"Street Fighting Man" is a song by English rock band
the Rolling Stones The Rolling Stones are an English Rock music, rock band formed in London in 1962. Diverging from the popular pop rock of the early-1960s, the Rolling Stones pioneered the gritty, heavier-driven sound that came to define hard rock. Their f ...
featured on their 1968 album '' Beggars Banquet''. Called the band's "most political song", '' Rolling Stone'' ranked the song number 301 on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.


In an interview with Marc Myers, Keith Richards said that he wrote most of the music for the song in late 1966 or early 1967, and got the "dry, crisp" sound that he wanted by strumming an acoustic guitar with an open tuning in front of a portable
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cassette recorder microphone. The melody was influenced by the sound of police sirens. Originally titled and recorded as "Did Everyone Pay Their Dues?", containing the same music but very different lyrics about adult brutality, "Street Fighting Man" is known as one of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards' most politically inclined works to date. Jagger allegedly wrote it about Tariq Ali after he attended a 1968 anti-war rally at London's US embassy, during which mounted police attempted to control a crowd of 25,000. He also found inspiration in the rising violence among student rioters on Paris' Rive Gauche, Left Bank,Roy Carr, ''The Rolling Stones: An Illustrated Record'', Harmony Books, 1976. . p. 55. the precursor to a period of civil unrest in May 1968 in France, May 1968. Jagger explained in a 1995 interview with Jann Wenner in '' Rolling Stone'': Richards said, only a few years after recording the track in a 1971 ''Rolling Stone'' interview with Robert Greenfield, that the song had been "interpreted thousands of different ways". He mentioned how Jagger went to the Grosvenor Square demonstrations in London and was even charged by the police, yet he ultimately claims, "it really is ambiguous as a song".Greenfield, Robert. "Keith Richards – Interview". ''Rolling Stone'' (magazine) 19 August 1971.


Recording on "Street Fighting Man" took place at Olympic Sound Studios from April until May 1968. With Jagger on lead vocals and both he and Richards on backing, Brian Jones performs the song's distinctive sitar and also Tanpura (instrument), tamboura. Richards plays the song's acoustic guitars as well as bass, the only electric instrument on the recording. Charlie Watts plays drums while Nicky Hopkins performs the song's piano which is most distinctly heard during the outro. Shehnai is performed on the track by Dave Mason. On the earlier, unreleased "Did Everybody Pay Their Dues" version, Rick Grech played a very prominent electric viola. Watts said in 2003: Richards commented on the recording:

Critical reception

The song opens with a strummed acoustic guitar riff. In his review, Richie Unterberger says of the song, "[I]t's a great track, gripping the listener immediately with its sudden, springy guitar chords and thundering, offbeat drums. That unsettling, urgent guitar rhythm is the mainstay of the verses. Mick Jagger's typically half-buried lyrics seem at casual listening like a call to revolution." Unterberger continues, "Perhaps they were saying they wished they could be on the front lines, but were not in the right place at the right time; perhaps they were saying, as John Lennon did in the Beatles' "Revolution (Beatles song), Revolution", that they didn't want to be involved in violent confrontation. Or perhaps they were even declaring indifference to the tumult." Other writers' interpretations varied. In 1976, Roy Carr assessed it as a "great summer street-corner rock anthem on the same echelon as 'Summer in the City', 'Summertime Blues', and 'Dancing in the Street'." In 1979, Dave Marsh wrote that as part of ''Beggars Banquet'', "Street Fighting Man" was the "keynote, with its teasing admonition to do something and its refusal to admit that doing it will make any difference; as usual, the Stones were more correct, if also more faithless, philosophers than any of their peers." In fact, the second line of the first verse alludes to "Dancing in the Street"; a similar line had been present in the aforementioned song, where "fighting" instead was "dancing".

