. . .
Hoo boy. This is a tough one, because, on one hand, “Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing In The Shadow” is a proto-punk thrill ride that features the first use of a horn section on any Rolling Stones single: finally, Keith got his soul horns on a song! On the other hand, it’s one of the great missed opportunities in the entire Stones catalog.
“Have You Mother, Baby, Standing in The Shadow” opens with echoed, distorted guitars sounding like they’re rising out of the bog, shaking off the cobwebs and ready to hunt you down, only to be cut off by a pair of trumpets singing “standing in the shadow” after which the song almost instantly takes off, Mick on top, singing the chorus.
Have you seen your mother, baby, standing in the shadow?
Have you had another, baby, standing in the shadow?
I’m glad I opened your eyes
The have-nots would have tried to freeze you in ice
It’s cacophony from the get-go, stopping and starting almost at will — check out the on a dime breakdown on “eye-eye-eye-eyes” — the horns coming in and swinging out, yet another arrangement coup for the Stones.
Except. Except. Except for one little thing: it sounds like shit. No matter how loud you turn up “Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadow?” it always sounds like you’re listening to it from a speaker in the next room. Which is too fucking bad, because there are so many killer parts in this song, especially the out-of-nowhere bridge, which is basically just Mick singing over a barely-audible acoustic guitar and his own finger snaps.
Tell me a story about how you adore me
Live in the shadow, see through the shadow
Glimpse through the shadow, tear at the shadow
Hate in the shadow, and love in your shadowy life
The build out of “tell me a story about how you adore me” (a killer line in and of itself) is fantastic, especially the repetition of the word “shadow,” Keith’s harmonies, the horn stabs, and of course Charlie’s tom fills are all utterly spot on, and should have been transcendent. But, of course, it’s all lost in the messy morass of a mix.
It’s a shame: at their best, the Stones during the Andrew Loog Oldham years were always aiming towards mixing up their R&B roots with the Phil Spector wall of sound, and “Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadow?” was one of their biggest attempts. And biggest misfires.
But only a relative misfire, of course. That said, I love this song in all of its messy imperfection: I can kinda sorta hear the record as it could have been, and it’s never not fun to sing along with the words that I’ve picked out the mix, my favorite being “where have you been all your life?” And I also love the ending, where they all just kind of stop, leaving Keith to feedback his way into the fade.
Once again, though, “Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadow?” was a massive hit on both sides of the pond, landing at #5 in the U.K. and #9 in the U.S., and eventually was released on the Flowers compilation in 1967.
“Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadow?” Official Lyric Video
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