Rock and A Hard Place

This article is about an album. For the basic concept, see dilemma.

"Rock and a Hard Place"
Steel Wheels
Released 4 November 1989
Format CD, 7"
Recorded March–June 1989
Genre Hard rock
Length 4:05 (Single version)
5:25 (Album version)
Label Rolling Stones
Writer(s) Jagger/Richards
Producer Chris Kimsey & The Glimmer Twins
The Rolling Stones singles chronology

"Mixed Emotions"
"Rock and a Hard Place"
"Almost Hear You Sigh"

Steel Wheels track listing

"Rock and a Hard Place" is a song by The Rolling Stones from their 1989 album Steel Wheels. It is the second single from the album, and remains to this day the most recent Billboard top 40 hit by the band.


Credited to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, "Rock and a Hard Place" was recorded at Montserrat's AIR Studios and London's Olympic Studios in the spring months of 1989. On the song, Richards said in the liner notes to the 1993 compilation album Jump Back (on which it was included), "This was like going back to the way we worked in the early days, before Exile, when we were living round the corner from each other in London. Mick and I hadn't got together in four years since Dirty Work, but as soon as we met up in Barbados for a fortnight, with a couple guitars and pianos, everything was fine." At the time of release, Jagger said, "This is one of those songs like "Start Me Up," where the minute you hear the opening notes, you head for the dance floor. It's real '70s, in the best possible way."

With Jagger on lead vocals, Richards, Ron Wood and Jagger perform guitars for the recording. Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts perform bass and drums, respectively. Keyboards are played by Matt Clifford and Chuck Leavell. The Kick Horns provided brass for the recording. Lisa Fischer, Sarah Dash and Bernard Fowler all perform backing vocals.


"Rock and a Hard Place" was released as the second single from Steel Wheels on 13 November 1989 in the UK. The b-side was a slow blues number entitled "Cook Cook Blues." The single reached number 63 in the UK, number 23 in the US and number 1 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. The song has been performed by the Stones sporadically since its release, appearing on the Steel Wheels/Urban Jungle Tour, Voodoo Lounge Tour, Bridges to Babylon Tour, and Licks Tour.

A live recording captured during the Steel Wheels/Urban Jungle Tour was included on the 1991 live album Flashpoint.

Track listing

  1. "Rock and a Hard Place" - 4:05
  2. "Cook Cook Blues" - 4:08
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