Guitar World has a great little interview with Keith Richards discussing his favorite Stones’ songs and how they came about. There’s nothing surprising on the songlist itself, but some of Keith’s commentary on them is really interesting.
Selected gems include:
Satisfaction – When I wrote the song, I didn’t think of that particular riff as the big guitar riff…I actually thought of that guitar line as a horn riff. The way Otis Redding ended up doing it is probably closer to my original conception for the song….And two weeks later I hear it on the radio. I said, “No, that was just a demo!” They said, “No, it’s a hit.” At least Otis got it right. Our version was a demo for Otis.
Mother’s Little Helper – The main riff is a 12-string with a slide on it. It’s played slightly Orientalish. This was even before sitars were used in rock music. It just needed something to make it twang, ’cause otherwise the song was quite vaudeville in a way.
Jumping Jack Flash – “Jumping Jack Flash” comes from this guy, Jack Dyer, who was my gardener—an old English yokel. Mick and I were in my house down in the south of England…On the record, I played a Gibson Hummingbird [acoustic] tuned to either open E or open D with a capo. And then I added another [acoustic] guitar over the top, but tuned to Nashville tuning [tuned like a 12-string guitar without the lower octave strings]. I learned that from somebody in George Jones‘ band, in San Antonio in ’63. We happened to be playing the World Teen Fair together. This guy in a Stetson and cowboy boots showed me how to do it, with the different strings, to get that high ring. I was picking up tips.
Street Fighting Man – On “Street Fighting Man,” there’s one six-string and one five-string acoustic. They’re both in open tunings, but then there’s a lot of capo work. There are lots of layers of guitars on “Street Fighting Man,” so it’s difficult to say what you’re hearing on there. ‘Cause I tried eight different guitars, and which ones were used in the final version I couldn’t say.
Gimmie Shelter – Some guy crashed out at my pad for a couple of days, then suddenly split in a hurry and left that guitar behind, like, “take care of this for me.” I certainly did. At the very last note of the take, the whole neck fell off. You can hear it on the original track. That guitar had just that one little quality for that specific thing. In a way, it was quite poetic that it died at the end of the track.
Can’t You Hear Me Knocking – We thought we’d finished. We were just rambling and they kept the tape rolling. It was only when we heard the playback we realized: “Oh they kept it going. Okay, fade it out there… no wait, a little bit more, a bit more…” Basically, we realized we had two bits of music: there’s the song and there’s the jam.
Start Me Up – …on a break I just played that guitar riff, not even really thinking much about it; we did a take rocking away and then went back to work and did another 15 reggae takes. Five years later, Mick discovered that one rock take in the middle of the tape and realized how good it was. The fact that I missed “Start Me Up” for five years is one of my disappointments. It just went straight over my head. But you can’t catch everything.
Lots more in the full article.