, as can be heard on bootleg live/radio/TV recordings. Live, too, they would add a drawn-out, slow tag of the final line that came to a cold, crashing close, whereas the recorded version had a fadeout. The Waters and Stones versions remain by far the most famous, but "I Just Want to Make Love to You" has been recorded by many other artists, including Ann-Margret, Chuck Berry, Foghat, Buddy Guy, Etta James, the Meat Puppets, Van Morrison, Lou Rawls, the Righteous Brothers, the Shadows of Knight, and Junior Wells.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
The Rolling Stones (England's Newest Hit Makers) 1964 ABKCO Records 2:18
The Complete Singles Collection: The London Years 1989 ABKCO Records 2:16
No Image 1991
Various Artists
The Rolling Stones/Undercover 1999 Rolling Stones Records
Remastered Series 2004 ABKCO Records 2:18
Singles 1963-1965 2004 ABKCO Records 2:16
The Rolling Stones 1964-1969 [Vinyl Box Set] 2010 ABKCO Records / Universal Distribution 2:18
The Singles: 1971-2006 2011 Polydor 4:03
The Rolling Stones in Mono 2016 ABKCO Records 2:18