The Rolling Stones Release a Soulful, Never-Heard Acoustic Version of “Wild Horses”

By the time Char­lie Watts’ snare drum cracks into the recent­ly unearthed alter­nate acoustic take of “Wild Hors­es,” above, the song has already gath­ered as much momen­tum as the album ver­sion, its soul­ful minor chords fill­ing what­ev­er room you hap­pen to be lis­ten­ing to it in. Released with the video above as a teas­er for the extras-packed reis­sue of 1971’s Sticky Fin­gers, due out this May, the track replaces Mick Taylor’s elec­tric gui­tar with well-placed acoustic pluck­ing and almost jaun­ty rhythm play­ing by Kei­th. As Jag­ger belts them out, the lyrics “unzip” across the screen in a taste­ful homage to Andy Warhol’s expert­ly sleazy Sticky Fin­gers cov­er art.

Part boast, part lament, it’s no won­der “Wild Hors­es” is one of the Stones’ most pop­u­lar tunes. It seems that no mat­ter what gets added, or tak­en away, from it, the song remains a com­plete­ly trans­port­ing state­ment of loss and defi­ance. The song, stripped down to just vocals and acoustic gui­tars above, is utter­ly cap­ti­vat­ing with or with­out its elec­tric slide swells, honky-tonk piano, and vocal har­monies, a tes­ta­ment to Richards’ skill with coun­try song­writ­ing, much of which he’d picked up while hang­ing out with for­mer Byrd Gram Par­sons.

The song owes much to Par­sons’ 1968 “Hick­o­ry Wind,” and Par­sons even cov­ered “Wild Hors­es” as a most­ly acoustic coun­try bal­lad in 1970, the year before Sticky Fin­gers’ release. The Stones record­ed the song in 1969, and clear­ly knew they had some­thing spe­cial on their hands imme­di­ate­ly after­ward. Just above—starting at 0:40—see the band lis­ten back to anoth­er stripped down ver­sion of the album take at Mus­sel Shoals stu­dio in footage from the Maysles broth­ers’ Gimme Shel­ter.

The sing-along cho­rus­es and over­all camp­fire vibe of The Glim­mer Twins’ bal­lad makes it an ide­al can­di­date for unplugged ses­sions, and the new­ly-debuted ver­sion at the top isn’t the only time The Stones have re-released an alter­nate acoustic take. Just above, see them live in the stu­dio record­ing a new ver­sion of “Wild Hors­es” for 1995’s Stripped, an album of most­ly-live, often acoustic rework­ings of songs like “Street Fight­ing Man” and “Let It Bleed” and cov­ers of Bud­dy Holly’s “Not Fade Away” and Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone.” Stripped may be an uneven album (hear on Youtube here), but Jag­ger and Richards’ bril­liant imi­ta­tions of coun­try music—like “Dead Flow­ers” and, espe­cial­ly, “Wild Horses”—shine as bright­ly as ever.

via Slate

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch the Rolling Stones Write “Sym­pa­thy for the Dev­il”: From Jean-Luc Godard’s ’68 Film One Plus One

Rare Print of Cen­sored 1972 Rolling Stones Con­cert Film Cock­suck­er Blues Goes on Sale for £25,000

The Rolling Stones Sing the Bea­t­les’ “Eight Days a Week” in a Hotel Room (1965)

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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Comments (5)
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  • quickly says:

    This is excel­lent!

    I think you mean Albert and David Maysles’ “Gimme Shel­ter” right?

  • Josh Jones says:

    Right you are! Cor­rect­ed.

  • Eric says:

    **Mus­cle Shoals Sound Stu­dios (AKA 3614 Jack­son High­way)

    Also, as ref­er­enced in the Lynyrd Skynyrd song, “Sweet Home Alaba­ma” (Mus­cle Shoals has got the Swampers..), also record­ed there…also, “Kodachrome”, by Paul Simon…and, so many more…hallowed ground, indeed.

  • Vesna Canterbury says:

    Excel­lent ver­sion, raw, like it

  • Joaquín says:

    I m from Argenti­na. If you know which year was record­ed this alter­nate ver­sion of Wild hors­es, can you tell me please? I would be grate­ful, because i have an obses­sion to put the year to every track of my col­lec­tion.

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