Disco Lab #9: The Rolling Stones – ‘Miss You’ (1978)
A high point for the Stones, for disco, for extended versions, and for rock and roll in general. I must have heard this song hundreds of times the year it came out (in its various 7”, LP, and 12” mixes) and never got sick of it. Even now that signature harmonica-and-guitar riff gives me chills.
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According to Wikipedia, “Miss You” came to life as a jam between Mick Jagger and Billy Preston during warmups for 1977 live Stones gigs, though Preston is not credited as a songwriter. Though the band disagrees as to whether it was finalized as a disco song or not, it seems clear that they studied dance music by sampling New York nightlife; Wyman is quoted as saying that the wonderful syncopated walking bass line had him going “to quite a few clubs” to get it “sorted out.”
To my ears, the record seems to have been played as a single nine-minute “live” performance. It was edited down to 5:41 for the album version and 3:35 for the single, but this 12” is the one to have, for rock, disco, and Stones fans alike. It’s sped up slightly from the 45 (115 vs. 109bpm) and includes many priceless moments: a great Keith guitar solo, more harmonica work by Sugar Blue, and an extended rap by Jagger. New material includes the memorable lines “girls will come and go, they’re just like streetcars,” “I feel ABANDONED!,” and “Hey man, whass’ witchoo?”
Of course R&B music had been at the heart of the Stones sound since the beginning, so this was barely a stretch for the group. But compare it to the relatively lazy and uninspired “Hot Stuff” (the band’s prior single from a full two years earlier), really little more than a funk guitar riff with lyrics. Here the Stones turn in a full-blown song (an urban lament of loneliness, per the title), with all instrumental parts pulling equal weight. Perhaps most remarkably, they deliver a credible dance record using only “rock” instrumentation: no synthetic beats, horns, strings, or outside backing vocalists.
This is actually a pretty rare version of “Miss You,” even for Stones fans, and a great example of a “live” extended single. I play it every chance I get. People think I’m… crazy.
Previously on Disco Lab: Prince – ‘Soft And Wet’ (1978)