Today (10.8.2016), I received my latest copy of ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY, and in it was this Eric Renner Brown piece with Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong, talking about the soundtrack of his life. For the music he wants played at his funeral, he chose “Waiting On A Friend,” one of my all-time favorite songs by The Rolling Stones.
Billie Joe said of his choice, “It’s one of the best songs they’ve ever written. When you’re up in heaven, or wherever you’re at, you’re just waiting for friends to come along. For something dark like a funeral, it’s a bit more positive.”
Well, four months and four days away from my 50th birthday, I’m not quite in funeral mode just yet. Although, truth be told, I’ve had a few thoughts floating here and there around about song ideas and compilation videos of my life. Don’t know if I’d personally choose “Waiting On A Friend,” but it’s a great choice nonetheless.
“Waiting On A Friend” was the second single released from their monster 1981 album, TATTOO YOU, though the history of the song dates back to the GOATS HEAD SOUP recording sessions in Kingston, Jamaica in late 1972 through early 1973. Mick Taylor was still a member of the band then, and his guitar contribution to the song is included in the version that made its way to TATTOO YOU.
For The Stones’ 1993 compilation, JUMP BACK, in the liner notes, Mick Jagger said of “Waiting On A Friend”: “We all liked it at the time but it didn’t have any lyrics, so there we were… The lyric I added is very gentle and loving, about friendships in the band.” The great Jazz saxophonist, Sonny Rollins, was hired to come on and play that memorable sax on “Waiting On A Friend,” as well as a couple of other songs on the album.
In early December 1981, with Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical” settling in for the longest run of any No. 1 song on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in the 80s, TATTOO YOU’s first single and huge hit, “Start Me Up,” was in its last week in the Top 10 when “Waiting On A Friend” was the highest debuting song on the Hot 100 that week, coming in at No. 70.
The next week, “Waiting On A Friend” rocketed into the Top 40, and from there, took a couple of months climbing the chart before spending three weeks at No. 13 in February 1982. It spent 15 total weeks on the Hot 100 and ranked in the Top 100 for all of that year. Around the globe, “Waiting On A Friend” wasn’t as popular as “Start Me Up,” but it did reach No. 9 in Holland.
There have been a few live and recorded covers of “Waiting On A Friend” over the years, but prolly my favorite cover of “Waiting On A Friend” was released in 2002, when the band NYC Alt-Rock band Luna (featuring Galaxie 500 vet Dean Wareham) covered it on their EP, CLOSE COVER BEFORE STRIKING.
Unlike the straight-ahead, in-your-face, rock and roll oomph of “Start Me Up,” “Waiting On A Friend” was more laid back, had a sort of non-cheesy lounge feel to it, incorporating piano, sax and some light percussion. To me, it just sounded totally different than any Rolling Stones song I had ever heard. And I like “Start Me Up,” I always have. But I LOVE and will always LOVE “Waiting On A Friend”…