Saturday, August 20, 2011

Top 10 Rolling Stones Songs

The Beatles are hands down my favorite band, but not too far off in second place are the Rolling Stones. Mick, Keith and the boys are masters and have contributed so many great songs to the rock and roll genre over their almost 50 years in the business. Here now, in no particular order are my picks for their 10 best songs. It was hard to pick only 10, kids.

GIMME SHELTER- This dark rock anthem from the Let it Bleed album is not only a staple in Martin Scorsese films, but it signaled the end of the flower power sixties and commented on the growing violence in the world, namely the Vietnam War. Of note in this song is the great complimentary vocals by Merry Clayton.

BROWN SUGAR- This has always been one of my favorite Stones songs. The song opens with one of the great guitar riffs of all time and has some of Mick's most suggestive lyrics- alluding to drug use and interracial sex. In addition to the killer guitar by Keith and Mick Taylor, the song also boasts some sweet saxophone action.

HONKY TONK WOMEN- Another song that benefits from a strong horn section, Honky Tonk Women has two versions, but the more sparse Country Honk is not as good as the more rock inspired version. Mick gets off one of the best rock lyrics of all time in this song- "She blew my nose, and the she blew my mind." The bluesy guitar, horns and vocals compliment each other perfectly.

MONKEY MAN- Not as well known as some Stones songs, this song is said to be about a bad heroin trip. Whether that is true or not, this song flat out rocks. It begins with Stones' contributer Nicky Hopkins playing tinkly piano and a guitar riff from Keith that gets progressively more aggressive as the song moves along. This song also appears in one of my all time favorite movies- Goodfellas.

JUMPIN' JACK FLASH- One of the most recognizable opening riffs of all time begins this classic tune. Mick and Keith were trying to get back to their rock and roll roots with this song, after completing the psychedelic Satanic Majesty's Request. I'll never forget the first time I heard Mick sing the opening line- "I was born in a crossfire hurricane." This is absolutely one of the best rock songs ever written.

TUMBLING DICE- Recorded during the Stones exile in France, this song has a great classic bluesy feel to it. The subject matter for the song is also very old school blues- love and gambling. While this song has the kind of impromptu feel of a blues song, it took over 150 takes to get the basic track. It was worth all the work because it is the best song on Exile on Main Street.

LET'S SPEND THE NIGHT TOGETHER- Controversial because of the lyrics, this song almost got the Stones banned from an appearance on Ed Sullivan. It was only after they changed it to "Let's spend some time together" that Sullivan allowed them to play it. The piano and guitar drive the song and give it a fun tone while the vocals have a nice combination of blues and do-wop that I feel gloss over anything tawdry in the lyrics.

SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL- Another song that sparked controversy because of the lyrics, Sympathy For the Devil is a first person narrative from Lucifer as he comments on violence and atrocities committed by mankind. It is notable for the piano riff and the opening that begins with various percussion and Mick screaming. I find it hard to dislike any song that rocks hard and has social commentary in it at the same time.

MIDNIGHT RAMBLER- This song used to be my cell phone ring, but it hardly did this hard driving blues song justice. The lyrics are a bit dark as is the very fuzzy guitar riff played by Keith. Mick gets off some good old blues lyrics while also playing harmonica. My favorite part of the song is how it changes tempo several times from fast paced to almost snail-like before coming back more aggressively at the very end.

(I CAN'T GET NO) SATISFACTION- No Stones list would be complete without this classic rock anthem. Their first big hit, Satisfaction is a great treatise on celebrity and how it can affect people caught up in it. Again, the song begins with a great guitar riff that gives way to some of the truest words ever written about rock and roll.


These songs very nearly could have made the list.

PAINT IT BLACK (Sorry Emily)

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