You Can't Always Get What You Want



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Rolling Stones - You Can't Always Get What You Want (Aux Abattoirs 1976)

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You Can't Always Get What You Want on Wikipedia
"You Can't Always Get What You Want"
Single by The Rolling Stones
from the album Let It Bleed
A-side"Honky Tonk Women"
ReleasedJuly 1969
RecordedOlympic Studios, London, November 1968
GenreRock, gospel
Length5:00 (single version)
7:30 (album version)
LabelDecca (UK), London (US)
Writer(s)Mick Jagger, Keith Richards
ProducerJimmy Miller
The Rolling Stones singles chronology

"You Can't Always Get What You Want" is a song by the Rolling Stones on their 1969 album Let It Bleed. Written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, it was named as the 100th greatest song of all time by Rolling Stone magazine in its 2004 list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time".


"You Can't Always Get What You Want" was recorded on 16 and 17 November 1968 at Olympic Sound Studios in London. It features the London Bach Choir opening the song, highlighting throughout, and bringing it to its conclusion. Jimmy Miller, the Stones' producer at the time, plays drums on this song instead of Charlie Watts. Al Kooper plays piano and organ, as well as the French horn intro, while Rocky Dijon plays congas and maracas. Nanette Workman sings backing vocals, but is credited as "Nanette Newman".[citation needed]

Of the song, Jagger said: "'You Can't Always Get What You Want' was something I just played on the acoustic guitar—one of those bedroom songs. It proved to be quite difficult to record because Charlie couldn't play the groove and so Jimmy Miller had to play the drums. I'd also had this idea of having a choir, probably a gospel choir, on the track, but there wasn't one around at that point. Jack Nitzsche, or somebody, said that we could get the London Bach Choir and we said, 'That will be a laugh.'"[1]

In his review of the song, Richie Unterberger of Allmusic said: "If you buy John Lennon's observation that the Rolling Stones were apt to copy the Beatles' innovations within a few months or so, 'You Can't Always Get What You Want' is the Rolling Stones' counterpart to 'Hey Jude'."[2] Jagger said in 1969, "I liked the way the Beatles did that with 'Hey Jude'. The orchestra was not just to cover everything up—it was something extra. We may do something like that on the next album."[3]


The three verses (along with the varied theme in the fourth verse) address the major topics of the 1960s: love, politics, and drugs. Each verse captures the essence of the initial optimism and eventual disillusion, followed by the resigned pragmatism in the chorus.[citation needed]

Unterberger concludes of the song, "Much has been made of the lyrics reflecting the end of the overlong party that was the 1960s, as a snapshot of Swinging London burning out. That's a valid interpretation, but it should also be pointed out that there's also an uplifting and reassuring quality to the melody and performance. This is particularly true of the key lyrical hook, when we are reminded that we can't always get what we want, but we'll get what we need."[2]

A man named Jimmy Hutmaker of Excelsior, Minnesota claimed that he was the "Mr. Jimmy" mentioned in the song and that he said the phrase "you can't always get what you want" to Jagger during a chance encounter at a drug store in Excelsior in 1964.[4] David Dalton, a writer for Rolling Stone who witnessed the filming of The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus[5] claims in his commentary track for the DVD of the concert that "Mr Jimmy" refers to Jimmy Miller, the producer of all of the Rolling Stones' albums from Beggar's Banquet through Goat's Head Soup.

Release and aftermath

The song was originally released on the b-side of "Honky Tonk Women" in July 1969. Although it did not chart at the time, it later reached #42 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1973. One of the Stones' most popular recordings, it has since appeared on the compilations Hot Rocks, Singles Collection (single version), Forty Licks, Rolled Gold+: The Very Best of the Rolling Stones (2007 edition), Singles 1968-1971 (single version), Slow Rollers and GRRR! (single version).

