Street Fighting Man – The Rolling Stones

THIS DAY IN MUSIC………………………………on August 31st of 1968 Decca Records releases what has been called The Rolling Stones most political song, “Street Fighting Man”. The number was written after Mick Jagger attended a March 1968 anti-war rally at London’s US embassy, during which mounted police attempted to control a crowd of 25,000. The single proved to be very popular, but was kept out of the US Top 40 (reaching #48) because many radio stations refused to play it based on what were perceived as subversive lyrics.This was the first Stones song to make a powerful political statement, although with an air of resignation. Jagger opens the song declaring “that the time is right for fighting in the street,” but goes on to sing, “But what can a poor boy do, ‘cept sing in a rock and roll band.” This sense of hopelessness in the face of atrocity may be why the Rolling Stones became apolitical, focusing their efforts on songs about relationships and rock n’ roll. In the process, they became very rich and beloved by members of all political persuasion. In the US, this was released as a single on August 31, 1968, just a few days after the Democratic National Convention, which took place August 26-29. The convention was marred by violence, as Chicago police clashed with protesters. When the song was released, every radio station in Chicago (and most in the rest of the country), refused to play it for fear that it would incite more violence. There was no official ban in America or Chicago, but stations knew it was in their best interest to shun the song, which accounts for its meager chart position of #48.The original title of this song was “Did Everybody Pay Their Dues?” It had completely different lyrics and therefore altogether a different and rather strange meaning: Jagger sings about an Indian chief and his family. The music however was basically the same (slightly alternative mixes exist) – but the lead guitar over the chorus was omitted on the final mix of “Street Fighting Man.” Fairly listenable versions have appeared on various bootlegs. Dave Mason did session work on this track. He played the shelani, an Indian reed instrument. Mason went on to form the group Traffic, and has played guitar on albums by Jimi Hendrix, George Harrison, Paul McCartney and Fleetwood Mac. The song faired slightly better in the UK topping off at #21.