Jeanne Recommends: “Beast of Burden” by The Rolling Stones

Spring 1999: I was almost 23, beer-buzzed, and canoodling with a guy who was all wrong for me on an ancient couch in the living room of a worn out rental house in a tiny college town. His housemates were smoking weed and listening to music. After a few random songs, one of the guys put on Some Girls, the 1978 Rolling Stones album.

At the time, I was just a burgeoning Stones acolyte — but something about Some Girls, and in particular, “Beast of Burden,” went straight for my soul. Maybe it was Keith Richards’ and Ronnie Wood’s unforgettable guitar work or the ache behind Mick Jagger’s vocals that got to me, but that song made me forget where I was and I couldn’t concentrate on anything but the next note.

I’ll never be your beast of burden
So let’s go home and draw the curtains
Put some music on the radio
Come on baby make sweet love to me

Another gal who was there — an art major — took a photo of me and the wrong guy on that decrepit couch. She shot us from above. I looked cute. He looked wrecked, his first relapse into alcoholism beginning to show all over him. His left arm was slung across my chest and his hand gripped my shoulder, so even if I cropped him out I could never use that damn photo for anything without having to explain the phantom arm bifurcating my upper body.

Am I hard enough?
Am I rough enough?
Am I rich enough?
I’m not too blind to see…

A few weeks later, my 23rd birthday arrived and my aunt Marie mailed me a card with a $20 bill in it. I took that money down to the local music store and bought my own copy of Some Girls. I listened to almost nothing else for the next few months. “Beast of Burden” became my go-to on karaoke nights at the now long-gone Golden Horse Lounge, too.

I tried to forget about the wrong guy. I almost succeeded, until he resurfaced — sober — a decade later. I was wrapping up a divorce, so he proposed, I said yes, and then he shitcanned me five weeks later in a fit of paranoia. Sobriety suited him, but getting there had left some ugly scars. “Beast of Burden” saw me through the worst of the heartbreak.

There’s one thing baby
I don’t understand
You keep on telling me
I ain’t your kind of man

Years later, I came to associate “Beast of Burden” with another man, a man I know I will love for the rest of my life. We spent a desert afternoon together naked, sharing a cigar and drinking kölsch while listening to Some Girls from beginning to end. Later, he said of that day and that music, “I love that. I want that to be a forever memory between us.”

He has nothing to worry about.

I was browsing in a random record store during a trip out of town last fall and I found a first press of Some Girls. I bought it without a second thought. It has some scratches, one so deep that the record skips during “Lies,” but “Beast of Burden” sounds even better with a little hiss and pop.

Those wrong guys will come and go, but the Stones will never leave me.

(Song recommendation by Jeanne Sharp)

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