The Rolling Stones’ “Brown Sugar” was released on this day in 1971. One of the great guitar songs of all time, it was a #1 hit in the United States and Canada and a #2 hit in the United Kingdom, and has since become a classic rock radio staple. To celebrate the release, here are 5 fun facts!
1. Originally recorded over a three-day period at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Muscle Shoals, Alabama from December 2-4, 1969, the song was not released until over a year later due to legal wranglings with the band’s former label, though at the request of guitarist Mick Taylor, they debuted the number live during the infamous concert at Altamont on December 6th.
2. The song was written by Jagger with Marsha Hunt in mind; Hunt was Jagger’s secret girlfriend and mother of his first child Karis. It is also claimed it was written with Claudia Lennear in mind. Claudia confirmed as much on BBC’s Radio 4, accepting that it was written with her in mind because at the time when it was written, Mick Jagger used to hang around with her. Or, it could have been written about actual brown sugar, but I doubt it.
3. The lyrical ambiguity was a conscious decision. Mick Jagger, who wrote the lyrics says, “That makes it… the whole mess thrown in. God knows what I’m on about on that song. It’s such a mishmash. All the nasty subjects in one go… I never would write that song now. I would probably censor myself. I’d think, ‘Oh God, I can’t. I’ve got to stop. I can’t just write raw like that.'”
4. In the UK the single was originally issued in mono using a now very rarely heard bespoke mono mix. This mono mix has never been used on any compilation.
5. When the Stones perform “Brown Sugar” live, Jagger often changes the lyrics from, “Just like a young girl should”, to, “Just like a young man should.” The line, “Hear him whip the women just around midnight”, is often changed to the less offensive, “You shoulda heard him just around midnight.”