Great Rock Albums of 1981: Rolling Stones- Tattoo You


Once again, the more astute among you may or may not have noticed that through my tours of both 1978 and 1980, I didn’t visit the two albums released by the Rolling Stones in those years. To many, this might sound very strange because the Rolling Stones have been one of the stalwarts of rock for over half a century now. Throughout the 1960s and 7os they put out a huge number of songs and albums that will continue to live on throughout rock history. There are even some songs that would sound great metalised. So why didn’t I visit the 1978 “Some Girls” album and the 1980 “Emotional Rescue?” For me, the answer is quite simple. I thought both of those albums were too disco for my liking. The 1981 album “Tattoo You,” in my humble opinion took them back to their roots. The album sounded like the Stones of old and they finally remembered what had made them so great.

“Tattoo You” is a two part album in a sense. The first six songs are all cool rockers, the first of which is the big single “Start Me Up.” When I first heard that song on the radio, I was convinced that the Rolling Stones had come back. Normally, I get concerned when the single opens an album because that’s usually the ploy of one hit wonders but I have to say, it works well for “Tattoo You.” That song is a good one to wake you up on a Wednesday morning. (Note: War Pigs by Black Sabbath is reserved for Monday mornings.) If you think that you can take a breath after “Start Me Up,” you can’t because “Hang Fire,” the second track has the same effect. The next four songs all have the same effect and I love the hard blues rock sound of “Black Limousine.” I don’t know if it’s Ronnie Wood or Keith Richards who play the solo on that song, but it is well done.

The remainder of the album goes into a more bluesier sound although not as hard as “Black Limousine.” “Worried About You,” “Tops” and “Heaven” are all in this vein  as is “No Use In Crying.” These songs wind the album down to the more mellow closer “Waiting on a Friend” which seems to close the album out very well. I remember hearing that song blasting out of cafe juke boxes when I was in Toulon, France in May of 1982. What the album does accomplish for me is the fact that it’s a massive improvement from the previous two.

Track Listing:

1. Start Me Up

2. Hang Fire

3. Slave

4. Little T & A

5. Black Limousine

6. Neighbours

7. Worried About You

8. Tops

9. Heaven

10. No Use in Crying

11. Waiting On a Friend

Rolling Stones

Rolling Stones

Mick Jagger- vocals

Keith Richards- guitar

Ronnie Wood- guitars

Bill Wyman- bass, synthesiser on “Heaven”

Charlie Watts- drums

After doing a little historical research, I was surprised to discover that the bulk of this album was out takes and previously unreleased material. Whatever the case, it worked and re-established the Rolling Stones as a serious force in rock.

Next post: The Go-Go’s- Beauty and the Beat

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19 Responses to “Great Rock Albums of 1981: Rolling Stones- Tattoo You”

  1. Great write-up on a fantastic album…their last truly essential one, in my opinion, even though they’ve released plenty of very good albums since. You might want to revisit both Some Girls and Emotional Rescue. They may feature a couple of disco songs but there’s plenty of raw, dirty rock & roll on both. In fact, I consider Some Girls a superior album to Tattoo You and among my Top 5 all-time Stones albums.


    • I will have to revisit both of them thank you. I think I like Tattoo You more when I listened to it the other night than when I first listened to it in 1981.


      • Tattoo You is a scorcher right from the start. I remember getting the first copy from my local record store on the day of release (they opened the box for me and never even put a price sticker on it). I probably played it 3-4 times in a row as soon as I got home. I never cared that it was a collection of leftovers & finished-off tracks from the previous couple of album sessions since it’s a solid & consistent listening experience.


      • I would have to agree with you on that.


      • Daddydinorawk Says:

        Some Girls is great, one of their best imo, this Deluxe Edition is just fantastic. Should not miss. Rescue maybe less so but some good tracks on that too. Rescue is basically the Some Girls part 2.


  2. That’s a fabulous opening pair of tracks. Great review


  3. The perfect explanation of a truly dis-jointed record. Couple of great bits and a whole lot of filler.


  4. Daddydinorawk Says:

    Haha… I would go Wheels Of Confusion for a Monday alarm, BTJM.

    Gotta revisit this one, mainly post- some Girls Stones for me are pretty much Compiliation material. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’ll find out for sure! 🙂


  5. Being 14 at the time and hearing Little T&A I was hooked. Actually as well as the lead single SMU…I mean how can that Keef riff not grab u off the hop!
    But for me I have to,agree with Rich and a few others Some Girls I think is there best….
    Great review!


  6. This is a great album. I had absolutely no idea that the material was off cuts, right enough … you really do learn something every day!

    I’d totally recommend revisiting Emotional Rescue. Deep down it has all the hallmarks of classic Stones.


    • Thank you and before I did my pre-post research, I didn’t know it was cuts either. On account of all the recommendations here, I am going to have to visit both “Some Girls” and “Emotional Rescue.”


      • I done some ‘research’ after reading your post and it’s really hard to think that Start Me Up had been hanging around a while with no home prior to Tattoo You. Such an incredible and quintessential Stones song.

        Anyhoo, an I hope you find something in Some Girls and Emotional Rescue that you hadn’t before and that you dig ’em both!


      • I found that hard to believe as well because like you say, it was such a big hit for them. I’m sure I will find something new when I listen to those other albums. Old age has made me see things in a different light.


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