Rahul Sharma (Editor)

You Can't Always Get What You Want

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"Honky Tonk Women"

Rock gospel


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

November 1968 at Olympic Studios, London

4:50 (single version) 7:30 (album version)

"You Can't Always Get What You Want" is a song by the Rolling Stones on their 1969 album Let It Bleed. Written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, it was named as the 100th greatest song of all time by Rolling Stone magazine in its 2004 list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time".



Although it was the closing track, "You Can't Always Get What You Want" was the first song recorded for the album. "You Can't Always Get What You Want" was recorded on 16 and 17 November 1968 at Olympic Sound Studios in London. It features the London Bach Choir opening the song (the choir opening is only on the album version), highlighting throughout, and bringing it to its conclusion. Jimmy Miller, the Stones' producer at the time, plays drums on this song instead of Charlie Watts. Al Kooper plays piano and organ, as well as the French horn intro, while Rocky Dijon plays congas and maracas.

Of the song, Jagger said: "'You Can't Always Get What You Want' was something I just played on the acoustic guitar—one of those bedroom songs. It proved to be quite difficult to record because Charlie couldn't play the groove and so Jimmy Miller had to play the drums. I'd also had this idea of having a choir, probably a gospel choir, on the track, but there wasn't one around at that point. Jack Nitzsche, or somebody, said that we could get the London Bach Choir and we said, 'That will be a laugh.'"

In his review of the song, Richie Unterberger of Allmusic said: "If you buy John Lennon's observation that the Rolling Stones were apt to copy the Beatles' innovations within a few months or so, 'You Can't Always Get What You Want' is the Rolling Stones' counterpart to 'Hey Jude'." Jagger said in 1969, "I liked the way the Beatles did that with 'Hey Jude'. The orchestra was not just to cover everything up—it was something extra. We may do something like that on the next album."


The three verses (along with the varied theme in the fourth verse) address the major topics of the 1960s: love, politics, and drugs. Each verse captures the essence of the initial optimism and eventual disillusion, followed by the resigned pragmatism in the chorus.

Unterberger concludes, of the song,

Much has been made of the lyrics reflecting the end of the overlong party that was the 1960s, as a snapshot of Swinging London burning out. That's a valid interpretation, but it should also be pointed out that there's also an uplifting and reassuring quality to the melody and performance. This is particularly true of the key lyrical hook, when we are reminded that we can't always get what we want, but we'll get what we need."

A man named Jimmy Hutmaker of Excelsior, Minnesota claimed that he was the "Mr. Jimmy" mentioned in the song and that he said the phrase "you can't always get what you want" to Jagger during a chance encounter at a drug store in Excelsior in 1964.

David Dalton, a writer for Rolling Stone who witnessed the filming of The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus claims in his commentary track for the DVD of the concert that "Mr. Jimmy" refers to Jimmy Miller, the producer of all of the Rolling Stones' albums from Beggar's Banquet (1968) through Goat's Head Soup (1973), and the drummer on "You Can't Always Get What You Want".

Release and aftermath

The song was originally released on the B-side of "Honky Tonk Women" in July 1969. Although it did not chart at the time, London Records re-serviced the single in 1973 and "You Can't Always Get What You Want" reached number 42 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 34 on the Cashbox Top 100 Singles chart. One of the Stones' most popular recordings, it has since appeared on the compilations Hot Rocks, Singles Collection (single version), Forty Licks, Rolled Gold+: The Very Best of the Rolling Stones (2007 edition), Singles 1968-1971 (single version), Slow Rollers (single version) and GRRR! (single version).

The song is also very popular at Rolling Stones shows in part because of its sing-along chorus, and is played at almost every show, where it is customary for Jagger to change the lyrics from "my favourite flavour, cherry red" to the question "What's your favourite flavour?" to which the audience replies "Cherry red!" Live recordings appear on the albums Love You Live, Flashpoint, Live Licks, and Sweet Summer Sun: Hyde Park Live, as well as on The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus, filmed in 1968. Stones concert films that contain the song include: Ladies and Gentlemen: The Rolling Stones, Let's Spend the Night Together, Stones at the Max, Bridges to Babylon Tour '97–98, Rolling Stones - Four Flicks, The Biggest Bang, and Sweet Summer Sun: Hyde Park Live.

The musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch includes a reference to the song, where the lead character explains she was dismissed from a university after delivering a lecture on the influence of German philosophy on rock and roll, entitled "You, Kant, Always Get What You Want." The 2014 revival on Broadway added the line, "But If You Try Sometimes You Just Might Find You Get What You Nietzsche."

