The Rolling Stones – Paint It, Black

The Rolling Stones – Paint It, Black

‘Paint It, Black’ is a song by the English rock band the Rolling Stones. A product of the songwriting partnership of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, it is a raga rock song with Indian, Middle Eastern and Eastern European influences and lyrics about grief and loss. London Records released the song as a single on 7 May 1966 in the United States, and Decca Records released it on 13 May in the United Kingdom. Two months later, London Records included it as the opening track on the American version of the band's 1966 studio album Aftermath, though it is not on the original UK release.

‘Paint It Black’ was a major chart success for the Rolling Stones, remaining 11 weeks (including two at number one) on the US Billboard Hot 100, and 10 weeks (including one atop the chart) on the Record Retailer chart in the UK. Upon a reissue in 2007, it re-entered the UK Singles Chart for 11 weeks. It was the band's third number-one single in the US and sixth in the UK. The song also topped charts in Canada and the Netherlands. It received a platinum certification in the UK from the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) and from Italy's Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana (FIMI). The song  was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2018, and Rolling Stone magazine ranked it at number 213 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. In 2011, the song was added to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's list of "The Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll".

Keith Richards explained how this song came together: "We were in Fiji for about three days. They make sitars and all sorts of Indian stuff. Sitars are made out of watermelons or pumpkins or something smashed so they go hard. They're very brittle and you have to be careful how you handle them. We had the sitars, we thought we'd try them out in the studio. To get the right sound on 'Paint It Black' we found the sitar fitted perfectly. We tried a guitar but you can't bend it enough." There was no specific inspiration for the lyrics. When asked at the time why he wrote a song about death, Mick Jagger replied: "I don't know. It's been done before. It's not an original thought by any means. It all depends on how you do it."

In a retrospective review, Richie Unterberger of AllMusic called the song an "eerily insistent" classic that features some of "the best use of sitar on a rock record", and in another AllMusic review wrote it is "perhaps the most effective use of the Indian instrument in a rock song". Writing on the song's 50th anniversary in 2016, Dave Swanson of Ultimate Classic Rock considered the song, like its parent album Aftermath, to be a major turning point in artistic evolution for the band, noting: "'Paint It, Black' wasn't just another song by just another rock group; it was an explosion of ideas presented in one neat three-minute package." In 2017, ranking Aftermath as one of the best albums of the 1960s, Judy Berman of Pitchfork described the song as "rock's most nihilistic hit to date". David Palmer, editor of the Cullman Times, wrote that the "attitude" songs on Aftermath – particularly ‘Paint It Black’ – influenced the nihilistic outlook of punk music. Stereogum critic Tom Breihan praised the song as a strong example of the band's brand of "swirling doom-blues", and praised its heavy sound and dark lyrics as ahead of its time when compared to the landscape of popular music in 1966.

Labels – Decca (UK) London (US)
Songwriters – Mick Jagger, Keith Richards
Producer – Andrew Loog Oldham


[Instrumental Intro]
[Verse 1]
I see a red door and I want it painted black
No colours anymore, I want them to turn black
I see the girls walk by dressed in their summer clothes
I have to turn my head until my darkness goes
[Verse 2]
I see a line of cars and they're all painted black
With flowers and my love, both never to come back
I see people turn their heads and quickly look away
Like a newborn baby, it just happens every day
[Verse 3]
I look inside myself and see my heart is black
I see my red door, I must have it painted black
Maybe then I'll fade away and not have to face the facts
It's not easy facing up when your whole world is black
[Verse 4]
No more will my green sea go turn a deeper blue
I could not foresee this thing happening to you
If I look hard enough into the setting sun
My love will laugh with me before the morning comes
[Verse 1]
I see a red door and I want it painted black
No colours anymore, I want them to turn black
I see the girls walk by dressed in their summer clothes
I have to turn my head until my darkness goes
I wanna see it painted, painted black
Black as night, black as coal
I wanna see the sun blotted out from the sky
I wanna see it painted, painted, painted
Painted black, yeah
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