Sample Week: “Waiting On A Friend” by The Rolling Stones

Maybe the reason that this rather unassuming ballad that closes out Tattoo You has won such a special place in the group’s pantheon is that reaffirms a bond between the group members that, quite frankly, can be hard to discern sometimes. It always seems that they go their separate ways in between albums and mega-tours, only to regain their chemistry the next time around with seemingly little effort. When you take into account how vastly different their personalities, at least the ones they show to the public, seem to be, it’s hard to imagine these guys watching a ball game together.

Of course, that dynamic isn’t unusual among rock bands, and oftentimes relationships within groups are much more volatile than what the Stones seem to possess among the principals. “Waiting On A Friend” allows all of us Stones’ fans to indulge in the notion, however fantastic that it might be, that their musical bond is born of personal kinships that no one can tear asunder. 

Even that notion has to make room for some irony, since it is Mick Taylor, who always seemed like more of a mercenary than a group member, playing the leisurely guitar lick through the song. Taylor is present because the song was begun in 1972 and shelved, only to be revived for Tattoo You. Other guest players stake out their territory as well, as Nicky Hopkins’ genial piano fills in all the gaps in Jagger’s narrative, while Sonny Rollins’ saxophone, recorded nine years after the track was originated, carries the song into sublime infinity.

We can also believe in the message of the song because of Mick’s absolutely heartfelt performance. So great is he here that the lines “Making love and breaking hearts/It is a game for you” sound thoroughly convincing coming from one of the most legendary lotharios in the history of the world. When he and Keith Richards come together to sing, “I’m not waiting on a lady/I’m just waiting on a friend,” it’s perhaps the sweetest moment in Stones’ history.

So, evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, I prefer to believe in the Stones as this song portrays them. The true story belongs to the biographies and the tabloids, but “Waiting On A Friend” provides a beauty even deeper than the truth.

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4 Comments on “Sample Week: “Waiting On A Friend” by The Rolling Stones”

  1. Baggy says:

    Nice to see you back ck. This is a great track, released at a time when we had stopped expecting to see such a fully realised number from them. Rolling Stones list next please !

    • countdownkid says:

      I doubt the Stones will be next. I want to get a list in soon, and the Stones, because my previous lists of them only consisted of their 70’s and 80’s material, is going to require a lot more research, research that I won’t have the time to do until my little one goes back to school in September. I promise I will be getting to them though, because they deserve the list and it will be a lot of fun comparing all of their different eras and lineups.

      • Baggy says:

        Thx CK…you could just do the top 100 Stones tracks and there’d be no need to listen to anything after the 80s anyway. I applaud your dilgence though.

  2. A. says:

    I totally agree with Baggy.

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