The Rolling Stones could get quite dark sometimes. I’ve already done the song “Play With Fire”, which isn’t particularly cheerful, and will probably do “Paint It Black” one day.
The 50s and 60s were a time where new drugs of various sorts where being invented, and the attitude to prescription drugs could be quite lax.
The song deals with the increasingly prevalence of knackered housewives taking various “uppers” and “downers”, to help them cope.
The drug in choice is probably Valium, the famous brand name of a type of tranquilliser.
At the end there’s a poignant reminder that these things were not harmless, talking about overdoses, and the song as a whole is a sermon on the dangers of a society that thinks using a wide array of prescription drugs for non-medical reasons is normal.
The instruments used are quite unusual, because there’s a twangy 12 string electric guitar which is played to sound like a sitar, a prominent bass, and the main guitar chords have an interesting rhythm, something Keith Richard’s has described as “semi-Gypsy”. I can see what he means.
The song is from the U.K release of Aftermath, released in 1966, and shows the band starting to experiment more with their sound.