31 Aug 1968: Rolling Stones release “Street Fighting Man”
On this day in 1968, The Rolling Stones released what would come to be considered as one of their most overtly political songs, “Street Fighting Man”
The song was inspired by Jagger’s attendance at an anti-war rally at the US embassy in London, during which mounted police forcefully attempted to control a crowd of around 25,000, as well as by similar protests in Paris, where student rioters were responded to with violence.
Recorded at Olympic Sound Studios in April-May, 1968, Jagger performed on lead and backing vocals alongside Keith Richards who also handled the acoustic and bass guitars, Brian Jones played the distinctive sitar and tamboura, Charlie Watts on drums and Nicky Hopkins on the piano. The songs lyrics were penned by Jagger and are still considered ambiguous in their meaning today. Some consider the song a call to revolution, while others call it an apathetic statement. Regardless, numerous critics and fellow musicians have called the song a classic, a rock anthem and an extremely significant political statement.
The song was popular on release, but was kept out of the top 40, due to the subversive and revolutionary/anti political nature of the lyrics. This was reinforced when the song was released within a week of the riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, and some considered the song as having the potential to incite further violence. The censorship and banning of the song actually delighted Jagger, who gleefully stated “I’m rather pleased to hear they have banned (the song). The last time they banned one of our records in America, it sold a million.”