Backlash in the United States

The song was released within a week of the violent confrontations between the police and anti-Vietnam War protesters at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Worried about the possibility of the song inciting further violence, Chicago radio stations refused to play the song. This was much to the delight of Mick Jagger, who stated: "I'm rather pleased to hear they have banned (the song). The last time they banned one of our records in America, it sold a million." Jagger said he was told they thought the record was subversive, to which he snapped: "Of course it's subversive! It's stupid to think you can start a revolution with a record. I wish you could." Keith Richards weighed into the debate when he said that the fact a couple of radio stations in Chicago banned the record "just goes to show how paranoid they are". At the same time they were still requested to do live appearances and Richards said: "If you really want us to cause trouble, we could do a few stage appearances. We are more subversive when we go on stage."

Retrospective views

Bruce Springsteen would comment in 1985, after including "Street Fighting Man" in the encores of some of his Born in the U.S.A. Tour shows: "That one line, 'What can a poor boy do but sing in a rock and roll band?' is one of the greatest rock and roll lines of all time... [The song] has that edge-of-the-cliff thing when you hit it. And it's funny; it's got humour to it."Dave Marsh, Marsh, Dave. ''Glory Days: Bruce Springsteen in the 1980s''. Pantheon Books, 1987. . pp. 229-230. Jagger continues in the ''Rolling Stone'' interview when asked about the song's resonance thirty years on; "I don't know if it [has any]. I don't know whether we should really play it. I was persuaded to put it [on Voodoo Lounge Tour] because it seemed to fit in, but I'm not sure if it really has any resonance for the present day. I don't really like it that much." Despite this, the song has been performed on a majority of the Stones' tours since its introduction to their canon of work, and is usually played second to last before their usual closing track Jumpin' Jack Flash.


Released as ''Beggars Banquet''s lead single in August 1968 in the US, "Street Fighting Man" was popular on release, but did not reach the Top 40 (reaching number 48) of the US charts in response to many radio stations' refusal to play the song based on what were perceived as subversive lyrics. "No Expectations", also from ''Beggars Banquet'', was used as the single's B-side. For reasons unknown, the single did not see a release in the UK until 1971 (backed with "The Rolling Stones, Now!, Surprise, Surprise", previously released in the UK on the various artists Decca LP compilation "14" in 1965. The US single version was released in Monophonic sound, mono with an additional vocal overdub on the choruses, and thus is different from the ''Beggars Banquet'' album's stereo version. While many of the US London picture sleeves are rare and collectable, the sleeve for this single is particularly scarce and is considered their most valuable. The album version of the song has been included on the compilations ''Through the Past, Darkly (Big Hits Vol. 2)'' (1969), ''Hot Rocks 1964-1971'' (1971), ''30 Greatest Hits'' (1977), ''Singles Collection: The London Years'' (1989 edition), ''Forty Licks'' (2002), and ''GRRR!'' (2012). The US single version was included on the 2002 edition of ''Singles Collection: The London Years'' and on ''Stray Cats'', a collection of singles and rarities released as part of the box set ''The Rolling Stones in Mono'' (2016). A staple at Rolling Stones live shows since the band's The Rolling Stones American Tour 1969, American Tour of 1969, concert recordings of the song have been captured and released for the live albums ''Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out!'' (recorded 1969, released 1970), ''Stripped (Rolling Stones album), Stripped'' (1995; rereleased on ''Totally Stripped'' in 2016), ''Live Licks'' (recorded 2003, released 2004), and ''Hyde Park Live'' (2013).


The Rolling Stones *Mick Jaggervocals, claves * Keith Richardsacoustic guitars, bass guitar *Brian Jonessitar, Tanpura, tamboura *Charlie Wattsdrums Additional personnel * Dave Masonshehnai, bass drum * Nicky Hopkinspiano



External links

* {{Authority control 1968 singles 1968 songs Decca Records singles London Records singles Oasis (band) songs Obscenity controversies in music Protest songs Raga rock songs Rage Against the Machine songs Ramones songs Song recordings produced by Jimmy Miller Songs written by Jagger/Richards The Rolling Stones songs