Album: Steel Wheels
. . .
While Mick Jaggers’ first solo album, She’s The Boss, made it to #13 on the Billboard charts, his second solo album, Primitive Cool, didn’t even crack the top 40. In between, of course, was the much reviled Dirty Work, which still made it to #4.
And when Keith followed up with his critically-acclaimed solo debut, Talk is Cheap, which didn’t crack the top 20, but still did way better than Primitive Cool, Mick saw the writing on the wall and threw in the towel, deciding that maybe his solo career wasn’t ever going to happen the way he’d imagined. The question, of course, was whether or not it was too late for the boys to get it back.
And so Mick and Keith had a summit, and they decided that they still needed each other, and the result of that summit was Steel Wheels, which was touted as a “comeback” album, even though it had only been three years since Dirty Work. I remember liking but not loving Steel Wheels, which felt a bit overstuffed, and also weighted down by their history. Or my history with them, as the case may be. Like all of the subsequent albums, if Steel Wheels had been put out by a brand-new band, it would have been acclaimed as one of the greatest rock album of the year.
That’s because Mick and Keith could still write straight-ahead, endlessly appealing rock ‘n’ roll songs, and the first single, “Mixed Emotions” was absolutely that: Keith’s rough guitar sound, Charlie’s endless drive, and Mick’s sly lyrics, which could be about the feud they’d just lived through, or not.
This coming and going is driving me nuts
This to-ing and fro-ing is hurting my guts
So get off the fence now, you’re creasing your butt
Life is a party, let’s get out and strut, yeah
Of course, Mick being Mick, has always denied that it had anything to do with what Keith termed as “World War III,” claiming that it was about a girl, but that’s always the genius of some of his greatest lyrics: they can be about two things at once. At least. Either way, the chorus of “Mixed Emotions” is an absolute gem: While Mick is joined by backing vocalists Sarah Dash, Lisa Fischer & Bernard Fowler, they make sure you can hear Keith’s rough rasp, because they know that we’re listening for it, no matter how sweet the other vocalists are.
You’re not the only one with mixed emotions
You’re not the only ship adrift on this ocean
You’re not the only one that’s feeling lonesome
You’re not the only one with mixed eeeee–moooooooooooh-tionnnnnnnnnnnnnns
And that last, elongated “eeeee-mmmmmmmoooooooooh-tiooonnnnnnnns” just makes the entire song for me, almost a signal that they still knew what I was looking for in a Rolling Stones song, and damn well were going to give it to me. And it wasn’t just me, of course, “Mixed Emotions” was a massive hit single, peaking out at #5, the last time that the Rolling Stones would crack the top ten, still not a bad run for a band that had been around nearly as long as the Billboard Charts themselves.
“Mixed Emotions” Official Video
“Mixed Emotions” live in Tokyo, 1990
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