Given the work rate and sheer quality of the Rolling Stones, particularly during the first two decades of their career, it is a near impossible task to nail down just 10 songs from their 60’s back catalogue. Ask me again tomorrow and I would probably different ten, music is such an emotive thing and depending on my mood on the day by preferences would probably be very different. But for now this is my choice. Yours own list might be radically different and the reasons why are the stuff of debate, good natured argument and musical celebration, the stuff that sets music fans like us apart from the rest of the world. So, hold on …we’re going in.
10. Midnight Rambler (1969)
Written with “The Boston Strangler” Albert DeSalvo in mind, this seven minute blues opera took on a whole deeper resonance after the Manson murders that year. It is also the last song Brian Jones recorded with the band and was described by Richards as “A last flare from the shipwreck.”
9. Get Off of My Cloud (1965)
Following on from the big hit of Satisfaction, the band returned with a shout of frustration aimed at the trappings of fame, American, people, phone calls and all the stuff that now went with their celebrity status. Born out of a slower, funkier song, but in the end rocked up, this is the Jones era Stones at its finest.
8. Honky Tonk Woman (1969)
With Taylor now in the band due to the self-exile of Brian Jones, this was the first taste of what would become The Stones raunchy twin guitar attack. It is also a song entwined with the last days of Jones as right after the mixing session for the track the band drove to his house to tell him he was out of the band. It was also released only a few days after his death. History aside it has stood the test of time.
7. Under My Thumb (1966)
With it’s questionable subject matter about an forceful women broken to the will of the narrator, this is a song which would have a hard time if it was written today, but the music has a wonderfully sublime if slightly sinister Motown vibe.
6. Jumping Jack Flash (1968)
This song can be seen as the primal scream which marked the end of the pop band Stones and start of the darker and more experimental period to come. It is a wonderful blend of Delta blues and Swinging London, a sort of Thames Estuary roots sound. Not bad for a song inspired by Richards’ gardener.
5. Paint It, Black (1966)
At it’s birth, the song was written with more comedic overtones but by the time it had been bounced around the studio it was nothing less than one of the most frightening tracks of the decade. It heralds the birth of psychedelia, features droning sitars and rolling bass lines and is as strange and puzzling for its day as the use of grammar in the title.
4. You Can’t Always Get What You Want (1969)
Their final statement on the sixties, appearing as it does as the final track on their last album of the decade. The band where in a bad place personally, Jones was gone, relationships were problematic and heroin was seeping in. But rather than dwell on the dark stuff they wrote a slightly tongue in cheek message of hope and forged a beautiful musical juxtaposition…just like the sixties had been.
3. Sympathy For The Devil (1968)
At a time when the band were being increasingly seen as a diabolical force by those who didn’t understand what rock and roll was on the verge of becoming, this was The Stones side swipe at their critics, but one which also had something to say about the gathering storm clouds of the world around them. And it is a storm, a perfect storm of samba grooves, rock and blues and Jagger plays the diabolical role to a tee.
2. (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (1965)
One of the most recognisable riffs in, certainly The Stones musical arsenal and arguably the Rock and Roll canon and a song which singlehandedly took the genre out of the realms of teenage fad and propelled it somewhere far heavier and more dangerous. The fact that it was the bands first No 1 in America says something about their ability to re-appropriate all those early blues records from their youth.
1. Gimme Shelter (1969)
The Stones swansong for the death of the sixties, an apocalyptic statement on the state of the world, a eulogy, a bad trip and a truly all time great song. Not a bad way to spend half and hour, the amount of time legend has it that it took the band to get the basics of the song in place. The song resonates with a ghostly soul, a trance driven blues sound and marked a new era for the Stones as they embraced a grander, darker design.