The Rolling Stones song Keith Richards took from David Bowie: “We have to steal that back”

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

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

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

The Rolling Stones’ Resurgence with “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 Original Vision for the Song

Interestingly, 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, 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.

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

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