Monday, May 17, 2010

Song of the Week: "Moonlight Mile", The Rolling Stones

Listen - The Rolling Stones perform Moonlight Mile

On these digital pages, we good folk at Flip-Central usually like to hip you to songs we think you have not heard before, such as Born Loser. But today's SOTW is a song that we think you most definitely have heard before. We're just betting that it has been awhile since you heard it.

The song is from a small band out of the UK that goes by the name The Rolling Stones. The album is called Sticky Fingers. The song is the closing number on that 1971 album and is called Moonlight Mile.

While the song is credited to the usual suspects of Jagger/Richards, rumors have long swirled that Brian Jones' replacement, Mick Taylor had a more than major hand in writing this song. The way I've always heard it is that Richards wrote the main guitar riff while on a Mississippi Fred McDowell listening binge. Then the two Micks stayed up late working the riff into a full-fledged song. Jagger fleshing out the lonesome road weary lyrics, Taylor, fleshing out a full song structure. The boys later went into the studio in England to record the number for their 1970s debut. Keith Richards plays the dominant open-tuned acoustic guitar as Taylor ads the subtle and muted electric guitar work from his Gibson SG. [Ed Note: It appears that Keith is not on the recording at all, and that Mick Jagger plays the acoustic.]

A favorite moment of mine is when Jagger reflects, around the 3:00 mark, "I'm hiding baby and I'm dreaming. I'm riding down your moonlight mile." Then the song breaks into an aggressive surge of strings with a Far-East feel, only to subside in a long, slow descent of loose instruments as the song falls off to it's close. Ian Stewart's piano work is particularly effective in this rag-tag completion to a beautiful song that always makes me want to hit the open road. [Ed note: damn, I hate being wrong. A commenter to this article has pointed out that it is probably one Jim Price on piano, not Stewart]

Made a rag-pile of my shiny clothes. Gonna warm my bones, gonna warm my bones. I got silence on my radio. Let the airwaves flow. Let the airwaves flow.


  1. The song is also elevated to greater heights by the exquisite string arrangement of Paul Buckmaster.It apparently was Mick Taylor's idea to do this.

    This week sees the arrival of the re-issue of "Exile On Mainstreet" with a bonus disc containing ten unreleased tracks.

  2. JBC-15 - I actually saw a TV commercial for the release of Exile. A TV commercial?!?!

    At any rate, I plan on getting the CD as that is one of my all-time favorite albums and I have it on a very old CD that was ripped straight from the vinyl. I think I deserve the digitally remastered version.

    I was listening to the Sticky Fingers and Between the Buttons on vinyl the other week. What a great band the Stones were in their hey day.


  3. Very inspired song on all accounts. I could never wrap my mind around the title. I mean, shouldn't it be Moonlit Mile. Moonlight Mile, what is that? The mile seems more of a place than a measure of distance.

    Hey Flippy, my research shows that Keith may not have been on this recording at all. Rather Mick Jagger on the acoustic. Also not Ian Stewart on the piano: Jim Price.

  4. Even The Great Mr. Flippy make a mistake once in awhile. Based on two sources I saw, I think you are correct, sir. D'Oh!