The Rolling Stones song Mick Jagger wrote while in jail on a drugs charge

“I’ve never had a problem with drugs,” Keith Richards once said, “I’ve had a problem with police”. This trifling line is more than a mere quip; sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll became part of the iconography of The Rolling Stones from the off. The band realised ahead of many of their peers that counterculture required its sacraments, and they were more than happy to define them.

As a result, the band were often locked up. They became the outlaws of the scene. More often than not, this was decent marketing, with the exception of Altamont when the media turned against them after things went too far. However, it usually became a hurdle creatively precluding consistent work ethic. So, it came to a point when they even had to start working from jail.

In June 1967, Mick Jagger was thrown into Brixton prison on drug charges. Feeling drained by the exacerbating situation as things began to step one toke over the line, he longed for home. You see, even drug-addled rockstars crave comfort. So, one night, in a state of despair behind bars, he penned the classic track, ‘2000 Light Years from Home’.

Jagger had been found guilty of possessing Benzedrine. He was slapped with the hefty and downright terrifying sentence of three months. Facing up to this horrible fate, he turned to creativity to try and quell the mounting stress. So, when he was released on bail the next day, the fact he was free came with the added bonus that he now had potentially the best track from their forthcoming sixth album, Their Satanic Majesties Request, up his sleeve to boot.

In a manner akin to David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’, Jagger used the metaphor of an astronaut adrift to explain the sense of isolation his own slide towards darkness entailed. Borrowing motifs from Arthur C. Clarke’s The Sentinel, this tapped into the culture of the times at large by playing into the space race and the rapid whirlwind that society had become. And finally, there is even the meta flourish that the whole thing has flourishes of a Benzedrine trip, codifying the source of his own downfall.

While Richards would go on to call Satanic Majesty a “load of shit“, this track proves that the problem wasn’t the psychedelic incursion but rather that the other tracks lacked the sincerity displayed here. As he would explain in his memoir, “None of us wanted to make [Satanic Majesties], but it was time for another Stones album, and Sgt. Pepper’s was coming out, so we thought basically we were doing a put-on.” That’s not a great way to approach a record, but any song written in a cell is bound to be of interest.

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