On This Day: “Paint It Black” by the Rolling Stones Hit No. 1

“Paint It Black” (originally known as “Paint It, Black” due to an infamous typo) is by far one of The Rolling Stones’ biggest songs of all time. On June 11, 1966, it finally hit no. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. The Stones were already pretty big at the time, but the chart-topping hit cemented their status as one of the biggest rock bands of the 20th century.

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The Origins of “Paint It Black”

“Paint It Black” came about after The Rolling Stones had already released a few hit singles in 1964. They were certified legends in the UK already but hadn’t quite dominated the US airwaves like other English bands like The Beatles had.

The band was finally able to get some international attention with “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” in 1965. The attention The Stones received from this hit attracted some movers and shakers in the US, namely Allen Klein, who became their rep in the US.

Keith Richards and Mick Jagger penned “Paint It Black” together, and the era of Aftermath saw the duo write most of their music for the first time. Allegedly, the song featured previously-written melodies that eventually were used for the “Paint It Black” specifically. 

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Richards and Jagger wrote the chord progression and lyrics for “Paint It Black” in the initial sessions for the album Aftermath. They also worked on it during their Australian tour in 1966. It’s also widely believed that “Paint It Black” is the first recorded song to feature a fretless bass.

What Is “Paint It Black” About?

“Paint It Black” is undeniably bleak, but The Stones weren’t interested in writing a fun little pop song. They were pioneering a new era of rock and roll, after all. It’s a song about grief, feeling despondent, and love lost; the perfect recipe for a rock song. “I see a line of cars / And they’re all painted black / With flowers and my love / Both never to come back.”

“Paint It Black” was a massive hit after it was released as a single on May 7, 1966. By June 11, 1966, it hit no. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Today, “Paint It Black” still has some serious listening power. And the band still performs it live to this day.

Photo by Michael Ochs Archives

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