“Under My Thumb” by The Rolling Stones

The term “under my thumb” most simply means that the person relaying it is in complete control of whoever or whatever he is referring to. And in this case, who is being referred to would obviously be the singer’s romantic interest. 

It is also revealed from the very first verse that this is someone who instead used to ‘push him around’. But such is definitely not the case at the moment. Rather Jagger compares her current state, in relation to him, using such colorful metaphors as “the sweetest pet in the world” and even more potentially offending “a squirming dog”.

So, let’s just say that he’s really reveling in the fact that now, unlike the past, he is exercising dominion. And considering the way he knows seems to, for lack of a better word, disrespect her, perhaps we can postulate that when the shoe was on the other foot she also treated him poorly. For instance, he’s able to gawk at being able to look at other romantic interests, while she dares not.

But at the end of the day, let it be known that he’s not actually saying that he treats her in such a manner. In fact the vocalist is ensuring his “babe” that she should just “take it easy”.  So perhaps it can be concluded that he isn’t abusive, at least not in terms of actions.  In other words he isn’t saying that he mistreats her but rather is celebrating the fact that he can if he so desires, and she’s powerless to do anything in return, kinda like a sports’ team boastfully celebrating a championship win over a bitter rival.

Lyrics to "Under My Thumb"
Under My Thumb
“Under My Thumb”

The “Aftermath” Album

This track is from The Rolling Stones’ 1966 projects Aftermath, which by that point was their sixth studio album. Four singles (i.e. two double A-sides) came from that project, with “Under My Thumb” not being amongst them.

Success of “Under My Thumb”

Despite not being a single-release, the song was very popular. Indeed it proved popular enough to be covered by other artists throughout the years who experienced chart success with it. Amongst these artists include: Tina Turner (1975) and the late Sam Kinison (1990).

Another interesting cover of this song came about in 1967 via a fellow English rock band, The Who. They did so specifically to protest the well-publicized arrest of Stones’ members Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, back when they were less famous than they are now and also when the British government was on a serious anti-drug campaign.  That is to say that during that era, The Rolling Stones were perceived to personify a counter-mainstream band.

Additionally, despite it not coming out as a single, The Rolling Stones used “Under My Thumb” as their opening tune while touring Europe during the early part of the 1980s.

“Under My Thumb” is played during the Murder of Meredith Hunter

Also concerning the 1960s, those really well versed in Rolling Stones’ history know that this particular song holds an infamous place in it. And that’s because a teenager named Meredith Hunter was murdered while the band was playing “Under My Thumb”. This tragic incident happened during the notorious Altamont Free Concert, which was staged on 6 December 1989 in California. 

And we say “really well versed” because the popular misconception is that they were actually performing a song more fitting for such an incident, their 1968 track “Sympathy for the Devil”.

More Facts about “Under My Thumb”

This track was written by Rolling Stones’ mainstays Keith Richards (guitarist) and Mick Jagger (vocalist). Mick has been with the band since its formation in 1962, even up until the writing of this post. 

In fact The Rolling Stones have established themselves as music legends throughout the decades, having sold in excess of 200,000,000 records throughout that time. And they are also well-regarded for their longevity, with frontman Jagger also known to be obsessed with staying in shape, even into his 70s, in the name of being able to put on a good show.

“Under My Thumb” was produced by Andrew Loog Oldham, who regularly worked with The Rolling Stones in such a capacity during their early years. 

The Rolling Stones' Mick Jagger explains "Under My Thumb"

And beside Richards and Jagger, the other members of the Stones at the time were Brian Jones, Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman. Jones, one of the crew’s original instrumentalists, passed away shortly thereafter, in 1969 at the age of 27, after having been booted from the band just a month prior. Wyman, primarily a bassist, left the crew in 1993 under his own volition. And Watts, a drummer, is still an active member of the Stones well into the 21st century.

A plausible theory concerning this song is that it, to a slight degree, is about one Chrissie Shrimpton, a model whom Mick Jagger dated during the mid-1960s. And the reason this idea is believable is because it was put forth by the lady he got into a serious relationship with afterwards, singer/actress Marianne Faithfull.

 The label that put this track out is Decca Records.

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