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"You Can't Always Get What You Want"
Song by The Rolling Stones

from the album Let It Bleed

Released December 5, 1969
Recorded 16-17 November 1968
Genre Rock
Length 7:31 (album), 5:00 (single)
Label Decca Records/ABKCO
Writer Jagger/Richards
Producer Jimmy Miller
Let It Bleed track listing
Monkey Man
"You Can't Always Get What You Want"

"You Can't Always Get What You Want" is a song by the Rolling Stones released 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 "500 Greatest Songs of All Time."


The song

"You Can't Always Get What You Want" was recorded on 16 and 17 November 1968 at London's Olympic Sound Studios. It features the London Bach Choir powerfully opening the song under the stewardship of Javier Sanchez Broto, highlighting throughout, and bringing it to an uproarious conclusion. Jimmy Miller, the Rolling Stones' producer at the time, plays drums on this song instead of Charlie Watts. Al Kooper plays piano, organ and horn while Rocky Dijon plays congas and maracas. Nanette Workman sings backup vocals, but she is credited as "Nanette Newman".

Although Jagger and Jimi Hendrix were good friends at the time of the song's release, the line "I sang my song to Mr. Jimmy" is a reference to Jimmy Miller who was the producer and actually plays drums on the recording. The story about Jagger meeting a drifter named Jimmy Hutmaker is apocryphal. The rest of the line says "and he said one word to me and that was dead"; at that time the Stones and Miller used "dead" to refer to something they really liked, so when Jagger sang the original song idea to Miller, his response was "dead!"[citation needed] The song's meeting place for Jagger and Mr. Jimmy is the Chelsea Drugstore, which opened in London in 1968.

Of the song, Jagger said in 2003, "'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 says, "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.'" 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."[2]

The three verses (along with the varied theme in the 4th 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.

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."

Release and aftermath

Though popular on modern classic rock radio stations, "You Can't Always Get What You Want" was not released as a single along with a music video, but rather as the B-Side to "Honky Tonk Women", albeit in an edited form (4:49) without the choral section. One of the Stones' most popular recordings, it has since appeared on the compilations Hot Rocks, Singles Collection and Forty Licks.

"You Can't Always Get What You Want" is very popular at Rolling Stones shows due to the sing-along chorus, and is played at almost every show (where it is custom 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, Live Licks, and The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus recorded in 1968.


Covers and tributes

Soundtrack appearances

In film

  • 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.

In television

  • The Simpsons eighteenth season-finale, "You Kent Always Say What You Want," is a parody of the eponymous message.
  • 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 Dr. Cuddy, and cites the title of the song as an opinion of "the philosopher Jagger." Cuddy later claims to looked up "that philosopher you mentioned" and to have learned that "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 1 finale, 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 5 finale when it is quoted to House by Amber in the form of a hallucination. Its most recent appearance was in a Fifth Season episode where House plays the chorus of the song on the piano.
  • 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. The song 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.
  • 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 9th Season of American Idol.

In advertising

  • The song was used prominently in U.S. TV commercials for Coca-Cola's "low-carb" C2 cola in 2004.
  • The song is used in advertisements for Simon mall gift cards around the holidays. It portrays people opening their presents, but the presents weren't what they wanted. The tagline is to get people to give gifts the receiver will want.


  1. ^ Loewenstein, Dora; Dodd, Philip (2003). According to the Rolling Stones. San Francisco: Chronicle Books. ISBN 0-8118-4060-3. 
  2. ^ "You Can't Always Get What You Want". Time Is On Our Side. 2007. Retrieved 29 September 2007. 
  3. ^ "You Can't Always Get What You Want"". AllMusic. Retrieved 2009-10-31. 

External links



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