Sympathy for the Devil (the song)

In the song Sympathy for the Devil, by the Rolling Stones, what does the line “I laid traps for troubadours/ Who get killed before they reached Bombay” refer to? The other references in that song are fairly obvious, but that one I just don’t get. I’ve asked several knowledgeable people and checked lots of sources. No dice. Any insights would be appreciated.

Since this is a question about music, I’ll move it to Cafe Society.

Off to Cafe Society.

DrMatrix - General Questions Moderator

It’s “I laid tracks for troubadors…”

Other than that, I can’t help, but that might help in your searches.

I asked it a couple of years ago.
Good luck.


I always took as a reference to the hippie kids who took off for India in search of enlightenment (and a few drugs).

I found this:

(I’ve condensed responses)

“I seem to remember way back in AP history something about troubadours (a military group’s moniker as opposed to wandering minstrels) being massacred”

This website offers that the meaning is musical, not military, troubadours. The catch, according to the site, is that the troubadours (musicians) are '60’s types traveling to India for “enlightenment.”

“I suspect the basis for the phrase is Jeremiah 5:26. Beyond that, I suspect the reference to troubadours is merely a node to the influence of musicians of the period.”

“Bombay (a British name) is actually called Mumbai. The Kathaks were the troubadours of India: dancers, singers and storytellers. A search on “mumbai kathaks” turned up: … and a few other similar sites which explained how they traveled.”

“The song itself is based in large part on “The Master and Margarita” by Mikhail Bulgakov, but there are also some references to 60s life and culture. I always took the line to refer to the Beatles and their entourage heading to India, with “killed” not meaning death, but-- given the turmoil of the group during the time-- referring to rumors of their dissolution. Kill also could mean the spiritual death or distractions before discovering some level of enlightenment they tried to find there. Or simply the hippies who “junked out” on drugs before reaching the spiritual high they sought in a time of chaos.”

I have no idea, but I saw the Stones playing this live the other night in Sydney. They still rock.

“still”? :smiley:

OTOH, I like Sympathy.

Thank you so much. You’ve certainly given me some things to think about. Yes, they do rock. And as for “still,” well, they still do. 40 years, geez.

Uffdah, this has been debated for quite awhile without an end result: a linkaroo.

I think the only consensus that can be reached is that the Rolling Stones aren’t known for their mastery of world history. :smiley:

But they got some kickass tunes.

So, what is Paint It, Black about?


It’s about a Vietnam show that I used to watch on CBS. :smiley:

Oh, and about having extra paint.

LOL, extra paint…

“Sympathy…” was a crass song, and it hardly serves any purpose to hold the lyrical content to any standard; hell, it’s amazing that as much of it holds as together as it does.

Of course, we were a pretty crass generation, so maybe we got as much as we deserved. Heh. :stuck_out_tongue:

It’s Rock 'n Roll, Dude.

I know, but I like it.

I heard it was about Brian Jones.

But then I see looking it up, that it came out in '68 and he died in '69.

But then I heard they added that line in after he died.
So I’m confused…

This is from Primitive Cool, a really good book about Mick Jagger.

“Is “Paint It, Black” about blindness?”
“It’s about somebody dying, a funeral”

He co-wrote the song, I guess he ought to know.

I think the red door is a grave and the line of cars obvious.

Gotta say “Paint It Black” has always been one of my favorite Stones songs. “I want to see the sun blotted out from the sky, I want to see it painted painted painted, painted black…”

I’m going to say something heretical, though: I prefer Blood Sweat & Tears’ cover of “Sympathy” to the Stones’ original. For me, it’s that Mick just isn’t a believable Beelzebub. Sure, he was Mr. Terminally Decadent, but that’s very different. OTOH, to me David Clayton-Thomas of BS&T was a very convincing Satan while singing that song.