Album: Exile on Main St.
. . .
Every single source I’ve read about “Rip This Joint” would like you to know that it’s the fastest song the Rolling Stones have ever recorded, a barn-burning of scorcher that leaps out of the speakers after the fade of “Rocks Off.” And after three straight records where the second song on the record was always slower than the first song, it means something that they upped the tempo for the second song on Exile on Main St.
Led by Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Nicky Hopkins, “Rip This Joint” hits the ground running so hard that even Mick Jagger has trouble keeping up. Perhaps he should try the same coke.
Mama says yes, Papa says no
Make up you mind cause I gotta go
I’m gonna raise hell at the Union Hall
Drive myself right over the wall
Rip this joint, going to save your soul
Round and round and round we go
Roll this joint, going to get down low
Start my starter, going to stop the show
It goes without saying that Keith joins in on the chorus, and that “Rip This Joint” is probably equal parts about smoking weed and smoking music, and while there’s some quick Mick Taylor slide guitar after that first chorus, it’s only for a couple of seconds before they go into the second verse.
Mister President, Mister Immigration Man
Let me in, sweetie, to your fair land
I’m Tampa bound and Memphis too
Short Fat Fanny is on the loose
Dig that sound on the radio
Then slip it right across into Buffalo
Dick and Pat in ole D.C.,
Well they’re going to hold some shit for me
Looks like Mick making fun of the current U.S. President, Tricky Dick Nixon. Of course, all of this is pretty much news to me. “Rip This Joint” is not a song to which I’ve ever paid attention to the words, especially on the verses. It’s really more about the rockabilly adrenaline vibes the whole thing continually gives off, not to mention the fact that I’m sure it’s going to fall apart at the seams every single time, especially during the stop-time parts, the first of which ends with Mick screaming “let it rooooccccck!” After which Bobby Keys does just that, ripping a basement-rattling sax solo while Nicky Hopkins hits 66 of his keys at once.
As “Rip This Joint” continues, it gets even crazier and less coherent — all good things! — until it hits one last stop-time part, with Mick Taylor and Charlie Watts battling to see who can knock the other one over while Mick sings the most understandable lyric of the whole song.
Wham, bam, Birmingham
Alabama don’t give a damn
Little Rock fit to drop
Ah, let it rock
After this, Keys rips a second solo so hot that he overloads the mic at the beginning of it, and that solo takes “Rip This Joint” to its fade, heart rates and body temperatures suitably raised.
Oh, and one more thing: as a throwback to the late 50s, I’m almost certain that “Rip This Joint” is mixed in mono. Even listening in headphones, I can’t find any instruments on the edges of the mix.
“Rip This Joint”
“Rip This Joint” Live in Texas, 1972
“Rip This Joint” live in Los Angeles, 1975
“Rip This Joint” Live in Amsterdam, 1995
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