Just My Imagination (1978)

The Rolling Stones

Written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong
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Just my noir NY brightThe Rolling Stones’ fire-breathing, guitar-shredding version of “Just My Imagination” thrashes the 1971 beautiful-dreamer version by The Temptations, a rosy classic of quite a different breed.

Not to denigrate The Tempts, but they’re no match for the screaming eagles of Some Girls, The Stones’ classic 1978 album that has sold around 8 million copies and is one of the core four works that define their achievement. Mick and Keith’s hair must have been in flames during the session.

Some Girls is the “New York” album by the perennial, if now-no-longer-ageless, bad boys of Rock, a collection of songs in which Disco meets firebrand guitar work and then meets film noir – with stunning results.

“Miss You”


“Just My Imagination”

“Miss You” kicks it off with the lines:

I’ve been walking Central Park 
Singing after dark 
People think I’m crazy 
I’ve been stumbling on my feet 
Shuffling through the street 
People ask me 
“What’s the matter with you boy?” 

“When The Whip Comes Down” features the smarty-pants line, I was gay in New York, just a fag in L.A. And a passing reference to 53rd Street, home to Cheetah and Gotham, two disco-era clubs. The last song on the album, “Shattered” is a potpourri of lyrics about the big town, among them, Shmatta, shmatta, shmatta – I can’t give it away on 7th Avenue. “Shmatta” is the word for “rag” in Yiddish, a reference to the garment industry on 7th, sometimes called “the rag trade.”

somegirls3lg“Just My Imagination” also indulges itself in a bit of New York fantasia. It tells the story of a love-struck, hyper-sexualized guy (could that be Mick Jagger?) who feels lucky to have an object for his affections, not even one who is returning the favor – at least at first, according to the song.

The song begins with slow, funked-up guitar riffs being traded between Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood. They hint at earlier Country work like “Country Honk,” “Sweet Virginia” and the underplayed “Moonlight Mile.” As expected, Charlie Watts is right on the mark with his easy backbeats, and Jagger’s vocal is dreamy enough to pay homage to Eddie Kendricks who did the honors on The Temptations’ recording. Meanwhile the guitars come to a slow, low boil.

I look out my window
watch her as she passes by

I say to myself
I’m such a lucky guy

To have a girl like mine
is a dream come true

And of all the girls in New York
she loves me true

It was just my imagination
Runnin’ away with me
It was just my imagination
Runnin’ away with me

In the second verse, the singer’s thoughts turn to marriage and family, although there is the slightest wash of kinky sex, presented obliquely:

Just My album close upSoon we’ll be married
and raise a family
Two boys for you 
What about two girls for me?
I tell you I am just a fellow
with a one track mind
Whatever it is I want baby
I seek and I shall find
I’ll tell ya
It was just my imagination
Once again…

A strong, dual lead-guitar battle, short, tough and almost punky, helps “Imagination” transition to the last verse, in which the reveal is made: this is a dream girl, a complete fiction. A girl passing by, marriage, three-way sex, then finally a plea to the Lord to not take away this powerful fantasy melange.

Every night I hope and pray
“Dear lord, hear my plea
Don’t ever let another take her love from me
Or I will surely die”
Her love is ecstasy
When her arms enfold me
I hear her tender rhapsody
But in reality, she doesn’t even know – me

Just My Jumpin MickThe ensuing jam from what is arguably the greatest Rock-N-Roll band of all time tells the listener straight with no punches pulled that greatness has been captured on vinyl, disc, on digital. Jagger leads what amounts to a drunken choir howling up a storm, running around dark-streeted New York. Convincingly, a place where such mad-happy stupefying reveries can go down.

Richards and Wood jam into the highest gears on their transmissions, fighting, having fun, forcing feedback from the speakers, celebrating the crazy dreams that the Psychedelic Soul of Motown didn’t capture on the ’71 track. Bill Wyman’s bass comes out in full frothing fettle. Like a specter darting out in an amusement park house of horrors. Wyman grinds and bends those big fat strings.

Jagger and the other band members singing back up engage in a timeless vocal jam, Jagger Just My Mick strutsrepeating with machinelike speed the words “runaway, runaway, runaway” as the others counter harmonize with “Just my ‘magination, runnin’ away with me.” Jagger throws in an occasional grunt or “yeah” that brings the ethereal round to the sexual only to have the band members lift it back off to the heavens.

To call “Just My Imagination” a superlative achievement would be gilding the lily. It’s a standout on an album chock full of towering songs as fresh today as they were in 1978.

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  • The album Some Girls has a peculiar, very creative amalgam. It marries Rock-A-Billy (of all choices) with a Punk and Disco “feeling.” It even throws out a little proto Hip-Hop. (On the title song and on the “male liberation” anthem “Beast of Burden.”)
  • Acknowledging that The Stones had gone back to the future on Some Girls, Jagger said: “I wasn’t brought up on rock music so much as blues and soul music, and lots of that music was dance music. It was specifically made to dance to…” Some Girls harks back to early Stones’ songs like “Under My Thumb,” “I’m A King Bee, Baby” and “Out Of Time.”

Also by The Rolling Stones on SongMango.com:

  • It's All Over NowJohn Lennon told Keith his guitar solo sucked. Springsteen says it is brilliant. Chuck Berry loved the update of his sound.
  • Can’t You Hear Me KnockingThe drug-soaked year of 1971 whipped up a frenzy in Jagger's voice as he chases a girl as hip and high as he is.
  • Paint It BlackA tangle of eastern and western music coupled with African dance and drum rhythms and a tale often told.
  • Salt Of The Earth"Let's think of the wavering millions who need leading but get gamblers instead." Some songs grow truer and truer.