The Rolling Stones

Stray Cat Blues

Song Review by

Perhaps trying to reclaim the sleaze factor from young upstarts like Iggy Pop, the Stooges, and the Velvet Underground, Mick Jagger and the Stones offer this raunchy tale of debauchery with underage groupies -- "stray cats" that the narrator feels he should bring in to protect: "I can see that you're 15 years old/No I don't want your I.D./You look so restless and you're so far from home/But it's no hanging matter/It's no capital crime." A driving three-chord blues, the original 1968 Beggar's Banquet recording rides a mid-up-tempo with a pumping bass line. "Stray Cat Blues" has Jagger playing a role that he picked up somewhere around the release of "Jumping Jack Flash" and continued to embrace through"Sympathy for the Devil," "Cocksucker Blues," and "Memo From Turner" -- from his film Performance -- right through to 1978's "When the Whip Comes Down": the menacing man on the edge riding with the Devil through the "demon life" of "Sway," when not taking the point of view of Beelzebub himself. Perhaps after being labeled as the bad boys of the British Invasion -- a sort of anti-Beatles -- Jagger ingeniously realized he should go with it, forget about the group's forays into psychedelia and flower-power, and exploit the dark side of the blues, posing as the sleazeball and confirming parents' worst nightmares in the process. This all got put under the microscope, of course, after the murder at Altamont. As if trying to be as outrageous as possible, Jagger changed the already sordid "15 years old" to "13 years old" in concerts on their 1969 tour, as captured in the slower groove of the version of "Stray Cat Blues" on Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out. And bringing the ignoble metaphor to its rightful conclusion he adds, "I bet you mama don't know you can bite like that/I'll bet she never saw you scratch my back." The lyrics are so over the top that the intention is clearly tongue-in-cheek and humorous -- a reaction to all the silly moralists worrying about the influence of the Stones and rock & roll in general. Texas blues-rocker Johnny Winter worked with the Southern boogie shape that "Stray Cat Blues" had started to take in live Stones performances with the addition of the blazing young blues guitarist Mick Taylor. Winter recorded a slow version on his 1974 Saints and Sinners LP. Soundgarden also did a surprisingly faithful version on their 1992 Badmotorfinger/Somms(Satanoscillatemymetallicsonatas).

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Beggars Banquet 1968 ABKCO Records 4:37
Sticky Fingers 1971 Virgin 0:00
No Image 1997 Colosseum
Beggar's Banquet/Black & Blue 1999 Rolling Stones Records
Remastered Series 2004 ABKCO Records 4:37
The Rolling Stones 1964-1969 [Vinyl Box Set] 2010 ABKCO Records / Universal Distribution 4:37
The Rolling Stones in Mono 2016 ABKCO Records 4:38
No Image Cool Blokes