top of page
Paint It Black

Paint It Black

The Rolling Stones

Song Meaning and Background of Paint It, Black by The Rolling Stones

The Stones’ experimental mid-Sixties period was partly driven by Brian Jones’ restlessness. “Brian had pretty much given up on the guitar by then,” said Keith Richards. “If there was [another] instrument around, he had to be able to get something out of it.”

"Paint It Black" is a song recorded in 1966 by the English rock band the Rolling Stones.

A product of the songwriting partnership of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, it is a raga rock song with Indian, Middle Eastern and Eastern European influences and lyrics about grief and loss.

The song was released in May 1966 and is the opening track on the American version of the band's 1966 studio album Aftermath.

Originating from a series of improvisational melodies played by Brian Jones on the sitar, the song features all five members of the band contributing to the final arrangement although only Jagger and Richards were credited as songwriters. In contrast to previous Rolling Stones singles with straightforward rock arrangements, "Paint It Black" has unconventional instrumentation, including a prominent sitar, the Hammond organ and castanets.

This instrumental experimentation matches other songs on Aftermath. The song was influential to the burgeoning psychedelic genre as the first chart-topping single to feature the sitar, and widened the instrument's audience.

"Paint It Black" was a major chart success for the Rolling Stones, and number one on the US Billboard Hot 100, and on the Record Retailer chart in the UK.

"Paint It Black" came at a pivotal period in the band's recording history. The Jagger–Richards songwriting collaboration had begun producing more original material for the band over the past year.

Brian Jones, originally the band's founder and leader over the first few years of its existence, began feeling overshadowed by the prominence of Jagger and Richards' contributions to the group.

Jones had less and less influence over the group's direction as their popularity grew primarily as a result of original Jagger–Richards singles. Jones grew bored attempting to write songs with conventional guitar melodies.

To alleviate his boredom, he began exploring the Indian sitar, Aa multi-instrumentalist, Jones could develop a tune on the sitar in a short time; he had a background with the instrument largely from his studies under Harihar Rao, a disciple of Ravi Shankar.

Following a discussion with the Beatles' lead guitarist George Harrison, who had recently played the sitar on the sessions for "Norwegian Wood" in October 1965, Jones began devoting more time to the sitar, and began arranging basic melodies with the instrument. One of these melodies morphed over time into the tune featured in "Paint It Black".

Jagger and Richards wrote the lyrics and much of the chord progression of "Paint It Black" during the first group of sessions for the then untitled Aftermath the previous December, and while on the 1966 Australian tour.

Wyman was later critical of listing Jagger and Richards as songwriters to the exclusion of the rest of the Stones.

He felt "Paint It Black" should have been credited to the band's pseudonym, Nanker Phelge, rather than Jagger–Richards, since the song's final arrangement originated from a studio improvisation by Jones, Watts and himself, and Jones was responsible for providing the melody line on the sitar.

In a 1995 interview, commenting on the musical styles found on Aftermath, Jagger described "Paint It Black" as "this kind of Turkish song".

Lyrics of Paint It, Black by The Rolling Stones

I see a red door and I want it painted black

No colours anymore, I want them to turn black

I see the girls walk by, dressed in their summer clothes

I have to turn my head until my darkness goes


I see a line of cars and they're all painted black

With flowers and my love both never to come back

I see people turn their heads and quickly look away

Like a newborn baby, it just happens every day


I look inside myself and see my heart is black

I see my red door, I must have it painted black

Maybe then I'll fade away and not have to face the facts

It's not easy facing up when your whole world is black


No more will my green sea go turn a deeper blue

I could not foresee this thing happening to you

If I look hard enough into the setting sun

My love will laugh with me before the morning comes


I see a red door and I want it painted black

No colours anymore, I want them to turn black

I see the girls walk by, dressed in their summer clothes

I have to turn my head until my darkness goes


Hmm, hmm, hmm...


I wanna see it painted, painted black

Black as night, black as coal

I wanna see the sun blotted out from the sky

I wanna see it painted, painted, painted, painted black




Hmm, hmm, hmm...

Release Date





Andrew Loog-Oldham



Other Songs

bottom of page