Keith Richards Wanted to Bring out the ‘Dryness’ in This Rolling Stones Song

Music is rarely described as “dry” in a complimentary fashion; however, Keith Richards wanted one of The Rolling Stones’ classic songs to sound “dry.” He also tried to distort the sound of the song’s riff. Here’s what Richards said about the song years later and how the public responded to it.

The Rolling Stones' Mick Jagger putting his hand on Keith Richards
The Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger and Keith Richards | Keystone/Getty Images

Keith Richards had a hard time perfecting this song in the studio

During an interview with Guitar World, Richards named his 10 favorite Rolling Stones riffs. He spent more time talking about some than others. Interestingly, the song he discussed the most wasn’t one of The Rolling Stones’ biggest hits.

Richards revealed he recorded a demo of “Street Fighting Man” on a cassette tape. Afterward, The Rolling Stones were unable to recreate the sound of the demo in the studio.

“So we played the cassette through an extension speaker and I played along with it – we just shoved a microphone into an acoustic and overdubbed it onto the track from the cassette,” Richards recalled. “Then we put it on a four-track, played it back, and at the same time the guitar was going on, I had [session keyboard great] Nicky Hopkins playing a bit of piano and Charlie [Watts, drums] just shuffling in the background.”

“Street Fighting Man”

Richards revealed the song was similar in style to The Rolling Stones’ “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” “At that time I was into really compressing the acoustic guitar by running it through the early Phillips and Norelco cassette recorders and really overloading them,” he said. “They came with a little plastic mic and I’d slam that right down into the acoustic guitar. I did that on ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash,’ too. With all of those songs, I wanted the drive and dryness of an acoustic guitar, but I still wanted to distort it.” A dry guitar sounds less dynamic than a guitar that has been exposed to moisture.

How Keith Richards felt the riff from ‘Street Fighting Man’ compared to the riffs from other Rolling Stones songs

Richards was happy with his work on “Street Fighting Man.” He said it was his fifth favorite riff in The Rolling Stones’ discography. The only Rolling Stones songs with riffs he preferred were “Sympathy for the Devil,” “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” “Paint It Black,” “Mother’s Little Helper,” and “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.”

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The way the world reacted to The Rolling Stones’ ‘Street Fighting Man’

According to The Official Charts Company, “Street Fighting Man” reached No. 21 in the United Kingdom in 1971. It remained on the charts for eight weeks. Its parent album, Beggars Banquet, was a success as well. It reached No. 3 in the United Kingdom in 1968, staying on the chart for 12 weeks. Long after its release, Beggars Banquet remains an acclaimed album. In 2021, Rolling Stone ranked it No. 185 on their list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

Richards wanted “Street Fighting Man” to sound dry, but it seems the British public was satisfied with it.