Rahul Sharma (Editor)

Honky Tonk Women

Updated on
Share on FacebookTweet on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Reddit


"You Can't Always Get What You Want"

4 July 1969 (1969-07-04) (UK) July 1969 (1969-07) (US)

June 1969 at Olympic Studios, London

Hard rock rock and roll

"Honky Tonk Women" is a 1969 hit song by The Rolling Stones. Released as a single only release (although a country version was included on Let It Bleed), on 4 July 1969 in the United Kingdom and a week later in the United States, it topped the charts in both nations.


Inspiration and recording

The song was written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards while on holiday in Brazil from late December 1968 to early January 1969, inspired by Brazilian "caipiras" (inhabitants of rural, remote areas of parts of Brazil) at the ranch where Jagger and Richards were staying in Matão, São Paulo. Two versions of the song were recorded by the band: the familiar hit which appeared on the 45 single and their collection of late 1960s singles, Through the Past, Darkly (Big Hits Vol. 2); and a honky-tonk version entitled "Country Honk" with slightly different lyrics, which appeared on Let It Bleed (1969).

Thematically, a "honky tonk woman" refers to a dancing girl in a western bar who may work as a prostitute; the setting for the narrative in the first verse of the blues version is Memphis, Tennessee, while "Country Honk" sets the first verse in Jackson, Mississippi.

I met a gin soaked bar-room queen in Memphis

I'm sittin' in a bar, tippin' a jar in Jackson

The band initially recorded the track called "Country Honk", in London in early March 1969. Brian Jones was present during these sessions and may have played on the first handful of takes and demos. It was his last recording session with the band. The song was transformed into the familiar electric, riff-based hit single "Honky Tonk Women" sometime in the spring of 1969, prior to Mick Taylor's joining the group. In an interview in the magazine Crawdaddy!, Richards credits Taylor for influencing the track: "... the song was originally written as a real Hank Williams/Jimmie Rodgers/1930s country song. And it got turned around to this other thing by Mick Taylor, who got into a completely different feel, throwing it off the wall another way." However, in 1979 Taylor recalled it this way: "I definitely added something to Honky Tonk Women, but it was more or less complete by the time I arrived and did my overdubs."

"Honky Tonk Women" is distinctive as it opens not with a guitar riff, but with a beat played on a cowbell. The Rolling Stones' producer Jimmy Miller performed the cowbell for the recording.

The concert rendition of "Honky Tonk Women" on Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out! (1970) differs significantly from the studio hit, with a markedly dissimilar guitar introduction and the first appearance on vinyl of an entirely different second verse.

Live visuals

During the North American leg of the 1989 Steel Wheels tour, a giant inflatable woman was cued to appear just before the first chorus. There was an animated live visual for this song when it was performed in concert around 2002 and 2003. It featured a topless woman riding on the Rolling Stones tongue who was seen in the beginning of the concert.


The single was released in the UK the day after the death of founding member Brian Jones where it remained on the charts for 5 weeks peaking at No. 1. "You Can't Always Get What You Want" was the single's B-side. The song topped the US Billboard Hot 100 for four weeks from 23 August 1969. It was later released on the compilation album Through the Past, Darkly (Big Hits Vol. 2) in September. Billboard ranked it as the No. 4 song overall for 1969.

At the time of its release Rolling Stone hailed "Honky Tonk Women" as "likely the strongest three minutes of rock and roll yet released in 1969". It was ranked No. 116 on the list of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time in April 2010. The song was later put into the track listing for the video game Band Hero.


The Rolling Stones
  • Mick Jagger – lead vocals
  • Keith Richards – lead guitar (incl. solo), rhythm guitar, background vocals
  • Mick Taylor – lead guitar
  • Bill Wyman – bass
  • Charlie Watts – drums
  • Additional personnel
  • Reparata and the Delrons – background vocals
  • Nanette Workman – background vocals (credited as "Nanette Newman")
  • Doris Troy – background vocals
  • Ian Stewart – piano
  • Jimmy Miller – cowbell
  • Steve Gregory and Bud Beadle – saxophones
  • Releases on compilation albums and live recordings

  • Through the Past, Darkly (Big Hits Vol. 2) (1969)
  • Hot Rocks 1964–1971 (1971)
  • Rolled Gold: The Very Best of the Rolling Stones (1975)
  • 30 Greatest Hits (1977)
  • Singles Collection: The London Years (1989)
  • Forty Licks (2002)
  • Singles 1968–1971 (2005)
  • GRRR! (2012)
  • Concert versions of "Honky Tonk Women" are included on the albums 'Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out!' (recorded 1969, released 1970), Love You Live (recorded 1976, released 1977), Live Licks (recorded 2003, released 2004), Sweet Summer Sun: Hyde Park Live (2013), and Totally Stripped (recorded 1995, released 2016). The song has appeared in numerous Stones concert films and boxed sets, including Stones in the Park, Some Girls: Live In Texas '78, Let's Spend the Night Together, Stones at the Max, Voodoo Lounge Live, Bridges to Babylon Tour '97–98, Four Flicks, The Biggest Bang, and Sweet Summer Sun: Hyde Park Live.


