I started reading this Philip Norman book about Mick Jagger last month, and I’ve never understood the physical appeal of the man, but it is palpable from the very first chapter. He continues to be such an icon that there was a (relatively) recent song about him, Moves Like Jagger by Maroon 5. A lock of his hair fetched $6,000 at auction recently; it was for charity to be sure, but still.
Anyway in honor of Sir Michael’s 70th birthday, here are my 20 favorite Stones songs. The album references are to the UK releases; worse than with the Beatles, the US record company could be swipe one song and stick it on another album, or two.
20. Start Me Up -Tattoo You (1981)
Not sure I liked this song as much as appreciating another’s enthusiasm for it. I went to my 10th high school reunion, and it was deadly boring. Afterward, a bunch of us went to our friend Cecily’s house and partied until about 6 a.m.
My good friend Karen was playing this brand new song by the Stones; she must have listened to it a half dozen times or more that night, quite loudly, if memory serves. This was well before I heard it too often in a certain commercial.
19. You Gotta Move – Sticky Fingers (1971)
A gospel standard that still sounds like the band.
18. Play With Fire – B-side to “The Last Time” single (1965)
Love the contrast between the pretty guitar and intense feelings in the lyric.
17. Dead Flowers – Sticky Fingers
I rather liked the faux country feel of the song. And for some reason, always liked the line about the US mail.
16. Ruby Tuesday – single (1966)
It wasn’t as strong as Nirvana would do later, but they had a few songs where the verse is lovely and quiet, and the chorus more robust.
15. Lady Jane – Aftermath (1966)
Brian Jones’ dulcimer helps to make this a beautiful piece. Sounds vaguely Elizabethan, or something.
14. Love in Vain – Let It Bleed (1969)
A Robert Johnson song, played with a bit more country feel than the original.
13. Please Go Home – Between the Buttons (1966)
It’s the echoey effect of the chorus, the distorted guitar, plus a theremin, played by Brian Jones, which gives it an almost early psychedelic feel.
12. Happy – Exile on Main Street (1972)
This is Keith Richards’ signature song with the band. And with the brass, it sounds so, well, happy.
11. Jumpin’ Jack Flash – single (1968)
Great guitar line. “But it’s all right.”
10. Backstreet Girl – Between the Buttons
Brian Jones on glockenspiel and Jack Nitzsche on the harpsichord, plus an accordion. Lovely waltz that was a social commentary on some UK sex scandal of the day.
9. Street Fightin’ Man – Beggars Banquet
Its muscular guitar playing and off-the-beat drumming give the song urgency. What is its politics is a bit unclear.
8. I Got The Blues – Sticky Fingers
Bluesy organ of Billy Preston, not to mention the horns made this for me.
7. 19th Nervous Breakdown – single (1966)
Wikipedia describes “the hypnotic riff Brian Jones is playing during the verses pays a tribute to Bo Diddley’s song ‘Diddley Daddy’… The song is also well known for Bill Wyman’s so-called ‘dive-bombing’ bass line at the end of the song.” The tune was ripped off by other artists, it was so infectious.
6. Mother’s Little Helper – Aftermath
In some ways, an anti-prescription drug song:
“And if you take more of those
you will get an overdose
No more running for the shelter of a mother’s little helper
They just helped you on your way
through your busy dying day”
5. I Am Waiting – Aftermath
Another soft/loud song. Always loved the intentional echo effect in the vocal in the last chorus. There’s a great cover of this by a group called Ollabelle.
4. Paint It, Black – Aftermath
Brian Jones’ sitar. “I want to see the sun blotted out from the sky.” When the press made it the “good” Beatles v. the “evil” Stones in the day, this full-bodied tune was a good example of the latter.
3. You Can’t Always Get What You Want – Let It Bleed
I went to see the movie The Big Chill when it first came out in 1983. The first scene is a funeral, and the organist is noodling about when I recognize this song and started laughing; I’m the only one in the theater to do so for a long 30 seconds until other people start getting the joke. From the French horn opening to the great choir response, a tremendous song.
2. (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction – Out of Our Heads (1965)
What’s to say? One of the most recognizable riffs in all of pop music, often stolen. This song is always on the list of greatest singles, and rightly so.
1. Gimme Shelter – Let It Bleed
My favorite song is this apocalyptic tune, with the great Merry Clayton vocal.