The song was performed live with members of Voce Chamber Choir and London Youth Choir for the Stones' 2012 reunion shows in London, November 25 and November 29. The same choir also performed on the track at Glastonbury and two performances at Hyde Park in 2013.

Donald Trump used the song at campaign appearances in 2016, and it played after his victory speech on the night of the United States presidential election, 2016. The Stones have publicly disapproved of Trump's use of their music.

In November 2016 MP4, a rock group comprising four British politicians, recorded a single of the track with Ricky Wilson of the Kaiser Chiefs, KT Tunstall, David Gray, Steve Harley of Cockney Rebel and members of the UK Parliamentary Choir under the band name "Friends of Jo Cox" in tribute to the late MP Jo Cox who was murdered earlier in the year. A 6 minute full version of the track and a 4 minute edit, together with a video, were the first releases on the newly re-established Chrysalis Records on 16th December with all proceeds going to charity. In support of this initiative, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards agreed to waive their royalties from the release. This version of the single peaked at number 2 on the Official Independent Singles Breakers Chart.


The Rolling Stones
  • Mick Jagger – lead vocals, acoustic guitar
  • Keith Richards – acoustic and electric guitar, backing vocals
  • Bill Wyman – bass guitar
  • Additional personnel
  • London Bach Choir – choral arrangements by Jack Nitzsche
  • Al Kooper – piano, organ, French horn
  • Jimmy Miller – drums
  • Rocky Dijon – congas, maracas, tambourine
  • Madeline Bell – backing vocals
  • Nanette Workman – backing vocals (credited as 'Nanette Newman' on the LP)
  • Doris Troy – backing vocals
  • Covers and tributes

  • In 1971, jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi released a cover version of the song on his album Oaxaca.
  • In 1973, Exuma covered the song on his album Life.
  • In the 1974 film Steppenwolf, the saxophonist Pablo tells Harry Haller after sniffing cocaine, "You can't always get what you want, but you can always get what you need."
  • In 1980, Bette Midler recorded a live version for her concert album and film Divine Madness. The song was made into a medley featuring Bob Dylan's "I Shall Be Released".
  • In 1981, Aretha Franklin covered the song on her album Love All the Hurt Away.
  • In 1989, "Weird Al" Yankovic included the song in "The Hot Rocks Polka," a polka medley consisting entirely of the Stones' songs.
  • In 1990, George Michael used the song's rhythm, chords and chorus in his single "Waiting for That Day". Jagger and Richards received shared songwriting credit.
  • In 1992, Def Leppard released an acoustic cover of the song as a b-side to their single "Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad".
  • In 1993, folk singers Greg Brown and Bill Morrissey covered the song on their only joint recording Friend of Mine.
  • Blues musician Luther Allison covered the song for the 1997 tribute album Paint It Blue: Songs of the Rolling Stones.
  • In 1997, Sunchild released a live version of the song on their album Barefoot & Live.
  • In 1998, the jam band Rusted Root included a version on their self-titled fourth album.
  • In 2001, reggae band Steel Pulse recorded it for Paint It Black: A Reggae Tribute to the Rolling Stones.
  • The 3-2-1 Penguins video, The Amazing Carnival of Complaining (released 2001) features a song which includes the line "You can't always get what you want, you can't always get what you want, but if you gripe sometimes, you just might find, you turn into seeds!"
  • Band from TV covered it for the soundtrack of House.
  • In 2006, the cover by Ituana was included into the album Bossa n' Stones, Vol. 2.
  • In 2007, Anarchist folk punk group Ghost Mice recorded a version of this song to benefit Food Not Bombs.
  • In 2008, Belgian outfit Soulwax released a remix of the song, which appeared on the soundtrack to the 2008 film 21.
  • In 2008, French Jean-Jacques Milteau (harmonica) recorded the song for his album Soul Conversation with Ron Smyth (vocal).
  • In 2009, the cast of Glee recorded a cover in the episode "Sectionals".
  • In 2010, Blunt Instrument released a glitch-hop remix of the song.
  • In 2010, The Jolly Boys released a cover in the album "Great Expectation".
  • In 2012, Anastacia covered the song for her album It's a Man's World
  • In 2012, the band fun. covered the song during their encore at the Bonnaroo Music Festival and at the 2013 iHeartRadio Music Festival; they often perform it at their shows.
  • In 2016, Parliamentary rock group MP4, Ricky Wilson of Kaiser Chiefs, Steve Harley, KT Tunstall and David Gray teamed up with Members of the British Parliamentary choir and the Royal Opera House Thurrock Community Chorus to record a charity version of the song in memory of Labour MP Jo Cox.
  • References

    You Can't Always Get What You Want Wikipedia

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