The Rolling Stones

Tell Me

Composed by Mick Jagger / Keith Richards

Song Review by

"Tell Me" was the first notable Rolling Stones recording of original material, and their first American Top 40 hit in mid-1964. It was a pop/rock ballad and rather atypical of their music of the time, which largely consisted of blues, R&B, and soul covers. It should be pointed out, however, that the Rolling Stones, even in 1964, were more versatile and open toward non-blues-rooted music than is often acknowledged by critics. They had, after all, already gotten big British hits with a cover of a Beatles song and a cover of a Buddy Holly tune, and the most popular track on their first British EP, "You Better Move On," was a soul ballad with definite pop appeal. When the group's Mick Jagger and Keith Richards began to write songs, they were usually not derived from the blues, but were often surprisingly fey, slow, Mersey-type pop numbers. "Tell Me" was slow and a little Beatlesque, but was not fey. As was also the case more often with the early Rolling Stones than has been credited, "Tell Me" was quite acoustic-based, with a sad, almost dispirited air. After quiet lines about the end of the love affair, the tempo and melody both brighten, as Mick Jagger's ruminations about how much he misses his girlfriend and hopes she'll change his mind become more intense. The chorus makes considerable use of haunting, Aeolian harmonies, not much different from those heard at the end of the Beatles' "Not a Second Time." In fact, harmonies play a pretty strong part in much of "Tell Me," although the execution is appealingly roughshod; the Stones were hardly a match for the Beatles or even the Hollies in the slick harmony department. Those harmonies, and a catchy melody that alternated between major and minor chords, made these fairly similar to much British Invasion pop music of 1964, perhaps giving American listeners a misleading introduction to the group. That's not to say that it was a bad introduction, though; "Tell Me" is quite an affecting performance and strong tune, though more sentimental than the Stones were apt to be as their songwriting matured. The version of "Tell Me" on their first album, incidentally, is considerably longer than the one that usually circulates on greatest-hits collections, with a long guitar solo that was omitted from the more familiar shorter edit. "Tell Me" covers are not too easy to come by, but a fairly raw one did come out in 1965 by the obscure teenage girl duo the Termites, and was reissued on the Girls in the Garage, Vol. 2 compilation.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
The Rolling Stones (England's Newest Hit Makers) 1964 ABKCO Records 4:05
Big Hits (High Tide and Green Grass) 1966 ABKCO Records 3:49
More Hot Rocks (Big Hits and Fazed Cookies) 1972 ABKCO Records 3:48
Rolled Gold: The Very Best of the Rolling Stones 1975 Universal Distribution
The Complete Singles Collection: The London Years 1989 ABKCO Records 3:48
The Rolling Stones/Undercover 1999 Rolling Stones Records
Remastered Series 2004 ABKCO Records 4:05
Singles 1963-1965 2004 ABKCO Records 2:39
Charlie Is My Darling: Ireland 1965 2012 ABKCO Records 2:19
The Rolling Stones in Mono 2016 ABKCO Records 3:50
Not Fade Away [Music From the Motion Picture]
Original Soundtrack
ABKCO Records 3:50