January 8, 2019 | by C.M. Crockford
It’s January here in Philadelphia, and despite the decent temperatures (uh, thanks climate change?) it does feel like winter here. Gloomy days, sharp winds, a season that seems to go on forever. So I've been spinning this song by the Stones over and over, and if you get the blues around this time of year too, read on for why the romantic ballad "Winter" gets those feelings just right.
The aching, melancholy guitar licks of Mick Taylor that in the final few minutes of the song become the lead singer, exploding in messy, frustrated longing before surrendering to the strings that overtake the melody.
How Mick Jagger makes “Sometimes I wanna keep ya warm / Sometimes I wanna wrap my coat around ya” the most romantic thing anyone's ever said.
It sure ain't called “Spring” or “Summer” because goddamn if this song doesn't get the gloom of winter exactly right, in all of the season's terrible beauty, the internal fight you always lose to not let the decay and death get to you.
“Winter” is the last great ballad of the Stones' golden period (1967-74) and Taylor's last great moment with the band before he moved on. He never seemed to have liked being in the Stones but in this and “Sway” among others, his playing reached up to something higher than himself. Fucker was raw.
Nicky Hopkins' piano — no fuss, no muss — providing the perfect ballast to everybody else.
“And I wish I'd been out in California / When the lights on all the Christmas trees went out / But I been burnin' my bell, book, and candle / And the restoration plays have all gone 'round.”
The slow build of each instrument in classic pop fashion.
One of dozens of rock 'n' roll songs about being in love with a sex worker but the mood isn't leering or angry, simply yearning. (Of course, there's dozens of Stones songs for leering if you want that.)
The lyrics mix flat statement and poetics into emotional desolation, never winking at the audience like it’s all a joke. (Something Jagger sometimes did with his voice, especially on their country songs.)
Those last 60 seconds: the violins and Jagger's vocal moving into free fall, tumbling in the snow, lying there for a moment or two before dusting themselves off and walking home.