In 1980, after two years of recording, The Rollings Stones put out their 15th (or 17th in the US) album, Emotional Rescue. Released alongside it was the single version of the title track. Although a solid song, it would prove to be polarizing. While some fans embraced it, others were not happy with the change in direction. Certainly the Disco elements helped to form many a detractor’s opinion, particularly since Disco was in a steep decline at this point after it blew up a baseball field. And Keith Richards was none too pleased with it either.
Personally, I always liked this song. Ronnie Wood’s funky bass line is memorable and does its job driving Mick’s hypnotic vocal performance. But I need to confess something about those vocals. When I was a kid, I thought the falsetto half of the song was actually Miss Piggy singing. No, I’m not being silly here – I was four years old at the time. My world consisted of The Muppet Show, Top 40 Radio and little else. I should have outgrown that but thirty years later, I still can’t stop my imagination from picturing that puppet singing this song instead of Mick.
Mick drops that falsetto halfway through the song, thankfully, as the sax kicks up and my mind replaces Muppets with Stones. The uneasy seductiveness of the lyrics finally comes through loud and clear. It’s all delightfully creepy but Jagger pulls it off.
The B-Side to this single is another track from Emotional Rescue entitled “Down in the Hole”. Lyrically it’s about hitting rock bottom. Musically, it’s the perfect soundtrack for your prison film. The song sounds it’d be playing as you’re escorted to your dank cell. It’s slow, sad tempo and blues sound is dotted with the sounds of harmonica as if it were coming from inmates welcoming you home.
Muppet or no Muppet, Emotional Rescue was a strong lead-off single, despite the difference of opinions from fans. It eventually peaked at #3 in the United States and is a positive addition to The Rolling Stones eclectic catalog of songs.