It's Only Rock 'n Roll (But I Like It)

"It's Only Rock 'n Roll (But I Like It)" is the lead single from English rock band the Rolling Stones' 1974 album It's Only Rock 'n Roll. Writing is credited to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards and the single reached the top ten in the UK charts and top 20 in the United States.

"It's Only Rock 'n Roll (But I Like It)"
It's Only Rock 'n Roll (But I Like It) UK cover.jpg
UK single cover
Single by the Rolling Stones
from the album It's Only Rock 'n Roll
B-side"Through the Lonely Nights"
(non-album track)
Released26 July 1974 (1974-07-26)
GenreBoogie rock, glam rock
LabelRolling Stones
Producer(s)The Glimmer Twins
The Rolling Stones singles chronology
"Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)"
"It's Only Rock 'n Roll (But I Like It)"
"Ain't Too Proud to Beg"
It's Only Rock 'n Roll track listing
10 tracks

Inspiration and recordingEdit

Recorded in late 1973 and completed in the spring of 1974,[1] "It's Only Rock 'n Roll (But I Like It)" is credited to the Rolling Stones songwriting team Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, although future Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood collaborated with Jagger on it.[2] The song was originally recorded one night in a studio at Wood's house, "The Wick" in Richmond, London.[3] David Bowie was backing singer to Jagger's lead, and Willie Weeks played bass with Kenney Jones on drums. The song on the album is similar to that original recording, with the Stones keeping the original rhythm track.

The meaning of the lyrics was summed up by Jagger in the liner notes to the 1993 compilation Jump Back; "The idea of the song has to do with our public persona at the time. I was getting a bit tired of people having a go, all that, 'oh, it's not as good as their last one' business. The single sleeve had a picture of me with a pen digging into me as if it were a sword. It was a lighthearted, anti-journalistic sort of thing."

If I could stick my pen in my heart, And spill it all over the stage;
Would it satisfy ya, would it slide on by ya, Would you think the boy is strange? Ain't he strange?

If I could win ya, if I could sing ya, a love song so divine,
Would it be enough for your cheatin' heart, If I broke down and cried? If I cried?

I said I know it's only rock 'n roll but I like it

Jagger also has said that as soon as he wrote it, he knew it was going to be a single. He said it was his answer to everyone who took seriously what he or the band did.[4] According to Richards there was opposition to it being a single but they persisted, saying it had to be the next single. He said that to him "that song is a classic. The title alone is a classic and that's the whole thing about it."[4]

Music videoEdit

The song was promoted by a music video directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg,[1] showing the band dressed in sailor suits and playing in a tent which eventually fills with bubbles. This video was one of Mick Taylor's last appearances as a member of the band as he decided to leave in December 1974. Ronnie Wood, who does not appear in the video, played acoustic guitar on the recording, alongside Keith Richards on electric guitar.

The froth was detergent and, according to Richards, the idea for the sailor suits came about at the last minute because none of the members wanted to get their own wardrobe ruined. Jagger said the entire filming process was "most unpleasant" and was also extremely lengthy. The cameras and lights could not be inside the tent for fear of electrocution. Because of this risk, in order for the video to be filmed at all, the band had to be insured for quite a reasonable sum. Richards is quoted as saying: "Poor old Charlie (Watts) nearly drowned... because we forgot he was sitting down."[4]


Chart (1974) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report) 17
Canada Top Singles (RPM)[5] 13
Germany (Official German Charts)[6] 36
Ireland (IRMA)[7] 6
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[8] 13
Norway (VG-lista)[9] 8
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[10] 10
US Billboard Hot 100[11] 16


Released in July 1974, "It's Only Rock 'n Roll (But I Like It)" reached number sixteen in the United States and number ten on the UK Singles Chart. The B-side was the ballad "Through the Lonely Nights", which was not featured on any album until the 2005 compilation Rarities 1971-2003.[1]

The Rolling Stones regularly perform the song in concert, although in a different key from the studio recording: on their concert albums Love You Live (1977) and Live Licks (2004), the song is in B, whereas the studio track is in E. According to Richards, the song was recorded in the wrong key, but they did not realise this until they played it live.

