- Undercover of the Night
Name = Undercover of the Night
from Album = Undercover
Released = November 1, 1983
Format = 7"
Recorded = January - March, May - August 1982
Genre = Rock
Length = 4 min 32 s
Label = Rolling Stones/Virgin
The Glimmer Twins/ Chris Kimsey
Chart position =
- #9 (US)
- #11 (UK)
Last single = "
Time Is on My Side"
This single = "Undercover of the Night"
Next single = "
She Was Hot"
Inspiration and recording
The song was largely a
Mick Jaggercomposition, guitarist Keith Richardsgoing as far as saying, "Mick had this one all mapped out, I just played on it," in the liner notes to the 1993 best of"". The song was likely written in Parisin late 1982, where recording began on the album. Guitarist Ron Wooddescribed the fractious writing in 2003 as, "...just me, Mick and [Charlie Watts|Charlie [Watts] ... [We] took it up into some wonderful adventures with all these different changes... There was a great percussive and acoustic version, which is the kind of song it should be. The final polished, glossed-up version may have been Mick's vision of the song..."
The lyrics see Jagger explore the then-ongoing political corruption in Central and
Jagger said, in those same liner notes to "Jump Back", that the song was, "...heavily influenced by William Burroughs' "
Cities of the Red Night". "Undercover of the Night" is notable as it is one of the few songs by the Stones which overtly explore political ideas, next to " Street Fighting Man", arguably " Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)", and the more recent " Sweet Neo Con". Recording began in early 1983 and was resumed later that summer at New York City's famed Hit Factory. Of note are the two versions of this song, one featuring usual Stones bassist Bill Wymanand the other featuring guest Robbie Shakespeare. The song features a very rhythmic feeling, provided by Sly Dunbar, Martin Ditcham, Moustapha Cisseand Brahms Coundoul, on various instruments ranging from bongos to timpani. Organ on the piece is performed by Chuck Leavell, who would later become the Stones' regular pianist. Also of note is the song's considerable use of echo phrasing on the instruments.
"Undercover of the Night" was released as the first single taken from the album on November 1, 1983. Initial reception was warm with the song reaching number 9 in the US and number 11 on the
UK Singles Chart, though the violent depictions spelled out by Jagger were believed to be why its popularity quickly waned. Jagger in "Jump Back"'s liner notes: "I think it's really good but it wasn't particularly successful at the time because songs that deal overtly with politics never are that successful, for some reason." Richards countered: "There were a lot more overlays on this track, because there was a lot more separation in the way we were recording at that time. Mick and I were starting to come to loggerheads." The 1980s were famously a rough time for the leaders of the Rolling Stones.
music videowas made for the song, featuring Jagger as detective helping a woman follow her boyfriend's kidnappers and Richards as the leader of the kidnappers who eventually shoots Jagger. The song has been performed sporadically on every tour since its release, most recently on the A Bigger Bang Tourin 2006, and appeared on every compilation album since, including 2002's " Forty Licks".
* [http://www.rollingstones.com/discog/index.php?v=so&a=1&id=317 Complete Official Lyrics]
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