Rolling Stones in Hot Water Over Song Lyrics

Equal rights groups react strongly to lyrics of 'Some Girls,' prompting the band to release a statement

Rolling Stone Mick Jagger Ron Wood
Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns
Ron Wood and Mick Jagger pose in a hotel room in Brussels, Belgium in May, 1976.
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Black Girls just want to get fucked all night/I just don't have that much jam."

Those lines from the title cut of the Rolling Stones' 4-million-selling Some Girls album are creating some headaches for the Stones and their record company. On October 6th, Ahmet Ertegun, chairman of the board of Atlantic Records (which distributes the Stones' Rolling Stones Records), met in Chicago with the Reverend Jesse Jackson, head of Operation PUSH (People United to Save Humanity), which has been waging a two-year campaign against "sex-rock" lyrics. After an hour-long huddle, Jackson denounced "Some Girls" as a "racial insult" that "degrades blacks and women" and threatened boycotts and pickets until some sort of "resolution" was reached.

Ertegun was conciliatory. Noting Atlantic's long history as a home for R&B artists, he said, "It is not our wish to in any way demean, insult or make less of the people without whom there would be no Atlantic Records."

Rolling Stones Album Guide: Some Girls

As for "Some Girls," Ertegun said: "When I first heard the song, I told Mick it was not going to go down well. Mick assured me that it was a parody of the type of people who hold these attitudes. Mick has great respect for blacks. He owes his whole being, his whole musical career, to black people."

It remained unclear, however, exactly what kind of "resolution" would take place. On the one hand, Ertegun said "Some Girls" could be edited and that he would ask Atlantic officials to "withdraw the lyrics." But he also said that Atlantic has no plans to press more copies of the album, that the Stones have "absolute artistic autonomy," that Atlantic is legally bound to distribute their albums and that no records would be recalled.

Later, Earl McGrath, president of Rolling Stones Records, said he felt the song could not be edited and that more records might be pressed.

Meanwhile, the Stones seem willing to wash their hands of the whole issue. When some black-oriented radio stations boycotted "Some Girls" after the album's early summer release, Jagger told Rolling Stone that "Atlantic tried to get us to drop it, but I refused. I've always been opposed to censorship of any kind, especially by conglomerates. I've always said, 'If you can't take a joke, it's too fucking bad."'

But on October 12th, McGrath issued the following statement on behalf of the band:

"It never occurred to us that our parody of certain stereotypical attitudes would be taken seriously by anyone who heard the entire lyric of the song in question. No insult was intended, and if any was taken, we sincerely apologize."

This is a story from the November 16, 1978 issue of Rolling Stone.

From The Archives Issue 278: November 16, 1978
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