The Story Behind “She’s So Cold” by The Rolling Stones and the Similarly Titled Song that Came Out Before It

In his book Sex in Human Loving, psychiatrist Eric Berne writes, “Some say that one-sided love is better than none, but like half a loaf of bread, it is likely to grow hard and moldy sooner.” Unrequited love has inspired many songs through the ages. It’s often portrayed as unselfish and noble, and some have referred to it as “the poetry of frustration.” Whether it’s “Just My Imagination” by The Temptations, “Love Stinks” by The J. Geils Band, or “You Belong with Me” by Taylor Swift, they all express the feelings of rejection when the object of your affection does not share the same enthusiasm.

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Berne continues, “The man who is loved by a woman is lucky indeed, but the one to be envied is he who loves, however little he gets in return. How much greater is Dante gazing at Beatrice than Beatrice walking by him in apparent disdain.” Let’s take a look at the story behind “She’s So Cold” by The Rolling Stones.

I’m so hot for her. I’m so hot for her
I’m so hot for her, and she’s so cold
I’m so hot for her. I’m on fire for her
I’m so hot for her, and she’s so cold
I’m the burning bush. I’m the burning fire
I’m the bleeding volcano
I’m so hot for her. I’m so hot for her
I’m so hot for her, and she’s so cold

Emotional Rescue

Throughout the 1970s, The Rolling Stones had fallen into a routine of releasing an album and then going on tour to promote it. After Some Girls in 1978, the band decided to break the monotonous cycle by going right back into the Compass Point Studios in Nassau, Bahamas, to begin work on their next album. Emotional Rescue was released on June 23, 1980, with the title track as the lead single. The disco track with falsetto vocals was more reminiscent of Marvin Gaye than Muddy Waters. Although it did well on the charts, reaching No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100, many die-hard Stones fans yearned for the more traditional sound of the band. “She’s So Cold” delivered just that, even though it only reached No. 26 on the U.S. chart.

Yeah, I tried re-wiring her, tried re-firing her
I think her engine is permanently stalled
She’s so cold, she’s so cold
She’s so cold, cold, cold
Like a tombstone
She’s so cold, she’s so cold
She’s so cold, cold, cold, like an ice cream cone
She’s so cold, she’s so cold
I dare not touch her. My hand just froze

“Born in An Arctic Zone”

Mick Jagger is singing about a one-sided situation where the woman he is enamored with is showing nothing in return. The lyrics are over the top as he uses the extreme examples of a burning bush and a volcano compared to her being “born in an Arctic zone.” 

Yeah, I’m so hot for hot for her. I’m so hot for her
I’m so hot for her, and even so
Put your hand on the heat, put your hand on the heat
Aw, c’mon, baby, let’s go
She’s so cold. She’s so cold, cold. She’s so c-c-c-old
But she’s beautiful, though
Yeah, she’s so cold

The Music Video

David Mallet directed the minimalistic music video featuring the band miming the song in a sparse soundstage.  The British video director worked with Blondie, David Bowie, Peter Gabriel, Joan Jett, and Queen before he teamed up with The Rolling Stones to make videos for “Emotional Rescue” and “She’s So Cold.” When MTV started in 1981, it helped the Stones’ visibility with the younger generation, who were more familiar with the band from their parents’ record collection.

She’s so cold, she’s so cold
She was born in an Arctic zone
She’s so cold. She’s so cold, cold, cold
I dare not touch her. My hand just froze
She’s so cold, she’s so g–damn cold, she’s so
Cold, cold, cold, she’s so cold

Radio Edit Version

Keith Richards opens the song with muted rhythm guitar backed with slide guitar from Ron Wood. Charlie Watts holds down the rhythm with a driving bass drum locked in with a melodic bass line from Bill Wyman. Wood also added pedal steel to the track. Two versions were sent to radio stations. The promo single contained one side with the lyrics “She’s so g–damned cold,” and the other side with the edited “clean” version.

Who would believe you were a beauty indeed
When the days get shorter and the nights get long
Lie awake when the rain comes
Nobody will know when you’re old
When you’re old, nobody will know
That you was a beauty, a sweet, sweet beauty
A sweet, sweet beauty, but stone, stone cold

Willie Nile

In 1978, American rocker Willie Nile began performing a song called “She’s So Cold.” He released a recording of his song before the Stones released theirs. When asked by The Face magazine if the Stones stole the song, Jagger replied, “I know Willie Nile. He’s a right little stirrer. He’s a sort of Latin kind of singer. No, It’s not true. He’d be suing me if it was.” Nile told Songfacts.com: “I wake up, my phone is ringing off the hook. DJs calling, [asking] what’s my reaction to the Stones having a song called ‘She’s So Cold’ that sounds similar to my song?” When Nile was asked if he ever considered legal action, he said, “No way am I going to be in that category of suing the Stones. Forget it! I loved the Stones. If it influenced their song, fine.”

You’re so cold, you’re so cold, cold, cold
You’re so cold, you’re so cold
I’m so hot for you, I’m so hot for you
I’m so hot for you, and you’re so cold
I’m the burning bush. I’m the burning fire
I’m the bleeding volcano

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Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

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