How Keith Richards Saved “It’s Only Rock and Roll” from David Bowie

Meta Description: Discover how Keith Richards rescued The Rolling Stones’ hit “It’s Only Rock and Roll” from David Bowie. Explore the song’s origins and its impact on rock history.

Keith Richards’ Rescue of “It’s Only Rock and Roll” from David Bowie

Some of the greatest songwriters have more tunes than they can use. While some artists write only when necessary, others, like Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, continuously create music, sometimes even giving away hits. An intriguing example is how Keith Richards had to rescue “It’s Only Rock and Roll” from David Bowie.

The Rolling Stones and “It’s Only Rock and Roll”

By the late 1970s, The Rolling Stones were rock and roll icons. Despite occasional studio setbacks, their cool factor remained untouchable, especially with Richards consistently creating memorable riffs. After the more downtempo “Goats Head Soup,” “It’s Only Rock and Roll” marked a return to their roots. The album features notable covers, such as “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” but the title track encapsulates the band’s essence with one of their greatest choruses.

Mick Jagger’s Vision for the Song and Bowie’s Involvement

Interestingly, Mick Jagger initially envisioned “It’s Only Rock and Roll” for David Bowie. At that time, Bowie was redefining rock stardom with his originals, and this track seemed a perfect fit for his flamboyant style. The riffs in the song even evoke the spirit of Bowie’s “The Jean Genie” from “Aladdin Sane.”

Keith Richards’ Determination to Keep the Song

However, Keith Richards couldn’t let the track slip away. In his autobiography “Life,” he recounts, “It’s Mick’s song, and he cut it with Bowie as a dub. It was damn good. Shit, Mick, what are you doing it with Bowie for? Come on, we’ve got to steal that motherfucker back. And we did, without too much difficulty.”

The Song’s Perfect Fit with The Rolling Stones

Though we never heard the original Bowie version, Mick Taylor’s guitar licks are more suited to this style than Mick Ronson’s would have been. While the song had elements fitting Bowie’s style, the line “It’s only rock and roll, but I like it” was destined for Jagger’s voice.

A Track Meant for The Rolling Stones

For Bowie, known for exploring various genres, this song might have felt restrictive. However, for The Rolling Stones, always a rock band at heart, “It’s Only Rock and Roll” served as a mission statement. During the 1980s, when the band experimented with different sounds, this track reminded them of their rock roots and why they entered the music business in the first place.

Keith Richards’ rescue of “It’s Only Rock and Roll” from David Bowie not only preserved a classic Rolling Stones hit but also reinforced the band’s rock and roll identity.

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