The song is also very popular at Rolling Stones shows in part because of its sing-along chorus, and is played at almost every show, where it is customary for Jagger to change the lyrics from "my favourite flavour, cherry red" to the question "What's your favourite flavour?" to which the audience replies "Cherry red!" Live recordings appear on the albums Love You Live, Flashpoint, and Live Licks, as well as on The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus, filmed in 1968. Stones concert films that contain the song include: Ladies and Gentlemen: The Rolling Stones, Let's Spend the Night Together (film), Stones at the Max, Bridges to Babylon Tour '97–98, Rolling Stones - Four Flicks, and The Biggest Bang.

The song was performed live with a choir for the Stones' 2012 reunion shows in England, November 25 and November 29.

Music video

Video footage of a live performance of the song is shown on Australian music cable TV in place of a music video.


  • Mick Jagger - lead vocals
  • Keith Richards - acoustic and electric guitar, backing vocals
  • Bill Wyman - bass guitar
  • London Bach Choir - choral arrangements by Jack Nitzsche
  • Al Kooper - piano, organ, French horn[2]
  • Jimmy Miller - drums
  • Rocky Dijon - congas, maracas
  • Madeline Bell - backing vocals
  • Nanette Workman - backing vocals (credited as Nanette Newman on the LP)
  • Doris Troy - backing vocals

Covers and tributes

  • In 1971, jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi released a cover version of the song on his album Oaxaca.
  • In 1980, Bette Midler recorded a live version for her concert album and film Divine Madness. The song was made into a medley featuring Bob Dylan's "I Shall Be Released".
  • In 1981, Aretha Franklin covered the song on her album Love All the Hurt Away.
  • In 1989, "Weird Al" Yankovic included the song in "The Hot Rocks Polka," a polka medley consisting entirely of the Stones' songs.
  • In 1990, George Michael used the song's rhythm, chords and chorus in his single "Waiting For That Day". Jagger and Richards received shared songwriting credit.
  • In 1992, Def Leppard released an acoustic cover of the song as a b-side to their single "Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad".
  • Blues musician Luther Allison covered the song for the 1997 tribute album Paint It Blue: Songs of the Rolling Stones.
  • In 1997, Sunchild released a live version of the song on their album Barefoot & Live.
  • In 1998, the jam band Rusted Root included a version on their self-titled fourth album.
  • In 2001, reggae band Steel Pulse recorded it for Paint It Black: A Reggae Tribute to the Rolling Stones.
  • The 3-2-1 Penguins video, The Amazing Carnival of Complaining (released 2001) features a song which includes the line "You can't always get what you want, you can't always get what you want, but if you gripe sometimes, you just might find, you turn into seeds!"
  • Band from TV covered it for the soundtrack of House.
  • In 2006, the cover by Ituana was included into the album Bossa n' Stones, Vol. 2.
  • In 2007, Anarchist folk punk group Ghost Mice recorded a version of this song to benefit Food Not Bombs.
  • In 2008, Belgian outfit Soulwax released a remix of the song, which appeared on the soundtrack to the 2008 film, 21.
  • In 2008, French Jean-Jacques Milteau (harmonica) recorded the song for his album Soul Conversation with Ron Smyth (vocal).
  • In 2009, the cast of Glee recorded a cover in the episode "Sectionals".
  • In 2010, Blunt Instrument released a glitch-hop remix of the song.
  • In 2010, The Jolly Boys released a cover in the album "Great Expectation".
  • In 2012, the band fun. covered the song during their encore at the Bonnaroo Music Festival, and often perform it at their shows.

In film

  • Bette Midler recorded the song, during her concert film Divine Madness, released in 1980. The song was made into a medley featuring Bob Dylan's "I Shall Be Released".
  • The song is used during the opening funeral scene in the 1983 Academy Award-nominated film The Big Chill. The use of the song in the film has been copied and pastiched in several other dramas.
  • Used to underscore the unsuccessful endeavour in the closing scenes of the 2006 film The Hoax after Clifford Irving's (Richard Gere) deception (in his bogus "autobiography" of Howard Hughes) revealed to the world.
  • The Soulwax remix of the song is played during the final scene at Harvard Medical School in the 2008 film 21.
  • The song is mentioned in the movie High Fidelity as part of a list of "Top 5" songs about death, but receives an immediate disqualification for its involvement with The Big Chill.
  • The song is used in the final scene of the movies 21 and Middle Men.
  • It was featured in LOL (Laughing Out Loud) (2008, France, Lisa Azuelos) and its remake in LOL, (2012, US, Lisa Azuelos).