Cover versionsEdit

Juliana Hatfield covered the song for her 2009 Daytrotter session.

The song was covered by hard rock band Twisted Sister frequently before the bands discontinuation.

"Weird Al" Yankovic also did a polka cover of the song as the first and longest of his "Hot Rocks Polka", which consists entirely of The Stones' songs. It was used in the soundtrack for his movie UHF.

Tina Turner performed the song as a duet with Mick Jagger during the Live Aid concert in 1985. Turner also included the song (as well as "Jumpin' Jack Flash") on her 1982 tour and her 2008–2009 50th Anniversary Tour, where she was joined by Lisa Fischer.

At the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 25th Anniversary Concert, U2 singer Bono ended the performance of "Vertigo" with the chorus of "It's Only Rock 'n Roll". Later in the same concert U2 and Mick Jagger performed "Gimme Shelter" and "Stuck in a Moment".

Christian parody band ApologetiX recorded it as "It's All In God's Control" on their 2010 album, Soundproof.

The chorus was parodied as "it's only knock and knowall, but I like it" in Genesis' final song on The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway album, "it.", released late 1974. The line was a joke referring to the listeners over-interpreting Peter Gabriel's lyrics, referred to as 'knowalls'.[12]

Artists for Children's Promise versionEdit

"It's Only Rock 'n Roll (But I Like It)"
Single by Artists for Children's Promise
Released9 December 1999
Producer(s)Arthur Baker

In 1999, a cover of "It's Only Rock 'n Roll (But I Like It)" was record by the supergroup Artists for Children's Promise, featuring an international ensemble of artists. The single was released to raise money for Children's Promise. It was released on 9 December 1999 and peaked at number 19 in United Kingdom.

Artists for Children's PromiseEdit


Chart (1999) Peak
Dutch Top 40[15] 55
Swiss Singles Chart[16] 92
UK Singles Chart[17] 19


  1. ^ a b c Zentgraf, Nico. "The Complete Works of the Rolling Stones 1962–2008". Retrieved 2008-02-19.
  2. ^ Jagger, Mick; Richards, Keith; Watts, Charlie; Wood, Ronnie (2003). According to the Rolling Stones. Chronicle Books. pp. 162–164. ISBN 0-8118-4060-3.
  3. ^ "The Stones London". Community Walk. 2007. Retrieved 2007-05-06.
  4. ^ a b c Paytress, Mark (2005). The Rolling Stones – Off The Record. Omnibus Press. p. 239. ISBN 1-84449-641-4
  5. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 3848a." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 18 June 2016.
  6. ^ " – The Rolling Stones – It's Only Rock 'N' Roll". GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved 18 June 2016.
  7. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – The Rolling Stones". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 18 June 2016.
  8. ^ " – The Rolling Stones – It's Only Rock 'N' Roll" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 18 June 2016.
  9. ^ " – The Rolling Stones – It's Only Rock 'N' Roll". VG-lista. Retrieved 18 June 2016.
  10. ^ "Rolling Stones: Artist Chart History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 18 June 2016.
  11. ^ "The Rolling Stones Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved 18 June 2016.
  12. ^ Hegarty, Paul; Halliwell, Martin (2011). Beyond and Before: Progressive Rock since the 1960s. Continuum Books. p. 79. ISBN 9780826423320.
  13. ^ "Various Artists For Children's Promise - It's Only Rock 'N' Roll by - MP3 Downloads, Streaming Music, Lyrics". Retrieved 2016-10-09.
  14. ^ Douglas McCall. Monty Python: A Chronology, 1969-2012. (2nd ed.). p. 202. Retrieved 2016-10-09.
  15. ^ "De Nederlandse Top 40". Dutch Top 40 (in Dutch). Radio 538. 1996. Retrieved 25 July 2010.
  16. ^ "Various Artists For Children's Promise – It's Only Rock 'N' Roll". Swiss Charts (in German). Hung Medien. 1 December 1996. Retrieved 25 July 2010.
  17. ^ "It's Only Rock 'N' Roll". Official Charts Company. 26 October 1996. Retrieved 25 July 2010.

External linksEdit