Photo: Michael Putland (Getty Images)
It’s been over 55 years since the Rolling Stones first appeared on the stage and it’s unlikely that they’ll stop anytime soon. Some say that their energy lies in the fairly liberal use of high-class drugs over the years. Others think it has to do with the myth of blood transfusions they reportedly used to rejuvenate themselves. However, it might just be that they’re great musicians who constantly defined decades with their hit songs. In light of that, we thought we’d take a look at some of the best Rolling Stones songs in the history of the band. Even if you’re not much of a fan, you probably love a couple of them.
Honky Tonk Women
Written somewhere between 1968 and 1969, while Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were on a holiday in Brazil, “Honky Tonk Women” is one of the most memorable and the best Rolling Stones songs in their career. Despite being inspired by Brazil and its rural inhabitants, the song has a country feel and is set in the USA. The “honky tonk” part of the title refers to a country music genre while a honky tonk woman is usually a prostitute working in a bar that plays such music. Mick Jagger jokes around with the lyrics, talks about his love conquests and basically creates that well-known Stones vibe.
Jumpin’ Jack Flash
According to many fans of the band, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” was the hit that brought the Stones back to the right path. By this, they mean that the Rolling Stones finally returned to the original blues sound that made them famous in the first place. Even people who know nothing about the band have heard the song and its unique title. This title was inspired by Richards’ gardener whom he dubbed “Jumpin’ Jack” and Jagger made up the rest. On a deeper level, the song talks about pulling through and signifies a new beginning. Because of it all, Jumpin’ Jack Flash is certainly among the best Rolling Stones songs ever.
In 1978, the Stones figured out that they needed to change their sound and adapt to the ’70s disco tunes. “Miss You” is basically their attempt at getting back in the spotlight in a whole new, sad disco way and it worked brilliantly. Not only did “Miss You” introduce them to a new generation of music fans but it also became one of the best Rolling Stones songs ever made. The simple riff combined with Mick Jagger’s catchy vocals made this song an immediate hit. The best part of it is probably the bridge that breaks down the song and simply bleeds emotions.
You Can’t Always Get What You Want
Most of the younger generations know about this song from being referenced in the show House M.D. by the man himself – “As the philosopher Jagger once said: You can’t always get what you want.”Jagger described it as being one of those bedroom songs that he often played around with. The album version starts with a choir singing the main tune, which made numerous fans at the time compare them to the Beatles and their “Hey Jude.” Either way, the song became an essential slow Stones song that defined the band. Although the title seems defeatist, it’s actually a positive and optimistic tune.
Anybody Seen My Baby
Some people might argue that this song doesn’t belong to the list of the best Rolling Stones songs of all time, but that doesn’t really have to do with its quality. In fact, those people who dislike the song, do it for its resemblance to k.d. lang’s “Constant Craving.” The chorus is so characteristic that it’s almost impossible not to notice the similarities. That being said, “Anybody Seen My Baby” was something of an introduction to the ’90s audience thanks to its catchy and melancholic notes. Even the music video featuring the young Angelina Jolie became something of a classic.
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction
The main riff in Satisfaction is probably among the 10 most recognizable in the world. It’s super simple and easy to play but still so memorable. Richards stated that he was half-asleep in a hotel in Florida when he came up with it. Although most people remember just the chorus, the lyrics overall deal with Jagger’s frustration with the world around him. This is probably the greatest crowd-pleaser among their hits as it instantly connects the band to millions of people.
Paint It Black
While this is probably not the first song to utilize sitar (a traditional Hindu instrument resembling a guitar), it is certainly the first time the band has used it in a song. Thanks to the sitar, “Paint It Black” became one of the most recognizable and the best Rolling Stones songs ever. Its special psychedelic tone gave the world a new version of the Stones, dark and brooding, yet somehow energetic with a catchy melody. Somehow, this song is more reminiscent of the Doors than of the Stones, which makes it quite interesting.
“Gimme Shelter” was released in 1969 on the album Let It Bleed. Jagger and Richards conceived their parts separately, combining them into one of the most celebrated anti-war hymns. Considering the year it was published, it’s not hard to guess what “Gimme Shelter” was about. Of course, the Vietnam War is one of its main subjects, though it also talks about the bleak situation inside the country. Besides the recognizable intro guitar riff, the song is also famous for the mighty female vocals that join Jagger in his protest of rape and murder. Gimme Shelter is certainly belongs among the best Rolling Stones songs.
There is no doubt that Angie is one of the greatest rock ballads ever made. It was created almost entirely by Keith Richards who even plays the piano on the track. According to some sources, the song was written about Angela Bowie, David Bowie’s wife who actually helped him create the Ziggy Stardust persona. As most artists do, Jagger and Richards denied such rumors but we’ll probably never know for sure. It’s interesting to note that the original recording of Jagger’s vocals was quite faint and unassuming as if to say that it’s really a Richards song with Jagger just going along for the ride.
Sympathy for the Devil
Again, it’s open for a debate whether “Sympathy for the Devil” is the best Rolling Stones song, but it’s certainly among the most memorable for a couple of reasons. First, there is the unforgettable samba rhythm that gives the song a casual, energetic vibe. Then there’s Richards’ unforgettable strumming and, of course, Mick Jagger’s devilish persona. The song is presented from Satan’s perspective, only to show the world that he’s not much worse than a regular person. People always compared The Beatles and the Rolling Stones and this song labeled the latter as the devilish version of the Beatles.
Feel free to write your favorite songs in the comment section below.