In television

  • The Simpsons eighteenth season-finale was called "You Kent Always Say What You Want".
  • The track has been featured in several episodes of the Fox television medical drama series House. In the pilot episode, Gregory House tries to avoid work imposed by his boss Lisa Cuddy, and says "In the words of the great philosopher Jagger, you can't always get want you want." Cuddy later in the episode says "I looked into that philosopher you quoted, and you're right, you can't always get what want, but it turns out, if you try sometimes, you get what you need." The introduction of the song was played at the end of the episode. In the season one finale ("Honeymoon"), the song plays as House attempts to walk without the support of his cane, but to no avail. The song was heard for a third time at the end of "Meaning". Another was in the season four finale ("Wilson's Heart") when it is quoted to House by Amber in the form of a hallucination. In the episode "Saviors", House plays the song "Georgia on my Mind" on piano in the middle of which he adds the main riff from "You Can't Always Get What You Want". It is also heard in season five's "Unfaithful" where House plays the chorus of the song on the piano. It was most recently heard in the season seven's "Last Temptation"" as Martha Masters takes leave.
  • The song was featured in an episode of the NBC television comedy My Name Is Earl. In "Born a Gamblin' Man", the song plays at the end of the episode over a montage of the multiple storyline conclusions for the episode.
  • The song was featured in an episode of the FX television medical drama Nip/Tuck, and during ESPN's coverage of the 2007 NFL Draft.
  • The song was featured in the pilot episode of Showtime's dramedy Californication in 2007. It was used during the opening scene, in a manner parodying its use in The Big Chill. The song then finished episode 12, bringing the first season to a close. It was again used in the finale of season four (episode 12) during the last two minutes and throughout the credits.
  • The song was featured in the finale episode of the British ITV2 drama Secret Diary of a Call Girl in 2007.
  • The end of the third episode of Swingtown used this song to communicate the inner desires of some of the characters.
  • In the intro to an episode of Drake and Josh, Drake says "you know there's a song by the Stones that says you can't always get what you want".
  • The song played an important role in the first fall finale of Glee, where the glee club perform it as their main song at the sectionals competition in the episode "Sectionals".
  • The song was sung by Crystal Bowersox on the Finals: Top 12 of the ninth season of American Idol.
  • The chorus was used in the first promos for short-lived mockumentary "My Generation".
  • The full song was used in the season two finale of the FOX comedy show, Raising Hope.
  • In the eighth episode of the TNT crime drama Perception, Dr. Daniel Pierce quotes "those old English poets" saying "you can't always get what want, but if you try sometime, you might find you get what you need".
  • It's the intro song of the pilot of Californication.

In advertising

  • The song was used prominently in US TV commercials for Coca-Cola's "low-carb" C2 cola in 2004.
  • The song is used in advertisements for Simon mall gift cards during the holiday season. It portrays people opening their presents, but the presents were not what they wanted. The tagline is to get people to give gifts the receiver will want.
  • The song was used in Sky Sports adverts promoting the start of the 2012/13 Premier League season.


  1. ^ Loewenstein, Dora; Dodd, Philip (2003). According to the Rolling Stones. San Francisco: Chronicle Books. ISBN 0-8118-4060-3. 
  2. ^ a b c "You Can't Always Get What You Want". AllMusic. Retrieved 2009-10-31. 
  3. ^ "You Can't Always Get What You Want". Time Is On Our Side. 2007. Retrieved 29 September 2007. 
  4. ^ Cohen, Ben (2007-10-04) Jimmy Hutmaker was town character of Excelsior, Star Tribune
  5. ^ The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus

External links

  • Full lyrics of this song at MetroLyrics

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