1001 Songs Challenge,  1960s,  Music

1001 Songs Challenge #194: Paint It Black (1966)

On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenging of reading 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery (ed.) and following the book’s advice to the letter. I’ve previously read 1001 Films… and started 1001 Albums… but felt 1001 Songs… would be a sensible place to start for what I have in mind here.

My challenge is to read about one song per day and listen to it (YouTube and Spotify, I need you tonight!) before sharing my own thoughts. Some songs I will love, others I’ll hate, and I’m sure there will be those that leave me perplexed but listen to them I shall.

I’ll also try, and most likely fail, to pinpoint the best song from the 1001 on offer but I’m nothing if not foolhardy. Instead of one song, I’m predicting I’ll have about 100 favourites by the end and may have to resort to a Top 10 so far to maintain any semblance of sanity.

So long as I post everyday (including Christmas) then this challenge should come to an end on Wednesday 8 November 2021. Staying with the Barney Stinson theme I am hoping that the whole experience will prove to be…


The Rolling Stones – Paint It Black (1966)

Enough flying for today, dear reader. We’re staying in the UK because I have jet lag and it just so happens our artists today are on English shores. Well, that was lucky. It’s The Rolling Stones making their second appearance on this list after (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction. Today’s song was notable as the first UK chart topper to feature a sitar. The Beatles had already experimented with this instrument on previous recordings, notably Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown), and it was the sitar that came to the rescue of The Rolling Stones when they could not get the music right for what became Paint It Black. Once the sitar came in, the song came to life. 

Different interpretations have been thrown in the direction of Paint It Black, including drugs and the Vietnam War, and only in researching for this list have I happened upon what is, I believe, the correct meaning. The song is actually about a narrator who is in the midst of grief having lost what sounds like a wife, girlfriend, lover unexpectedly. The lyrics use colours and the narrator sings of his aversion to bright shades, wanting to paint red doors black to resonate with the blackness surrounding his heart. He tells us of cars painted black that carry flowers and his love who will never return. The sight of girls in their summer clothes is too much and the narrator turns away from them, he paints his own red door black and his desire is to fade away for that is better than facing the reality of this overwhelming grief. All the feels.  

It’s amazing that I have listened to and loved this song by The Rolling Stones for many years but have never sat down and gone through the lyrics or tried to decipher what it’s all about. I find sometimes that learning what songs are about can sometimes taint them but in this case I feel greater love and appreciation for Paint It Black. I may be wrong about the meaning but reading the lyrics it seems like grief is the subject. Those words are dark but convey the pain of loss while the music, including that sitar, creates a truly haunting piece. (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction might be rated more highly but, for me, Paint It Black is arguably the best song the Rolling Stones ever recorded.


Favourite songs so far:

Eddie Cochran – Summertime Blues (1958)

The Everly Brothers – All I Have to Do Is Dream (1958)

Ben E. King – Stand By Me (1961)

The Animals – House of the Rising Sun (1964)

The Mamas & The Papas – California Dreamin’ (1965)

Simon & Garfunkel – The Sounds of Silence (1965)

The Righteous Brothers – Unchained Melody (1965)

The Who – Substitute (1966)

The Kinks – Sunny Afternoon (1966)

The Rolling Stones – Paint It Black (1966)

My name is Dave and I live in Yorkshire in the north of England and have been here all my life. I hope you enjoy your visit to All is Ephemeral.

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