A Blast from the Past, Rarities Edition – Part 9

| June 20, 2020

Most people around in 1969 (and many born since) have heard the Rolling Stones’ tune “Honky Tonk Women”. It was pretty ubiquitous on radio that year, and was a #1 hit in many nations worldwide – including both the US and UK. It received periodic airplay for years afterwards; that periodic airplay continues today.

However, unless you’re a serious Stones fan you might not realize that “Honky Tonk Women” was not the original version of the song – although it was indeed released first. How that came about is somewhat interesting.

It seems the original version was recorded early (March 1969) in the recording sessions for the album Let It Bleed. Though recognizably the same song as the more famous version recorded later (albeit with minor lyrical differences), it had a very different sound and feel. It was inspired by classic US country and western music, and showed that inspiration quite clearly.

After recording the original version, the band hired Mick Taylor to replace Brian Jones. The band then played around with the song a bit more – and Taylor added his guitar work and ideas to the tune. The transformed result was the #1 hit and single-only release titled “Honky Tonk Women”. (Taylor also added some overdubbed slide guitar to the original version after the release of “Honkey Tonk Women”, but tune’s recording was otherwise complete prior to his joining the band.)

The original version of the tune was released on Let It Bleed – but the album wasn’t completed and released until well after the single. On the album, the included version was called “Country Honk”. That was not a version created as a parody or inside joke by the band; Keith Richards has consistently maintained that “Country Honk” was the originally-intended version of the tune.

For some reason, “Honky Tonk Women” was not included on Let It Bleed. Instead, it first appeared on their 1969 greatest hits compilation album Through the Past, Darkly (Big Hits Vol. 2). It’s been included on other “best of” compilations since.

In a way, both versions of the song are rarities. The original “Country Honk” is a bit of a rarity because it’s much less well known than the later, reworked version by the same band; it’s also cited as the last recording session Brian Jones attended while a member of the Stones (though his contributions didn’t make it onto the version that appeared on Let It Bleed). The #1 hit version “Honky Tonk Women” is something of a rarity because of the rather convoluted timing of the tune’s recording and release and the fact that it’s a rock-and-roll song with no bass guitar during any of the song’s verses. It also marks the first released Rolling Stones studio recording featuring Mick Taylor (though another song from Let It Bleed, “Live with Me”, was his first actual studio recording with the band).

So, here ya go: both versions – in chronological order vice release order. Enjoy.



Category: Pointless blather, Who knows

Comments (3)

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  1. 5th/77th FA says:

    I had a blast in the past…with a fair number of “Honky Tonk Women”! And they weren’t all in Memphis. Attending a live Stones Concert or even walking into an area where their tunes were being played, may cause one to test positive for some type of controlled substance.

    Tanks for the (Jumping Jack) Flash Back Hondo!

  2. AZRobert says:

    Like the rockin version better but I also like that gem “Texas love song” on Don’t shoot me i’m only the piano player album by Elton John.

  3. OWB says:

    Interesting. Don’t really remember either of those. Must have been during my MoTown phase. Or something.