Steel Wheels is the 19th British and 21st American studio album by The Rolling Stones, released in 1989.[1]

Heralded as a major comeback upon its release, the project is notable for the patching up of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards' relationship, a reversion to a more classic style of music and the launching of the band's biggest world tour at the time. It is also long-time bassist Bill Wyman's final full length studio album with the Stones, preceding the announcement of his departure in January 1993. Wyman's final tenure with the band would be on two studio tracks for 1991'sFlashpoint.


 [hide*1 History


Following the release of 1986's Dirty Work, and Jagger's active pursuit of a solo career, relations between him and the Stones-committed Richards worsened considerably. While Jagger released the tepidly received Primitive Cool in 1987, Richards recorded Talk Is Cheap, his solo debut, which would be released in 1988 to rave reviews. The two years largely apart appeared to have healed the wounds sufficiently to begin resurrecting their partnership and their band.

Meeting in January 1989, just preceding the Stones' induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the chemistry between Jagger and Richards easily outshone whatever differences they had and after composing some 50 songs in a matter of weeks, Ronnie Wood, Wyman and Charlie Watts were called in to begin recording what would become Steel Wheels, beckoning Undercover co-producer Chris Kimsey to perform the same role.

Recording in Montserrat and London during the spring months, Steel Wheels was designed to emulate a classic Rolling Stones sound. The one notable exception was "Continental Drift," an Eastern-flavoured piece, with The Master Musicians of Jajouka led by Bachir Attar, recorded in June 1989 in Tangier, coordinated by Cherie Nutting. With much of the past disagreements behind them, sessions for Steel Wheels were fairly harmonious.

Release and reception[edit]Edit

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic [2]
Robert Christgau B− link
Rolling Stone [3]

The massive, worldwide Steel Wheels Tour was launched in late August 1989, concurrently with Steel Wheels' arrival and the release of lead single "Mixed Emotions", a partially biographical reference to Jagger and Richards' recent woes that proved to be the Rolling Stones' last major hit single in the US, reaching No. 5. Critical reaction was warm, with Steel Wheels reaching No. 2 in the UK and No. 3 in the US where it went double-platinum. Follow-up singles were "Rock and a Hard Place", "Almost Hear You Sigh" and "Terrifying". The mammoth Steel Wheels Tour, which finished in mid-1990 after being re-titled the Urban Jungle Tour, was an enormous financial success. In 1990, FOX aired a 3-D television special of the Steel Wheels tour. Unlike anaglyphic 3-D which requires the familiar red and green glasses, the method used was the Pulfrich Effect which permitted full-color video. The film was shot by Gerald Marks of PullTime 3-D in NYC. An IMAX film of the tour was released the next year, which still plays sporadically at IMAX venues around the world.

Anthony DeCurtis of Rolling Stone writes "All the ambivalence, recriminations, attempted rapprochement and psychological one-upmanship evident on Steel Wheels testify that the Stones are right in the element that has historically spawned their best music – a murky, dangerously charged environment in which nothing is merely what it seems. Against all odds, and at this late date, the Stones have once again generated an album that will have the world dancing to deeply troubling, unresolved emotions."

Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic writes "The Stones sound good, and Mick and Keith both get off a killer ballad apiece with "Almost Hear You Sigh" and "Slipping Away," respectively. It doesn't make for a great Stones album, but it's not bad, and it feels like a comeback – which it was supposed to, after all."

The album was the Rolling Stones' first digital recording. In 1994, Steel Wheels was remastered and reissued by Virgin Records, and again in 2009 by Universal Music.

Track listing[edit]Edit

All songs composed by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, except "Almost Hear You Sigh" co-written by Steve Jordan.

Side one
No. Title Length
1. "Sad Sad Sad"   3:35
2. "Mixed Emotions"   4:38
3. "Terrifying"   4:53
4. "Hold on to Your Hat"   3:32
5. "Hearts for Sale"   4:40
6. "Blinded by Love"   4:37
Side two
No. Title Length
7. "Rock and a Hard Place"   5:25
8. "Can't Be Seen"   4:09
9. "Almost Hear You Sigh"   4:37
10. "Continental Drift"   5:14
11. "Break the Spell"   3:06
12. "Slipping Away"   4:29


The Rolling Stones
  • Mick Jagger – lead and backing vocals, electric and acoustic guitars, harmonica, percussion, keyboards on "Continental Drift"
  • Keith Richards – electric, acoustic and classical guitar, backing vocals, lead vocals on "Can't Be Seen" and "Slipping Away", bicycle spokes on "Continental Drift"
  • Ronnie Wood – electric and acoustic guitar, bass guitar and acoustic bass, backing vocals, dobro
  • Charlie Watts – drums
  • Bill Wyman – bass guitar
Additional musicians
Technical and design personnel


Region Certification Sales/shipments
Austria (IFPI Austria)[5] Gold 25,000x
Canada (Music Canada)[6] 3× Platinum 300,000^
Finland (Musiikkituottajat)[7] Gold 25,227[7]
France (SNEP)[8] 2× Gold 271,800[9]
Germany (BVMI)[10] Gold 250,000^
Japan (RIAJ)[11] Gold 167,000[12]
Netherlands (NVPI)[13] Gold 50,000^
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[14] Gold 50,000^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[15] Gold 25,000x
United Kingdom (BPI)[16] Gold 100,000^
United States (RIAA)[17] 2× Platinum 2,000,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone xunspecified figures based on certification alone



Peak positions[edit]Edit

Chart (1989/90) Position
Australian ARIA Album Chart[18] 7
Austrian Albums Chart[19] 1
Canadian RPM Albums Chart[20] 1
Dutch Albums Chart[21] 2
French SNEP Albums Chart[22] 6
German Media Control Albums Chart[23] 2
Italian Albums Chart[24] 5
Japanese Oricon Albums Chart[25] 5
New Zealand Albums Chart[26] 3
Norwegian Albums Chart[27] 1
Spanish Albums Chart[28] 6
Swedish Albums Chart[29] 2
Swiss Albums Chart[30] 2
UK Albums Chart[31] 2
U.S. Billboard 200[32] 3

Year-end charts[edit]Edit

Chart (1989) Position
Canadian Albums Chart[33] 13
Dutch Albums Chart[34] 37
French Albums Chart[35] 36
Italian Albums Chart[24] 40
Japanese Albums Chart[36] 89
Chart (1990) Position
Canadian Albums Chart[37] 45
Dutch Albums Chart[38] 66
U.S. Billboard 200[39] 50

Chart succession[edit]Edit

Preceded by

Repeat Offender by Richard Marx Repeat Offender by Richard Marx

Canadian RPM Chart number-one album

25 September 1989 9 – 16 October 1989

Succeeded by

Repeat Offender by Richard Marx Girl You Know It's True by Milli Vanilli

Preceded by

Grand Prix der Volksmusik [1989] by Various artists

Austrian Chart number-one album

1 October 1989

Succeeded by

Foreign Affair by Tina Turner

Preceded by

Soul Provider by Michael Bolton

Norwegian Chart number-one album

37/1989 – 38/1989

Succeeded by

Soul Provider by Michael Bolton

Preceded by

Batman (soundtrack) by Prince

European Top 100 number-one album

30 September 1989

Succeeded by

Foreign Affair by Tina Turner

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