  • Ike & Tina Turner covered the song on their 1969 album, Nice n' Rough.
  • Waylon Jennings covered the song on his 1970 LP Singer of Sad Songs.
  • On his album Lovejoy, Albert King sang a version with lyrics which skirted the first verse's suggestions of prostitution: "I met a gypsy bar-room queen in Memphis / and on the street the summer sun did shine / The sweetest rose that ever grows in Memphis / I just can't seem to drink her off of my mind." (The lyric editor is not credited.)
  • Joe Cocker performs the song on his 1970 live album Mad Dogs & Englishmen.
  • James Last performs the song as part of medley on album Non Stop Dancing 1969/2.
  • Gram Parsons' version of the song, released on the 1976 rarities compilation Sleepless Nights, features a slightly different set of lyrics and an arrangement that combines elements of both Stones' versions.
  • Travis Tritt covered the song on the 1997 tribute album, Stone Country.
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic included this song in the Rolling Stones polka medley "The Hot Rocks Polka".
  • Hank Williams Jr. covered the song in his album Born to Boogie in July 1987.
  • Paige Miles performed the song during the Rolling Stones Week on American Idol.
  • Humble Pie performed a live version of the song on their 1973 album Eat It.
  • Ali Campbell covered the song on his 2010 album Great British Songs.
  • Elton John performed this song during a concert at A&R Studios in New York City on 17 November 1970, which appeared on his later album 11-17-70.
  • Billy Joel performed a live version of this song at his 'Night of the 2000 Years' concert on 31 December 1999 at New York's Madison Square Garden. It appears on the concert's live album 2000 Years: The Millennium Concert.
  • Willie Nelson and Leon Russell performed this song for Nelson's 1985 duet compilation album Half Nelson.
  • The New Riders of the Purple Sage performed this song during their regular opening for the Grateful Dead. Their version featured Jerry Garcia on pedal steel guitar recreating the signature guitar riff. Their version, much more "countrified" than the single, but not a cover of "Country Honk", either. While at the Filmore East venue, with the accompanying light show, stills of Mick Jagger in concert were projected on to the scrim above the band as they played the more rhythmic intro to the song.
  • Taj Mahal covered the song on his album Blue Light Boogie. This cover was also played on the House M.D. episode "Sex Kills". Taj Mahal also covered the song on the 1997 tribute album, Paint It Blue: Songs of the Rolling Stones.
  • Leslie West covered the song on his album The Great Fatsby.
  • The Meters released a version on their compilation album Kickback in 2001.
  • The Pogues covered the song on their EP "Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah".
  • Tesla covered the song on their 2007 Reel To Reel CD.
  • Free covered the song on their 1972 "Free at Last" Album.
  • Def Leppard covered the song in Rare Gems: Disk 2.
  • Jerry Lee Lewis and Kid Rock covered the song on Lewis's 2006 album, Last Man Standing
  • German television entertainer Harald Schmidt covered the song on his late night show to celebrate the Rolling Stones' 40th anniversary.
  • Prince performed the song occasionally beginning in 1993. A recording is on the (possibly unauthorised) 1993 Japanese release The Undertaker. In 1995, a rehearsal version was included as the third track on Prince's VHS release The Undertaker.
  • Country Honk

    "Country Honk" is a country version of "Honky Tonk Women", released five months after on the album Let It Bleed (1969). As noted above, the country arrangement was the original concept of "Honky Tonk Women".

    According to some sources "Country Honk" was recorded at the Elektra recording studio in Los Angeles. Byron Berline played the fiddle on the track, and has said that Gram Parsons was responsible for him being chosen for the job (Berline had previously recorded with Parsons' band the Flying Burrito Brothers). Producer Glyn Johns suggested that Berline should record his part on the pavement outside the studio to add ambience to the number. Sam Cutler, the Rolling Stones' tour manager, performed the car horn at the beginning of the track. Nanette Workman performs backing vocals on this version (although the album sleeve credits actress Nanette Newman). Other sources state that "Country Honk" was recorded at Olympic Studios right after "Honky Tonk Women", with only Berline's fiddle part overdubbed at Elektra Sound Recorders Studios, 962 La Cienega Boulevard, Los Angeles, California, 90069; this might be supported by the existence of a bootleg recording that contains neither the fiddle nor Mick Taylor's slide guitar. Richards has repeatedly stated that "Country Honk" is how "Honky Tonk Women" was originally written.

    It was this version of the song that was played by Ricky Nelson at the Rock 'n Roll Revival concert at Madison Square Garden on 15 October 1971. As the crowd were expecting traditional rock 'n roll (such as Nelson's older numbers, which he also played at the concert, "Hello Mary Lou" and "She Belongs to Me", and the music of others at the concert such as Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Bobby Rydell), they began to boo. While some reports say that the booing was caused by police action in the back of the audience, Nelson took it personally and left the stage. He watched the rest of the concert backstage and did not reappear on stage for the finale. This event was the stimulus for the song "Garden Party", which appeared on the 1972 album of the same name. This is evidenced by the line "then I sang a song about a honky-tonk, and it was time to leave."


    The Rolling Stones
  • Mick Jagger – vocals
  • Keith Richards – acoustic guitar, backing vocals
  • Mick Taylor – slide guitar
  • Charlie Watts – drums
  • Additional personnel
  • Byron Berline – fiddle
  • Nanette Workman – backing vocals (credited as "Nanette Newman")
  • References

    Honky Tonk Women Wikipedia

    Similar Topics