Steel Wheels is the nineteenth studio album (twenty-first American album) by The Rolling Stones, released in 1989. It is their final studio album to feature Bill Wyman, who chose to quit shortly after the live Flashpoint, his departure made final in 1993. After 30 years with the band, Wyman decided he finally had enough. Reasons include his developing fear of flying (despite being a former RAF cadet), his frustration at not being able to have much creative influence (or having any of his songs being used by the band), his interest in exploring other areas, and most importantly his need to get his personal life in order. He would be replaced by Darryl Jones, who remains an unofficial member to this day.
Steel Wheels is generally considered to be the band's comeback album. After the turmoil the Stones spent through much of The '80s, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards finally (albeit temporarily) sorted out their differences early in 1989. Within a matter of weeks had finished writing and began recording the album, at a rate not seen since the mid-60's. Although it marked (yet another) return to their roots, the sound is clearly of it's era, mainly due to the mildly prominent synthesizers and now-dated production.
Upon release, it was greeted with a positive response, and remains one of the more highly rated later Stones albums. Fan favourites include "Mixed Emotions" (Which became their last major hit in the US), "Rock And A Hard Place", "Terrifying", and "Slipping Away".
- "Sad Sad Sad" (3:35)
- "Mixed Emotions" (4:38)
- "Terrifying" (4:53)
- "Hold On To Your Hat" (3:32)
- "Hearts For Sale" (4:40)
- "Blinded By Love" (4:37)
- "Rock And A Hard Place" (5:25)
- "Can't Be Seen" (4:09)
- "Almost Hear You Sigh" (4:37)
- "Continental Drift" (5:14)
- "Break The Spell" (3:06)
- "Slipping Away" (4:29)
- Mick Jagger - lead vocals, guitar, harmonica, keyboard, percussion
- Keith Richards - guitar, backing and lead vocals, bicycle spokes
- Charlie Watts - drums
- Ronnie Wood - guitar, vocals, bass, dobro
- Bill Wyman - bass
- Alliterative Title: "Hold On To Your Hat".
- Animal Motifs: "Terrifying", where Jagger describes himself as:I'm lazy as a lionMy body's just for youCrazy for youI'm sneaky as a snakeI'm dirty as a dogI'm rutting like a goatI'm horny as a hog(...) You're graceful as a birdMy heart is on the wingYou're gentle as a doveIf a humming bird could sing crazy for youYou're gunning like a deerI'm wily as a foxYou're faster than a mareI'm stronger than an oxI'm faithful as a swanI'm darker than a batI'm friendly as a bearAnd tougher than a rat(...) I'm restless as a catAll caged up in a zoo
- As the Good Book Says...: "Blinded By Love"The Philistines paid for Samson's blind rage
- The Atoner: The protagonist of "Mixed Emotions". Partly based on Jagger and Richards more or less burying the hatchet.
- Break Up Song:
What will I do without you?They say that life goes onI'm feeling sorry for myselfI can't believe you're gone
- "Almost Hear You Sigh"
Slipping awayJust as you have touched my heartI wake up babe and we're apart
- "Slipping Away"
- Crossover: The Master Musicians At Jajouka and The Stones perform together on "Continental Drift".
- Deliberately Monochrome: The music video of "Almost Hear You Sigh" is in black-and-white.
- "Double, Double" Title: "Sad Sad Sad"
- Fake-Out Fade-Out: "Continental Drift" has a few of those moments near the end.
- Gypsy Curse: "Break The Spell"There's a gypsy all dressed in whitePut my hand out, ask the questionHere's the silver, do you have the gift of sight?Can you break the spell?
- Intercourse with You: "Terrifying"Terrifying loveI get these strange, strange, strange desires
- Love Makes You Dumb: "Blinded By Love"Don't mortgage your soul to a strangerDon't be blinded by love
- New Sound Album: At least, it's the Stones most 80's album. The track "Continental Drift" was also a different sound for the band as it featured the Moroccan folk band the Master Musicians Of Jajouka, who had previously worked together with Brian Jones on his only solo album: Brian Jones Presents the Pipes of Pan at Jajouka.
- One-Word Title: "Terrifying".
- Pep-Talk Song: "Sad, Sad, Sad"Now you're sad, sad, sad, sad, sad, sadBut you're gonna be fine
- The Power of Love: "Continental Drift"Love comes at the speed of lightLove comes at the speed of lightLove comes in a strange disguise, love comesOpen the door and let the light pour over
- Protest Song:
Hold on to your heartHold on to your hatDon't give me no shitDon't give me no crapHold on to your headDon't give me no rapI've had it up to hereWith your yakety-yak
- "Hold On To Your Hat"
People are hungryThey crowd aroundAnd the city gets bigger as the country comes begging to townWe're stuck between a rockAnd a hard placeBetween a rock and a hard placeThis talk of freedom and human rightsMeans bullying and private wars and chucking all the dust into our eyesAnd peasant people poorer than dirtWho are caught in the crossfire with nothing to lose but their shirtsStuck between a rock and a hard place
- "Rock And A Hard Place"
The poor Prince of WalesHe gave up his crownAll for the trivial pursuit of a parvenu second-hand lady
- "Blinded By Love" references Cleopatra VII and Mark Anthony, Samson and Delilah, as well as king Edward VIII of England, who was forced to abdicate the crown in 1936 because he had fallen in love with a commoner, Wallis Simpson, who was also American and divorced.
- In the 1995 The Simpsons episode "Lisa's Wedding", set in the future year of 2010, a poster can be seen in Lisa's room with the text "The Rolling Stones Steel Wheelchair Tour", a pun on their Steel Wheels tour.
- Special Guest: The Master Musicians Of Jajouka note appear on "Continental Drift". In 1968 Brian Jones recorded an album with them, which was only posthumously released in 1971 as Brian Jones Presents the Pipes of Pan at Jajouka.
- Step Up to the Microphone: Keith Richards sings lead vocals on "Can't Be Seen" and "Slipping Away".
- Stop and Go: "Rock And A Hard Place" has the music stop briefly at a few points, only to continue again when Jagger takes the word again.
- World Music: "Continental Drift" has a Moroccan musical atmosphere, performed by the folk band The Master Musicians of Jajouka.