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‘It’s Only Rock’n’Roll’: The Story Behind The Rolling Stones’ 70s Classic

Recorded in 1973, ‘It’s Only Rock’n’Roll (But I Like It)’ is one of the most iconic Rolling Stones songs.

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Rolling Stones It's Only Rock’n’Roll But I Like it
Cover: Courtesy of Rolling Stones Records

“It’s Only Rock’n’Roll (But I Like It)” is one of the most iconic Rolling Stones songs. It’s also a song with a tangled web of a history, having first been recorded on July 24, 1973, not in a traditional studio but at The Wick, Ronnie Wood’s home in Richmond.

According to Bill Wyman, who admittedly wasn’t there, “On Tuesday 24 July, Mick and Keith went to Ronnie Wood’s house, the Wick in Richmond, and recorded a version of ‘It’s Only Rock’n’Roll (But I Like It),’ with Ronnie, Kenney Jones, and Ian McLagan.” Ronnie, Jones, and McLagan were all in The Faces with Rod Stewart. Other reports have David Bowie at Ronnie’s house, but that Keith was not there.

Whatever the truth, sometime later in the year Willie Weeks, an American session musician who worked with both George Harrison and David Bowie around this time, added bass to the song. In April 1974, the basic track that was recorded at Ronnie’s house was used to finish the song, with Ian Stewart adding his distinctive piano to the track.

The Beatles - Now And Then
The Beatles - Now And Then
The Beatles - Now And Then
The Rolling Stones - It's Only Rock 'N' Roll (But I Like It) - OFFICIAL PROMO

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According to Mick, “The idea of the song has to do with our public persona at the time. I was getting a bit tired of people having a go, all that, ‘oh, it’s not as good as their last one’ business. The single sleeve had a picture of me with a pen digging into me as if it were a sword. It was a light-hearted, anti-journalistic sort of thing.”

“It’s Only Rock’n’Roll (But I Like It)” was released as a single on July 26, 1974, three months before the album of the (nearly) same name came out. But the record company at the time was not sure it was a single. According to Keith, there was opposition to it, but as he said at the time, “That song is a classic. The title alone is a classic and that’s the whole thing about it.”

It went top 20 in both America and the UK and has been played at just about every live show ever since. The single was promoted with a video directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg that features the band in sailor suits, playing in a tent that gradually filled with bubbles. The froth was detergent and the reason they wore the sailor suits was that none of them wanted to ruin their own clothes. According to Keith, “Poor old Charlie nearly drowned… because we forgot he was sitting down.”

Buy The Rolling Stones’ It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll here.



  1. Rudy Stone

    July 24, 2016 at 3:17 pm

    Great Video ,,,, Fantastic info……

  2. Carlos Escareno

    July 24, 2016 at 8:21 pm

    Great video, Great song!

  3. john Kilpatrick

    July 24, 2016 at 8:50 pm

    Greatest tongue in cheek song pure poetry

  4. Ricky Colunga

    July 24, 2016 at 11:40 pm

    According to Ronnie. He layed down the guitar tracks while him and Mick were working on Ronnie’s solo album. When he saw Keith later. I forgot how much later days or months. Keith told Ron. Just so you know I erased all your guitar tracks and used mine. So he thought. Ronnie says he forgot about a 12 string guitar track that you can hear on the record today. Hah.


    July 25, 2016 at 7:39 am

    Great song to play along with have your friends joining in with you & rock your socks right off your feet, after all it’s only rock and roll

  6. Paula Douglas

    January 21, 2021 at 2:15 am

    I absolutely love this song memories of the 70s with my close friend Clive

  7. Paula Douglas

    January 21, 2021 at 2:17 am

    I absolutely love this, Mick has a brilliant voice memories of the 70s & my really close friend Clive H

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