Jagger & Keith Richards
Recording date: December
1969 & April 1970
Recording locations: Muscle
Shoals Sound Studios, Florence, Alabama, USA
& Olympic Sound Studios,
Johnson, Glyn Johns
& Andy Johns
Performed onstage: 1969-73,
1975-78, 1981-82, 1989-90, 1994-95, 1997-99, 2002-03, 2005-07, 2012-13
Acoustic guitar: Keith
Electric guitars: Keith
Richards & Mick Taylor
Lead vocal: Mick
Harmony vocal: Keith
Percussion (incl. castanets & maracas):
Gold Coast slaveship bound for cotton fields
Sold in a market down in New Orleans
Skydog* slaver know he's doing all right
Hear him whip the women just around midnight
Brown sugar, how come you taste so good now?
Brown sugar, just like a young girl should
Drums beating, cold English blood runs hot
Lady of the house wondering where it's going
House boy knows that he's doing all right
You should heard him just around midnight
Ah get on, brown sugar, how come you taste
so good, baby?
Ah got to get on, brown sugar, just like a
black girl should, yeah
Now I bet your mama was a tent show queen
And all her boyfriends were sweet 16
I'm no school boy but I know what I like
You should have heard me just around midnight
I said yeah, yeah, yeah, whoo
How come you, how come you taste so good?
Yeah, yeah, yeah, whoo
Just like a, just like a black girl should
Yeah, yeah, yeah, whoo
I've got a new one myself. No words yet, but a
few words in my head - called Brown Sugar - about a woman who screws
one of her black servants. I started to call it Black Pussy but
I decided that was too direct, too nitty-gritty.
Mick Jagger, December 2, 1969, on the way
Muscle Shoals Studios (from Stanley Booth's
True Adventures of the Rolling Stones)
(I've written riffs that people assume are
Keith's.) Brown Sugar. That was the first one I did. I've done many
Mick Jagger, 1994
At the end of the '60s I had a little more
time to sit around and play my guitar, writing songs rather than just lyrics
for the first time. I'd written songs before then, but they were little
things like Yesterday's Papers. Now I could take it more seriously.
Sugar was one of those songs. I wrote it in Australia, somewhere between
Melbourne and Sydney, while I was in my trailer filming Ned Kelly
- I had a whole bunch of time out there. I was simply writing what I wanted
to write, not trying to test the waters. People are very quick to react
to what you write, but I just write what comes into my head.
Mick Jagger, 2003
I wrote that song in Australia in the middle
of a field. They were really odd circumstances. I was doing this movie,
Kelly, and my hand had got really damaged in this action sequence.
So stupid. I was trying to rehabilitate my hand and I had this new kind
of electric guitar, and I was playing in the middle of the outback and
wrote this tune. But why it works? I mean, it's a good groove and all that.
I mean, the groove is slightly similar to Freddy Cannon, this rather obscure
'50s rock performer - Tallahassee Lassie or something. Do you remember
this? She's down in F-L-A. Anyway, the groove of that - boom-boom-boom-boom-boom
- is going to a go-go or whatever, but that's the groove.
Mick Jagger, 1995
We cut a version of Brown Sugar with
Kooper, it was a good track. He's playing piano on it at Bobby Keys'
and my birthday party, which was held at Olympic Studios... We wanted to
use it 'cause it's a new version but there's something about the Muscle
Shoals feel of the album one, that we got into at the end of the last American
tour. Charlie really fills the sound and it was so easy to cut down there.
Keith Richards, 1971
(Keith was playing) a Gibson, but not a Les
Paul... I think it was an SG, and as I recall it was black. I remember
it had those sharp horns on the cutaways. That's what he played most of
the time he was here. Taylor, to my recollection, was playing a Strat.
And guess what we came up with for Bill Wyman? Do you remember those Plexiglas
body basses that were around then? I checked with David Hood later and
he says it was a Dan Armstrong. So to the best of our recollection, that's
what it was... Keith played a Fender Twin, and so did Mick Taylor, and
they brought those in with them. The loudness on those tracks really came
from Keith. I had it put in that back booth and shut the door on it.
Jimmy Johnson, 2005
We use acoustic guitars a lot to shadow the
electric, always have done. It gives another atmosphere to this track,
makes it less dry. It's cheap, too.
Keith Richards, 1993
Keith's guitar amp was in a booth, and Jagger
was in the back of the room with baffles around him. There was some leakage
going on, but you couldn't tell because he was so close to the mic. It
was part of the sound. The drums did not have a booth, they were open,
but with baffles. But there was a lot of leakage on the drums, cymbals
and stuff, even though (Charlie) didn't play real hard... Even today, that
would be a good way for a rock band to mic their drums, if they like some
great live drumming sound. They would be surprised to find that sometimes
less is more.
Jimmy Johnson, 2005
They started running down Brown Sugar
the first night, but they didn't get a take. I watched Mick write the
lyrics. It took him maybe forty-five minutes; it was disgusting. He
wrote it down as fast as he could move his hand. I'd never seen
anything like it. He had one of those yellow legal pads, and he'd write
a verse a page, just write a verse and then turn the page, and when he
had three pages filled, they started to cut it. It was amazing!
The lyrics were partially inspired by a black
backing singer we knew in L.A. called Claudia Linnear.
Bill Wyman, Rolling With The Stones (2002)
*If you listen to the lyrics, he says, Skydog slaver (though it's always written scarred old slaver).
What does that mean? Skydog is what they called Duane Allman in Muscle
Shoals, because he was high all the time. And Jagger heard somebody say
it and he thought it was a cool word so he used it. He was writing
about literally being in the South. It was amazing to watch him do it.
Jim Dickinson, in Keith Richards, Life (2010)
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.
Mick Jagger, 1995
This song was a very instant thing, a definite
high point. We played it at Altamont even before it was out on record.
Mick Jagger, 1993
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