“Under My Thumb” is a song written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. The Rolling Stones recorded it for their 1966 album Aftermath. Although it was never released as a single in English-speaking countries, it is one of the band’s more popular songs from the period and appears on several best-of compilations. In 1968, it was released as a single in Japan.
The group frequently performed “Under My Thumb” on their 1981 US Tour and 1982 European tour as the opening number at each concert. The Stones have played the song sporadically on subsequent tours in 1997–1998 and 2006.
The song’s lyrics are an examination of a sexual power struggle, in which Jagger’s lyrics celebrate the success of finally having controlled and gained leverage over a previously pushy, dominating woman. Jagger later reflected on the track in a 1995 interview: “It’s a bit of a jokey number, really. It’s not really an anti-feminist song any more than any of the others … Yes, it’s a caricature, and it’s in reply to a girl who was a very pushy woman”. For many years starting with the 1969 tour, Jagger changed the references of “girl” in the lyric to “woman”.
Like many of the songs from the Aftermath period, “Under My Thumb” uses more novel instrumentation than that featured on previous Stones records, including fuzz bass lines (played by Bill Wyman), and marimba riffs played by Brian Jones, which provide the song’s most prominent hook.
The lyrics, which savour the successful ‘taming of the shrew’ and compare the woman in question to a “pet”, a “Siamese cat” and a “squirming dog” provoked some negative reactions, especially amongst feminists, who objected to what they took as the suppressive sexual politics of the male narrator. American humanities professor Camille Paglia, for example, reports that her admiration and defence of “Under My Thumb” marked the beginning of a rift between her and the radical feminists of the late 1960s.
Mick Jagger – lead vocals
Keith Richards – guitar
Brian Jones – marimba
Bill Wyman – bass
Charlie Watts – drums
Ian Stewart – piano