This is a rare Stones song that treats women as equals. This isn’t about a specific woman, most stones songs are usually inspired by one or many of Keith or Mick’s muses.
Keith is given writing credit on this song but many of the lyrics were improvised in the studio. While the band played, Jagger came in with different lines to fit the music.
Ron Wood says “That’s one that just came very naturally in the studio. I slipped into my part and Keith had his going. It may have appeared as though it was planned. We can pick it up today and it will just naturally slip into the groove again with the guitars weaving in a special way. It’s quite amazing really. Ever since Keith and I first started to trade licks, it was a very natural thing that, for some unknown reason, if he’s playing up high, I’m down low and the other way around. We cross over very naturally. We call it an ancient form of weaving– which we still are impressed by it to this day. Unexplainable, wonderful things happen with the guitar weaving. There’s no plan.”
This was during the time when Keith was just coming back into the fold after slipping deep into his drug addiction, after he had been charged with heroin possession in Toronto. Keith had wacked out of his mind for the better part of a year while been facing serious jail. After Keith had been let off with probation and the promise of a concert for the blind. Keith sobered up and went back to his band but the whole time Keith was gone Mick had been running the band in a more monetarily incentivized way.
When Keith finally returned to the band and the studio in proper form Keith had this song as kind of an homage to Mick for having to carry the band while Keith was strung out on heroin: “All your sickness I can suck it up, throw it all at me, I can shrug it off.”
The definition of the title is an animal that labors for the benefit of man, like an ox or a pack mule.
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