"Waiting on a Friend" is a song by the Rolling Stones from their 1981 release Tattoo You.
It was first played as early as 1970, when Mick Taylor first joined the group and was recording with Jagger in London. Recording on "Waiting on a Friend" began in late 1972 through early 1973 in Kingston, Jamaica, during the Goats Head Soup sessions when the band still had Taylor as a member. His guitar piece made it to the overdubbing sessions in April of 1981 when the song was selected by Tattoo You producer Chris Kimsey as one the band could re-work for the album.
In the liner notes to 1993's compilation album Jump Back, Jagger said, "We all liked it at the time but it didn't have any lyrics, so there we were... The lyric I added is very gentle and loving, about friendships in the band." Jagger also had stated that the 1981 lyrics were contemplated for a future possible video, making the song the first Stones single to be packaged as a possible video for the emergingly important MTV channel. The video, directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg (who also directed their 1968 special Rock and Roll Circus), became very popular on MTV and featured reggae artist Peter Tosh sitting on a stoop with Jagger who is seen waiting on Richards. The building is found at 96-98 St. Mark's Place in Manhattan, which is the same building featured on the album cover of Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti. The video also features Ronnie Wood playing Mick Taylor's part (similar to the videos for "Hot Stuff" and "Worried About You," in which Wood is imitating the guitar playing of Harvey Mandel and Wayne Perkins respectively).
The lyrics see a more mature side of singer Mick Jagger represented. He speaks of setting aside women and vices in favor of making some sense of his life and finding the virtues inherent in true friendship:
"Don't need a whore, I don't need no booze, don't need a virgin priest. But I need someone I can cry to, I need someone to protect"
The song is noted for its dreamy qualities brought on by the soft guitars, smooth rhythm, and Jagger's lilting refrain of "doo-doo-doo"'s. The Stones hired jazz saxophonist Sonny Rollins to perform the solo on this song, as well as two others on the album. Stones-recording veteran Nicky Hopkins plays piano. The song contains guitar intro with one bar in 7/4 at the very beginning, staying in 4/4 for the rest of the song.
Released as the second single after "Start Me Up," "Waiting on a Friend" became a radio staple in the United States where it reached number 13 on the singles chart in early-1982. It did not fare as well in Europe, reaching only number 50 on the UK Singles Chart.
Although included on both Jump Back and the earlier Rewind (1971-1984), it was not included on 2002's Forty Licks. A live performance was recorded during the Bridges to Babylon Tour and released on the 1998 live album No Security.