Mick Jagger penned a song for The Rolling Stones in Jail.

Mick Jagger

Back in June 1967, Mick Jagger found himself in a tough spot, thrown into Brixton prison on drug charges. The situation was incredibly stressful, and all he wished for was the comfort of home. It’s a reminder that even rockstars caught up in drug issues yearn for a sense of security. During one night behind bars, overwhelmed by despair, he created the timeless track ‘2000 Light Years from Home’.

Keith Richards once said, “I’ve never had a problem with drugs; I’ve had a problem with the police”. This seemingly casual remark holds more significance than just humor. The Rolling Stones quickly embraced the imagery of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll, making it an integral part of their identity from the beginning. They recognized early on that counterculture needed its rituals, and they willingly defined them.

Consequently, the law frequently got them into trouble. They became the rebels of the music scene. Most of the time, this worked in their favor as clever marketing. Except for the tragic events at Altamont when things spiraled out of control, leading the media to turn against them. Nevertheless, this constant clash with the law often posed a creative obstacle, hindering their ability to consistently produce music. Eventually, they even had to resort to making music from behind bars.

Mick Jagger faced a daunting three-month sentence after being convicted of possessing Benzedrine. Confronted with this grim future, he turned to his creative side to deal with the increasing stress. When he got released on bail the following day, he not only regained his freedom but also had a potential hit in progress for their upcoming sixth album, ‘Their Satanic Majesties Request’.

In a manner similar to David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’, Jagger used the metaphor of an astronaut adrift to express the isolation he felt during his descent into darkness. He drew inspiration from Arthur C. Clarke’s ‘The Sentinel’, connecting with the broader cultural context of the space race and the fast-paced society of the time. Additionally, there’s a meta aspect to the song, hinting at the influence of a Benzedrine trip as a factor in his own downfall.

While Keith Richards later criticized ‘Satanic Majesty’ as a “load of nonsense”. This track underscores that the issue wasn’t the psychedelic exploration but rather the lack of sincerity in the other songs on the album. As Richards explained in his memoir, “None of us wanted to make, but it was time for another Stones album, and Sgt. Pepper’s was coming out, so we thought basically we were doing a put-on”. Creating an album with this mindset may not be ideal, but any song written in a jail cell is noteworthy.

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