Tattoo You is an album by The Rolling Stones, released in 1981. The follow-up to Emotional Rescue, it proved to be a big critical and commercial success upon its release and is still celebrated as one of The Rolling Stones’ finest full-length releases, despite its prolonged recording history.
Tattoo You is primarily composed of outtakes, some dating back a decade, with new vocals and overdubs. Along with two new songs, the Rolling Stones put together this collection in order to have a new album to promote for their worldwide American Tour 1981/European Tour 1982 beginning that September:
* “Tops” and “Waiting on a Friend” were cut in late 1972 during the Goats Head Soup sessions (and featuring Mick Taylor, not Ronnie Wood, on guitar; Taylor later demanded and received a share of the album’s royalties).
* “Slave” and “Worried About You” were recorded in 1975 during the Black and Blue sessions in Rotterdam. They feature Billy Preston on keyboards and Ollie Brown on percussion. Wayne Perkins plays the lead guitar on “Worried About You”.
* “Hang Fire, “Start Me Up”, and “Black Limousine” were originally recorded during the 1977 Pathe Marconi recording sessions for Some Girls. “Start Me Up” was originally recorded as a reggae number in 1975 (during the Black and Blue sessions) and called “Never Stop”, but was left unreleased at the time; the balance of it was recorded during these 1977 sessions. “Black Limousine” was brought out and worked on again during the Emotional Rescue sessions in 1979.
* “Little T&A” and “No Use in Crying” came from the Emotional Rescue sessions.
* “Neighbours” and “Heaven” were the only new recordings (from April to June 1981), although the band began a version of “Neighbours” during work on Emotional Rescue.
* “Heaven” has an unusual lineup, consisting of only Charlie Watts on drums, Bill Wyman on synthesizer and bass, Mick Jagger on guitar, and producer Chris Kimsey on piano.
Some of the older tracks were overdubbed and mixed during the 1979 Emotional Rescue sessions or in 1981 as Tattoo You was being compiled.
Despite the eclectic nature of the album, the Rolling Stones were able to divide Tattoo You into two distinct halves: a rock and roll side backed with one focusing on ballads.
“Start Me Up” was released in August 1981, just a week before Tattoo You, to a very strong response, reaching the top 10 in both the U.S. and the U.K. Widely considered one of their most infectious songs, it was enough to carry Tattoo You to #1 for nine weeks in the US, while reaching #2 in the UK with solid sales. It has been certified four times platinum in the US alone. The critical reaction was positive, many feeling that Tattoo You was an improvement over Emotional Rescue and a high-quality release. “Waiting On A Friend” and “Hang Fire” became popular Top 20 US hits as well.
Although they would continue to remain popular well into the 2000s, as an indication of the band’s longevity in the music industry (being on the eve of their 20th anniversary), “Start Me Up” would prove to be The Rolling Stones’ last single to reach as high as #2 in the US, while Tattoo You remains to date their last American #1 album.
The album title was originally planned to be simply “Tattoo”. Jagger claims to this day that even he has no clue how the “You” became attached to the title. The title caused friction between Jagger and Richards, who suspected Jagger had changed the title without seeking his input.
There were several videos directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg for this album including:
* “Start Me Up”, “Hang Fire” and “Worried About You” Consisting of a standard band performance setting, playbacking to a backing tape.
* “Neighbours” An homage to Hitchcock’s Rear Window. the band playing in one apartment of an apartment house with various happenings in the windows: A working-class couple relaxing and making love, a tai chi practitioner exercising, and most notoriously, a man putting bloody body parts in a suitcase. This video was heavily censored when presented on television.
* “Waiting on a Friend” Filmed on location in New York City’s East Village, it consists of Keith walking down the street, meeting Jagger, who is sitting on the front steps of a house (the same house used on the cover of Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti) with several other men, one of which is the late Reggae musician Peter Tosh, who also shakes Keith’s hand. They then proceed down the street and enter a bar where the rest of the band is waiting. The video also features Wood, rather than Mick Taylor on guitar (similar to the videos for Hot Stuff and Worried About You in which Harvey Mandel and Wayne Perkins respectively actually played).
In 1989, it was ranked #34 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 100 greatest albums of the 1980s. In 2003, the album was ranked number 211 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
In 1994, Tattoo You was remastered and reissued by Virgin Records.
The cover of the album was designed by artist Peter Corriston, who won a Grammy Award in the category of best album package for the design.