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“Tattoo You” Review: Revisiting the album 40 years later
From guitar-smashing rock hits to eccentric ballads, the Rolling Stones’ 16th album still has all its charm
November 12, 2021
On Oct. 22nd, the Rolling Stones released a remastered version of their 1981 album “Tattoo You”, featuring the original track list as well as some unreleased and concert additions. The album is available on streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music, as well as on a 2LP vinyl and cassette tape. This is the first Rolling Stones release since the passing of founding member and drummer Charlie Watts back in August.
In general, the main purpose of remastering an album is to bring attention to it years after its initial success. “Tattoo You” was both critically successful and topped the Billboard charts after its initial release in 1981. It makes sense why the band decided to remaster the album after 40 years: it’s often seen as one of their best releases, and it’s a great way to rack in profits without producing an entirely new album. Additionally, with the pandemic, live concerts and fan connectivity have come to a halt, so any content, even if previously released, is better than no content at all.
While the Rolling Stones have never quite lost traction in the music world, it’s safe to say that their ‘80s discography does not garner the same attention as their soulful blues and Britpop hits from the ‘60s and the ‘70s. Don’t expect “Tattoo You” to be like anything the Stones put out during the peak of classic rock and mono-vinyl. This album serves as a transition from the Studio 54 days of the ‘70s, to the synth-punk influences of the ‘80s. That being said, the enigmatic sound of “Tattoo You” separates it from its actual era of release, which makes it a timeless listen in 2021.
The album starts with the iconic ‘80s rock hit, “Start Me Up”. The corresponding music video sums up the song perfectly: think Mick Jagger in tight white pants, flailing around the stage while his bandmates jadedly put up with his antics in the background.
The rest of the album is like falling down a rabbit hole. When I first gave it a listen, I thought it sounded like a bunch of filler, trying to pull reggae and blues influences in to create one big pile of mush. It wasn’t until I listened to it in track order that I realized the jumbled structure of the album is intentional; it draws you in with classic Stones rock songs like “Start Me Up” and “Hang Fire” until it slowly starts pulling you through western blues tracks like “Little T&A” and “Black Limousine.” Once you’re already in too deep to walk away, you emerge in a totally disparate listening experience, highlighted by abstract tracks like “No Use In Crying” and, my personal favorite off of the album, “Heaven”.
The bonus tracks included on this remaster are worth mentioning as well. The rock track “Come To The Ball” is reminiscent of the Stones’ 1966 hit, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” while the western-surf rock song “Fiji Jim” fits in perfectly alongside similar beachy songs such as “Hang Fire”.
Familiarity can be found through the addition of live renditions of previous Rolling Stones songs from a 1982 performance at Wembley Stadium. Live performances of Stones hits such as the disco-inspired “Miss You” or the angst-filled “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” make an appearance on the album. These tracks offer the experience of a live rock concert without you even having to take off your headphones and leave your room, which will fill the gap until actual concerts fully make their safe return.
Overall, this remaster did not disappoint. From the improved quality of the initial tracklist, to the addition of live performances and exclusive bonus tracks, I would say that the Stones covered more than enough in just one release. While I’m not the biggest fan of ‘80s music myself, this album proved to be in its own ‘in-between’ genre of sorts. I’m looking forward to more possible Rolling Stones remasters in the future and the renewed attention that the music gets as time goes on.