On this day in music history: November 7, 1983 – “Undercover”, the nineteenth (seventeenth UK) album by The Rolling Stones is released. Produced by The Glimmer Twins and Chris Kimsey, it is recorded at EMI Pathe Marconi Studios in Paris, France, Compass Point Studios in Nassau, Bahamas and The Hit Factory in New York City from November 11 – 17, 1982, and May – August 1983. Returning to the studio for the first time in over two and a half years, The Rolling Stones begin work on a new album. Tensions arise between Mick Jagger and Keith Richards during the sessions, when they disagree over the musical direction they should take. Jagger wants to reinvent and revamp The Rolling Stones’ sound, while Richards fully sober for the first time in more than a decade (and taking a more active role in leading the band) wants the band to maintain their more traditional rock and blues rooted sound. The resulting “power struggle” between the pair results in a feud between them that lasts much of the decade. The songs reflect this tension, with the music featuring very contrasting styles, countered by some of the darkest lyrics ever written by Jagger. The Stones are joined in the studio by a number of guest musicians including David Sanborn (saxophone), Chuck Leavell (of The Allman Brothers Band) (keyboards), Sly Dunbar, Martin Ditcham and Moustapha Cisse (percussion). Public and critical reaction to the finished album is somewhat mixed upon its release. It breaks the bands’ streak of chart eight consecutive chart topping albums in the US, becoming The Stones’ first since “Let It Bleed” not to hit number one. Though in time, it is re-evaluated more favorably for its break from their tried and true formula. The album sleeve art is designed by long time Rolling Stones art director Peter Corriston. The front features an image of a nude woman, with peel off stickers strategically placed to cover her body. When the stickers are removed, they reveal other images shaped like the stickers. The exception is the sticker on the back cover, featuring the iconic tongue and lips logo, partially covering the woman’s posterior. First run vinyl copies also come packaged with a custom inner sleeve, and a mail in insert to join The Rolling Stones’ fan club. It spins off two singles including “Undercover Of The Night” (#9 Pop, #2 Mainstream Rock) and “She Was Hot” (#44 Pop, #4 Mainstream Rock). The original cassette edition of the Keith Richards sung “Wanna Hold You”, features a slightly longer and different edit of the track, from the one on the vinyl LP. This version is subsequently used for later CD issues of the album. Originally released on CD in 1986, it is remastered and reissued in 1994. It is reissued again 2009, and is also remastered and reissued as an SACD SHM-CD by Universal Japan in 2014. Briefly reissued on vinyl in 2010 as part of the box set “The Rolling Stones – 1971 – 2005”, it is remastered and reissued again as part of the new compilation “The Rolling Stones – Studio Albums Vinyl Collection 1971-2016” in June of 2018. “Undercover” peaks at number four on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
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