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The 100 Greatest Songs of the Rock Era: #90: Beast of Burden


The Rolling Stones from Some Girls (1978)

“Well, so much for the romance,” Peggy said.

“Hey, we talked about how hard it is to get that right. I think this sentiment is much easier to express.”

“Maybe so. But it’s always going to sound cool coming from Jagger’s mouth.”

“Indeed. Though Bette Midler did an awfully good job with it. Sent the message in an entirely different direction.”

“Yeah, that was a great cover. I always thought the guitar part was what made this song unforgettable in the original, though, and that’s definitely missing from the Midler version. Did you ever notice that nearly all of Keith Richards’s riffs are built around strummed chords? That’s a pretty distinctive thing.”

“Well, ‘Satisfaction’ or ‘Gimme Shelter,’ but I get what you’re saying. He riffs in a different way than someone like Eric Clapton or Jack White or Prince, who usually use notes or runs.”

“This is a tough lyric, though. Definitely not a pretty relationship.”

“Remind you of anyone?”

Peggy laughed, but tentatively. “That girl is long gone.” She paused, and her voice modulated. “It’s hard to see any of myself in this song now.”

That last exchange was perhaps the clearest indication of the gulf the years had created between Peggy and me. It dawned on me that the woman I was envisioning on the other end of the phone was my good friend at twenty – and that I was much younger in my own head. And here was the thing: I couldn’t tell whether these phone calls were bringing us closer again, or just showing us how far we’ve drifted apart.

“The Edge,” I said, moving us toward safer ground. “He uses strummed chords for his riffs a lot, too.”

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