The Rolling Stones' Tattoo You gets a lustrous respray for its 40th birthday

The Rolling Stones' first release since Charlie Watts’ departure spectacularly reboots the 1981 out-takes classic Tattoo You

The Rolling Stones - Tattoo You cover art
(Image: © UME)

You can trust Louder Our experienced team has worked for some of the biggest brands in music. From testing headphones to reviewing albums, our experts aim to create reviews you can trust. Find out more about how we review.

"I know there’s an album in there,” understated Keith Richards to this writer in October 1980. Ostensibly (and less-than-enthusiastically) promoting Emotional Rescue, he preferred to talk about the six C90 cassettes sent to him and Mick Jagger brimming with demos, instrumentals, unfinished tracks and even complete songs that would manifest as Tattoo You the following August. 

After the record company required the next album to coincide with 1981-1982’s world tour, the Rolling Stones had taken up Chris Kimsey’s time-saving suggestion of trawling through hundreds of tape reels stretching back to 1973’s Goats Head Soup

The producer spent three months turning up forgotten gems including Start Me Up (its sole rock version among dozens of reggae takes), Waiting On A Friend, Slave (garnished with Billy Preston’s organ) and Tops (featuring Mick Taylor). 

Outtakes from Some Girls and Emotional Rescue included Hang Fire and Keith’s joyful Little T&A. New track Neighbours saw Mick addressing Keith’s uncompromising domestic situation.

After Jagger painstakingly grafted new vocals, the tracks went to New York, jazz legend Sonny Rollins overdubbing sax and Bob Clearmountain’s mixes unifying the sound. 

Heralded by Start Me Up (their last UK Top 10 hit), Tattoo You topped charts on both sides of Atlantic while, playing to four million punters, the record-breaking world tour set templates for modern stadium spectacle. 

Losing none of its lustre, the album is bolstered by Lost And Found’s disc featuring nine tracks from that seemingly bottomless well of out-takes given a modern respray and overdubs. Bookended by contagious single Living In The Heart Of Love (from Munich ’74) and reggaefied version of Start Me Up, tracks long familiar from bootlegs are amped up with new vocals, guitars and mixes, including Dobie Gray’s Drift Away, Jimmy Reed’s Shame Shame Shame and rip-snorting Fiji Jim

Early 70s majestic swagger charges thunderous Chi-Lites cover Troubles A-Comin’, and Exile-era ballad Fast Talking Slow Walking is a delightful surprise

Instead of 1981 tour album Still Life, the set includes June 1982’s entire 25-track set from Wembley Stadium, the Stones on form blazing through classics, current tracks and curios like Eddie Cochran’s Twenty Flight Rock

Watts’ astonishingly intuitive genius gives every song its heartbeat, Mick’s immortal observation “Charlie’s good tonight, in ’ee?” ringing loud and clear throughout this sumptuous addition to the Stones’ ongoing refurbished legacy.

Kris Needs

Kris Needs is a British journalist and author, known for writings on music from the 1970s onwards. Previously secretary of the Mott The Hoople fan club, he became editor of ZigZag in 1977 and has written biographies of stars including Primal Scream, Joe Strummer and Keith Richards. He's also written for MOJO, Record Collector, Classic Rock, Prog, Electronic Sound, Vive Le Rock and Shindig!