100 Greatest Rolling Stones Songs

4

"Street Fighting Man" (1968)

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"Street Fighting Man" was recorded in the spring of 1968, after Jagger witnessed a massive anti-war protest in Grosvenor Square. The song's literal meaning was ambivalent. But its energy wasn't, and it felt like a call for radicals to up their game. Inspired by Martha and the Vandellas' "Dancing in the Streets," the song emerged from the band's first sessions with Jimmy Miller, who produced all of its albums from Beggars Banquet to Goats Head Soup, in 1973. Remarkably, bass aside, it has no electric instrumentation. Richards created the layered guitar parts by distorting his acoustic through a cassette recorder. Jones played sitar and tamboura; Dave Mason, of Traffic, played a droning double-reed shehnai; Nicky Hopkins tinkled some ascending notes on piano, and Watts played a small practice drum kit miked to sound gargantuan. What emerged was the Stones' most explicitly political moment. As Richards later wrote, "You wouldn't have had 'Street Fighting Man' without the Vietnam War."

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