When the Rolling Stones play a stadium, they usually stick to the hits. So it was extra surprising in Hamburg, Germany on September 9th, 2017 when they broke out 1965’s haunting “Play With Fire” for the first time in nearly 30 years.
The song, originally released as a B-side to “The Last Time,” is a classic, the story of a young high-society woman and her mother who’s “an heiress, owns a block in Saint John’s Wood.” It’s full of mystery, with some wondering if it’s about Jagger having a three-way relationship with the mother and daughter. “Ah, the imagination of teenager!” Jagger said when asked that question in 1968, according to 2016’s The Rolling Stones All the Songs: The Story Behind Every Track. It was cut in the early hours one January night after an all-night session in which the band recorded “The Last Time.” Jagger and Keith Richards are the only two Stones on the track – Jack Nietzsche played harpsichord and Phil Spector played electric guitar. “’Play with Fire’ sounds amazing,” Mick Jagger told RS in 1995. ”It’s a very in-your-face kind of sound and very clearly done. You can hear all the vocal stuff on it. And I’m playing the tambourines.”
Jagger had apparently forgotten how amazing the song sounded by the time of the No Filter tour. In an interview for his art book Set Pieces: The Rolling Stones Set Lists, Ronnie Wood told us that he had to personally request they add it in for the first time since the Steel Wheels tour. “I think I may have suggested it to Mick – he didn’t realize what a great song it was,” Wood said. “And I think he went away and thought about it and it just suddenly appeared at rehearsal. Keith and I were both playing acoustics. That’s another one I’d like to do more often – as a sort of choice between that and ‘Angie,’ that kind of thing.” Jagger introduced the song as a “very slow romantic ballad, a very old one that we haven’t done for a long, long time.” Here’s hoping the band play it when they hit the road again this summer.
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“Play With Fire,” Montreal 1989: