"Paint It Black" (originally released as "Paint It, Black") is a song by the English rock band The Rolling Stones, written by the songwriting partnership of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, and first released as a single on 6 May 1966. It was later included as the opening track to the U.S. version of their 1966 album, Aftermath.[3] Musically inspired by the sitar playing of George Harrison and Harihar Rao, "Paint It Black", along with the Jagger and Richards-penned "Mother's Little Helper", was influential in developing the musical styles of psychedelic rock and raga rock.[4][5]

"Paint It Black" reached number one in both the Billboard Hot 100 and UK Singles Chart. The song became The Rolling Stones' third number one hit single in the US and sixth in the UK.[6][7] Since its initial release, the song has remained influential as the first number one hit featuring a sitar, particularly in the UK where it has charted in two other instances, and has been the subject of multiple cover versions, compilation albums, and film appearances.[8]

Contents 1 Background 1.1 Composition 1.2 Recording 1.3 Release 2 Chart performance 3 Personnel 4 Eric Burdon & War version 4.1 Chart performance 5 Other cover versions 6 In popular culture



The song's lyrics are, for the most part, meant to describe bleakness and depression through the use of colour-based metaphors. Initially, "Paint It Black" was written as a standard pop arrangement, humorously compared by Mick Jagger to "Songs for Jewish weddings".[9] The song sets the scene of a mournful partner at a funeral, similar in terms to a blues or folk number. In actuality, Jagger took inspiration from novelist James Joyce's 1922 book, Ulysses, taking the excerpt, "I have to turn my head until my darkness goes", referring to the novel's theme of a worldwide view of desperation and desolation.[8]

"Paint It Black" came at a pivotal period in The Rolling Stones' recording history, a time that saw the songwriting collaboration of Jagger and Keith Richards assert itself as the principal composer of the band's original material. This is evident in the Aftermath sessions, where, for the first time, the duo penned the complete track list.[10] In addition, Brian Jones, overshadowed by Jagger and Richards as the de facto bandleader, grew bored with conventional guitar melodies, and attempting to write songs.[11] To alleviate the boredom, Jones explored eastern instruments, more specifically the sitar, to bolster the group's musical texture and complexity. Jones had a background with the sitar as early as 1961, and talked at length about the technicalities of playing the instrument. A natural multi-instrumentalist, Jones was able to develop a tune from the sitar in a short amount of time, largely due to his studies under Ravi Shankar's disciple, Harihar Rao.[12] Not long after a discussion with George Harrison, who had recently recorded sitar in "Norwegian Wood", Jones arranged basic melodies with the instrument that, over time, morphed into the one featured in "Paint It Black".[13]


The master take of "Paint It Black" was recorded on 8 March 1966, at RCA Studios in Los Angeles, with record producer Andrew Loog Oldham present throughout the process.[14] Much of the early recorded arrangements, and keys of the track were modeled after The Animals' version of "The House of the Rising Sun", but The Rolling Stones were unsatisfied with the song, and considered scrapping it. However, while twiddling with a Hammond organ, Bill Wyman searched for a heavier bass sound, while playing the part on his knees. Wyman's playing clicked with the group, and inspired the up-tempo and Eastern pentatonic melody. By all accounts, the sitar was brought into the mix when Harihar Rao happened to walk in the studio with the instrument in hand.[9]

The sitar was featured in the opening riff, which is considered as Jones's most accomplished, and as setting the rhythm throughout the song.[15] In his book Brian Jones: The Making of the Rolling Stones, Paul Trynka has noted that the influence of Harrison's sitar playing, and, in particular, The Beatles' song "Norwegian Wood" on the Rubber Soul album, draws parallels in "Paint It Black" - most noticeably in Jones's droning sitar melody.[16] Jones outright denied any connection, saying it was "utter rubbish", when it was considered he was imitating The Beatles. Nonetheless, Jones sitar playing immediately became influential in developing a whole subgenre of minor-key psychedelic music.[12] Coupled with this striking instrumental motif, it is complemented by Jagger's droning, and slight nasal vocalization.[8] In addition, "Paint It Black" was highlighted by Wyman's heavy bass, Charlie Watts's low-pitch drumming, and Richards' bolero-driven acoustic guitar outro. Soon after, Richards noted that the conclusion of the track was over-recorded, and a different guitar could have potentially improved the song.[9][12]

Release "Paint It Black" was released to the U.S. on 7 May 1966, reaching number one on the Billboard Hot 100 during a stay of 11 weeks. In the UK, the song was released on 13 May 1966, and also became a number one hit on the UK Singles Chart throughout a chart stay of ten weeks.[6][7] It was originally released as "Paint It, Black", the comma being an error by Decca Records, but, nonetheless, stirred controversy among fans over its racial interpretation.[17] Upon further reissues to the UK in 1990 and 2007, "Paint It Black" charted at number 61 and 70, respectively.[7]

"Paint It Black" has appeared on numerous Stones compilations, including Hot Rocks 1964-1971 (1971), 30 Greatest Hits (1977), Singles Collection: The London Years (1989), Forty Licks (2002), and GRRR! (2012). Live recordings are featured on the concert albums Flashpoint (1991), Live Licks (2004), Shine a Light (2008), and Sweet Summer Sun: Hyde Park Live (2013). The song was also featured in the music video games Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock and Rocksmith 2014, as well as the 2001 video game Twisted Metal: Black. The song plays over the end credits of the film Full Metal Jacket and during the end credits of the film The Devil's Advocate. In TV it was used as the opening theme song to the television series Tour of Duty. This song was also featured on the Call of Duty: Black Ops III teaser trailer, which was released on April 26, 2015.

Chart performanceEdit

Chart (1966)



Austrian Singles Chart 2 Canada RPM Chart 1 Finnish Singles Chart 2 German Single Charts[18] 2 Irish Singles Chart[19] 2 Dutch Top 40[20] 1 UK Singles Chart[21] 1 US Billboard Hot 100 1

Chart (1990)



Dutch Top 40[22] 1 UK Singles Chart 61


Sources:[23][24][25] Mick Jagger – lead vocals Brian Jones – sitar, percussion Keith Richards – electric guitar, acoustic guitar, backing vocals Bill Wyman – bass pedals, bass guitar, Hammond B3 Charlie Watts – drums

Eric Burdon & War versionEdit

"Paint It Black"

Single by Eric Burdon & War

from the album The Black Man's Burdon

B-side "Nights in White Satin"

Released 1971

Format 7" single

Recorded 1970

Genre Latin, psychedelic, R&B, funk

Length 4:04

Label Liberty

Writer(s) Jagger/Richards

Producer(s) Jerry Goldstein

Eric Burdon & War singles chronology

"Tobacco Road"

(1970) "Paint It Black"
(1971) "They Can't Take Away Our Music"

Before Eric Burdon & War's 1970 version reached the charts in Netherlands, Eric Burdon covered it on the 1967 Eric Burdon & The Animals debut album, Winds of Change. They also performed a 12:40 version on German TV in 1970.[26] The original album version of Eric Burdon & War had a length of 13:41.

Eric Burdon & The Animals performed it at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. This version was cut and included in the motion picture of the festival. They performed it also on the BBC.

Eric Burdon performed it also on his "Hippiefest" tour in 2008.

Chart performance

Chart (1971)



Dutch Top 40[27] 31

Other cover versionsEdit

Single releasesIn 1966, Marie Laforêt recorded a French cover called "Marie-douceur, Marie-colère". In 1968, Chris Farlowe released a cover version, produced by Mick Jagger, as a single. The Mo-dettes released a version on the Deram label in 1980. It reached number 42 on the UK singles chart. Punk band the Avengers released a cover of the song in 1983, first as the A-side of a single, then on their self-titled album. Indie bubblegum girl band Supercute! covered the song, and filmed a music video for it in 2011. Caterina Caselli had some success with an Italian version of "Paint It Black", titled "Tutto nero", in 1966. Album tracks and single B-sidesLos Angeles-based rock band The Standells covered "Paint It Black" on their album Dirty Water, released in 1966. This version replaces the line "With flowers and my love, both never to come back", instead repeating "I see a red door and I want it painted black". The alternative metal band Destrophy covered the song for their 2005 Pray EP. The band W.A.S.P. included a cover on the reissue of their debut album. The Feelies released a version on their 1980 Crazy Rhythms album. The melodic death metal band The Black Dahlia Murder covered the song on their EP A Cold-Blooded Epitaph. Glenn Tipton covered it on his album Baptizm of Fire. The metalcore band The Agony Scene included a cover on their self-titled album. In 1969, Czech singer Karel Gott released a German version of the song, titled "Rot und schwarz" (Red and Black), on his album In mir klingt ein Lied. Bahamian musician Exuma covered the song on his 1973 album Life. The London Symphony Orchestra released an orchestral cover of the song on its 1977 LP Classic Rock (album) Flamin' Groovies covered this song on their 1978 album Flamin' Groovies Now. Spanish duo Azúcar Moreno released a cover on the CD version of their 1991 album Mambo. U2 released a cover of the song as a B-side to their 1992 single "Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses". Band of Susans released a cover on their 1992 Now EP. Serbian turbo-folk singer Dragan Kojić Keba covered this song on Serbian language on his 1994 album Sve ću tuge poneti sa sobom, with lyrics "U crno obojeno". British goth rockers Inkubus Sukkubus included the song on their 1997 album Vampyre Erotica. Canadian punk rock band Gob covered the song on their 1998 album How Far Shallow Takes You. The Unseen covered the song on their album State of Discontent. The groove metal band Grip Inc. covered it on their album Incorporated. Avant garde band The Residents covered the song on their 2000 album Dot.Com. The Tea Party released a cover in 2000 on the album Tangents: The Tea Party Collection. Ottmar Liebert recorded an instrumental flamenco version in 2001. Singer and songwriter Vanessa Carlton released a cover of the song on her 2002 debut album Be Not Nobody. In 2003, the Tumult record label released an album called Painted Black, entirely consisting of versions of "Paint It Black" by avant-garde artists, including Circle, Acid Mothers Temple, Fennesz, Hrvatski, The Joy Of Disease, Kit Clayton, Stilluppsteypa, Mieskuoro Huutajat, The Tape-beatles, Troum, and Loren Chasse. Sister Sin covered the song on their first album, Dance of the Wicked. Rock band Deadsy released a cover on their 2006 album Phantasmagore. American Idol contestant, Siobhan Magnus, performed a version of the song in the Top 12 week. VersaEmerge covered the song on the compilation album Punk Goes Classic Rock. Punk band Last Laugh released a cover version on their album No Regrets. Ali Campbell covered the song on his 2010 album Great British Songs. Canadian metal band Anvil covered the song on their album Hard 'n' Heavy. American deathrock group Astrovamps included a cover of the song on their album Amerikan Gothick. Industrial metal band Ministry released a cover of the song on their 2010 compilation album Every Day Is Halloween: The Anthology. Marduk covered the song. The band Firewater covered the song on their 2004 album Songs We Should Have Written, which is a compilation of covers. Firewater's version includes a sitar and other ethnic instruments. Japanese-American singer-songwriter Hikaru Utada sampled a line of this song for the song "Amai Wana" off her first Japanese album First Love. The Mighty Lemon Drops released a cover. German heavy metal band Rage covered the song on their 1998 album XIII. The song was covered and translated on Ukrainian by singer-songwriter Yuriy Veres 2012 album 60/70. Finnish comedy rock band Sleepy Sleepers covered the song in Finnish language under name Kaapataan lentokone Moskovaan (Hi-Jacking an Airplane to Moscow) in 1978. They managed to cause an international scandal, and subsequently Sleepy Sleepers was banned in Finnish Broadcasting Corporation, YLE, until 1989 and break-up of USSR. The song is covered on Hayseed Dixie's 2007 album Weapons of Grass Destruction. The song was covered by R&B singer, Ciara, for the soundtrack of The Last Witch Hunter, and released in October 2015.

In popular cultureEdit

The Pittsburgh Pirates of Major League Baseball use the song as part of its "Black Out" promotions with fans.[28]

Ad blocker interference detected!

Wikia is a free-to-use site that makes money from advertising. We have a modified experience for viewers using ad blockers

Wikia is not accessible if you’ve made further modifications. Remove the custom ad blocker rule(s) and the page will load as expected.