Two tributes here: CHARLIE WATTS & JACK NITZSCHE
Drummer CHARLIE WATTS (2 June 1941 – 24 August 2021), who helped The Stones become one of the greatest bands in rock ‘n’ roll.
JACK NITZSCHE (April 22, 1937 – August 25, 2000), American musician, arranger, songwriter, composer, record producer; the studio legend who played the gypsy-style piano on PAINT IT BLACK.
There appears to be no specific inspiration for the morbid lyrics. When asked at the time why he wrote a song about death, Mick Jagger replied: “I don’t know. It’s been done before. It’s not an original thought by any means. It all depends on how you do it.”
“That was the time of lots of acid. It has sitars on it. It’s like the beginnings of miserable Psychedelia. That’s what the Rolling Stones started – maybe we should have a revival of that.”
The Rolling Stones wrote this as a much slower, conventional soul song. When Bill Wyman began fooling around on the organ during the session doing a takeoff of their original as a spoof of music played at Jewish weddings.
Co-manager Eric Easton (who had been an organist), and Charlie Watts joined in and improvised a double-time drum pattern, echoing the rhythm heard in some Middle Eastern dances. This new more upbeat rhythm was then used in the recording as a counterpoint to the morbid lyrics.
On this track, Stones guitarist Brian Jones played the sitar, which was introduced to pop music by The Beatles on their 1965 song Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown).
Jones made good television by balancing the instrument on his lap during appearances.
Brian Jones had a lot of input into this song, but was left off the songwriting credits (Mick Jagger and Keith Richards are the credited writers).
Jones did the arrangements for “Paint It Black” and many other songs around this time, but according to Keith Richards, he never presented a finished song to the group, which kept him off the credits.
Keith explained how this song came together: “We were in Fiji for about three days. They make sitars and all sorts of Indian stuff. Sitars are made out of watermelons or pumpkins or something smashed so they go hard. They’re very brittle and you have to be careful how you handle them. We had the sitars, we thought we’d try them out in the studio. To get the right sound on ‘Paint It Black’ we found the sitar fitted perfectly. We tried a guitar but you can’t bend it enough.”
On the single, there is a comma before the word “black” in the title, rendering it, “Paint It, Black.”
This of course changes the context, implying that a person named “Black” is being implored to paint. While some fans interpreted this as a statement on race relations, it’s far more likely that the rogue comma was the result of a clerical error, something not uncommon in the ’60s.
Jack Nitzsche played keyboards. Besides working with The Stones, Nitzsche arranged records for Phil Spector and scored many movies.
The Stones former manager Allen Klein owned the publishing rights to this song. In 1965, The Stones hired him and signed a deal they would later regret.
With Klein controlling their money, The Stones signed over the publishing rights to all the songs they wrote up to 1969.
Every time this is used in a commercial or TV show, Klein’s estate (he died in 2009) gets paid.