“Button your lip, baby, button your coat.” So sang Mick Jagger on the opening line of the Rolling Stones’ first single for more than three years, as they ended the 1980s with a revival in their commercial and creative form. The song was “Mixed Emotions,” which entered the UK charts on September 2, 1989. It was the very week that the band embarked on the North American itinerary of that name that, for many, signified the arrival of the latter-day Stones touring machine.
The song also marked a resumption of the songwriting relationship between Jagger and Keith Richards. They worked on “Mixed Emotions” in Barbados and recorded it, with producer Chris Kimsey, in Montserrat during sessions for Steel Wheels, the album that followed it into record stores in the summer of 1989. Joining the band on the session were Chuck Leavell on piano and organ, Luís Jardim on percussion and Sarah Dash, Lisa Fischer, and Bernard Fowler on background vocals.
From studio to stage
No sooner was the single out than the band were embarking on their first North American tour for eight years. From the official opening night at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia on August 31, “Mixed Emotions” was part of the set list.
The song became the first of three singles from Steel Wheels, and was well received by both critics and fans, in some ways setting the template for the later version of their classic rock incarnation. It reached No.5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and spent no fewer than five weeks at No.1 on the magazine’s Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.
The reception to the single back in the UK was more restrained, with a No.36 peak. But “Mixed Emotions” nevertheless provided a strong set-up for Steel Wheels. As the Stones embarked on the first of their epic, continent-straddling, box office-busting tours of recent memory, it became a significant seller, shifting more than five million copies worldwide.
Buy or stream “Mixed Emotions” on Steel Wheels, part of the 15LP Rolling stones box set The Studio Albums Vinyl Collection 1971-2016.