Paint It Black

Composers: Mick Jagger & Keith Richards
First release: single, April 1966
Recording date: March 1966       Recording location: RCA Studios, Los Angeles, USA
Producer: Andrew Oldham          Engineer: Dave Hassinger
Performed onstage: 1966-67, 1989-90, 1998-99, 2003, 2005-07, 2012-19, 2021

Probable line-up:

Drums: Charlie Watts
Bass: Bill Wyman
Acoustic guitars: Keith Richards & Brian Jones
Electric guitar: Keith Richards
Lead vocal: Mick Jagger
Background vocals: Mick Jagger & Keith Richards
Sitar: Brian Jones
Organ pedals: Bill Wyman
Piano: Jack Nitzsche
Percussion: Mick Jagger

I see a red door and I want it painted black
No colors 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 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

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

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

I see a red door and I want it painted black

No colors 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 want to see it painted, painted black
Black as night, black as coal

I want to see the sun
Blotted out from the sky

I want to see it painted, painted, painted
Painted black - yeah



I must say in retrospect that actually what made Paint It Black was Bill Wyman on the organ, because it didn't sound anything like the finished record, until Bill said, You go like this.

- Keith Richards, 2003

Mick wrote it. I wrote the music, he did the words. Get a single together... What's amazing about that one for me is the sitar. Also, the fact that we cut it as a comedy track. Bill was playing an organ, doing a takeoff of our first manager (Eric Easton) who started his career in show business as an organist in a cinema pit. We'd been doing it with funky rhythms and it hadn't worked and he started playing it like this and everybody got behind it. It's a two-beat, very strange. Brian playing the sitar makes it a whole other thing.

- Keith Richards, 1971

Paint It Black was just going to be like a beat group number. If you'd been at the session it was like one big joke. We put Bill on piano and Bill plays in this funny style. He goes bi-jing, bi-jing, bi-jing, and all that sort of stuff and we went running about going bi-jing, bi-jing, bi-jing and that's how it all started. It was just one big joke. It was in Los Angeles. And we just stuck the sitar on because some geezer came in. He was in a jazz group playing sitar in his pyjamas. And we said Oh, that'll sound good because it's got this thing that goes "g-doing, doing, doing", etc.

- Mick Jagger, 1966

Paint It Black was like songs for Jewish weddings at the beginning!

- Mick Jagger, December 1992

The organ-playing story (that Bill was doing a take-off on Eric Easton) is complete fiction, actually. What really happened was that I had put a bass track and then another bass on top of that, but the sound still wasn't fat enough, it needed something on the bottom end. I wanted to play organ very loud on it to fill the sound. I tried playing the organ pedals with my feet but the pedals kept sticking so I got down on the floor and hit them with my fists. I actually never touched the keyboard. If anything it was a bit of an in-joke because Eric Easton was a keyboard player and I was just playing the pedals.

- Bill Wyman

(Bill) was... instrumental on Paint It Black, adding organ pedals to the bottom end.

- Keith Richards, 2002

On Paint It Black the drum pattern might have been suggested by Mick and I'd try it that way, or we'd be listening to a certain record at the time - it could have been anything like Going to a Go-Go. Engineers never like recording ride cymbals in those days. We all used to have the kind that Art Blakey used, with the inch-long or so rivets, so the cymbals would cover everything, and the engineers would go mad.

- Charlie Watts, 2003

We were in Fiji for about 3 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. Brian's cracked his already. And 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.

- Keith Richards, 1966

On Paint It Black, I used a flattened third in fret position. The sound you get from a sitar is a basic blues pattern, which results in the flattening of the third and seventh as a result of the super-imposition of primitive Eastern pentatonic scales on the well-known Western diatonic.

- Brian Jones, 1966

What utter rubbish. You might as well say that we copy all the other groups by playing guitar. Also, everyone asks if it's going to be the new trend. Well, personally, I wouldn't like it to be. You don't have to get that weird Indian sound from a sitar. Take Norwegian Wood. Atmospherially, it's my favourite track by the Beatles. George made simple use of the sitar and it was very effective.

- Brian Jones, 1966, on copying the Beatles' use of sitar

Paint It Black is very good and very different. It has that Turkish groove that was really out of nowhere and something to do with Brian helping the song move along by playing sitar, which gave that record a particular flavour.

- Mick Jagger, 2003

That song is another one of those semi-gypsy melodies we used to come up with back then. I don't know where they come from. Must be in the blood.

- Keith Richards, 2002

It's over-recorded at the end. The electric guitar doesn't sound quite right to me, the one I play. I should have used a different guitar; at least, a different sound. And I think it sounds rushed. I think it sounds as if we've said - as we actually did - That's great. If we do anymore we'll lose the feel of it. Because that's what we said, and that's why, I think, if we'd done a few more takes of it, to my mind it would have been a slightly better record. But that's very technical; probably what I would have liked to have heard on it wouldn't have sounded different to thousands of other people.

- Keith Richards, 1966

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