Here at Rick Keene Music Scene – rarely do my personal tastes mix with business.
Once in a while , the Stones are featured but most of the time , this forum is to promote new music through interviews and let you know what’s happening or what shows just happened.
To narrow down ten songs from a catalog over four hundred deep is impossible. Or – is it ?
Here now are my choices ( no particular order) for the Top Ten Tracks by The Rolling Stones. Agree or disagree ?
10. Fingerprint File
This track off the 1974 album It’s Only Rock n Roll sums up everything about the decadent 70s and mixes many styles into one. Funk and Rock through a great guitar solo by Mick Taylor and Jagger’s mystique / sex appeal humming along to Wyman’s too cool bass line. Just listening you can almost see the sequined jump suit on Jagger’s back with Billy Preston dancing beside him. A track that could just as well be named ‘1975’. Rumor has it that it is cocaine going up Mick’s nose near the end as the tune sniffs to a close.
The Sex Pistols called the Stones dinosaurs in 1977. The Bad Boys of Rock responded with one of their best albums. 1978’s Some Girls kicked the Pistols and the entire Punk movement in the teeth. Respectable takes the term Garage Band to other worlds. As raw as meat at a butcher shop, the song is angry. The energy in all instruments pouring out the amps as Mick scares you into believing everything he sings. No tricks, no shadows. Punk Rock on display by the original punks. Whatever happened to those Sex Pistols ?
8. Sweet Virginia
Atop many critic’s list of the best double albums of all time , 1972’s Exile on Main Street is filled with the Blues and Country music. Gram Parsons influence side by side with Willie Dixon. Sweet Virginia sounds as if the boys were on the porch and started playing for the joy of it. Mick’s pure personality shines on harp while Keith is just a Country boy at his side. As with a few Stones’ tracks , the entire sound is energy held back within a groove. One of few bands that can harness and release magic at the same time. Welcome to Chemistry 101.
7. Street Fighting Man
In 1968 – the Stones released one of their masterpieces. Beggars Banquet was served to the masses and it contained the roots of music. It also teased with what the Stones were to become. The song Street Fighting Man ( along with Sympathy for The Devil) showcased the manic drive which would become a staple for the ‘rocky’ Stones. The building of foreplay before the orgasm and continuing while the cigarette was still burning. Combining feedback through a cassette player and amplified to it’s fullest – to this day, in concert, it’s the tune that gets the heart pumping and the sweat poured into the drinks.
6. Love is Strong
In 1994, following a reunion of sorts – the Stones entered the studio minus their original bassist Bill Wyman. With Miles Davis alumni Darryl Jones in tow, the overproduced sound of 1989’s Steel Wheels was gone. For the first time in over a decade, the album sounded like Mick and Keith locked in a room. The song Love is Strong contains a maturity not heard from before. It’s as if thirty years of bouncing about landed on their feet. A Blues tune yet it was a Stones Blues tune. No mimicking, no flattery by example – the tune was the first original Stones’ Blues song. Forceful guitars and forceful harmonica combined with Watts’ ( as usual ) crisp snare. The Stones became a ‘confident’ band once again within Love is Strong.
5. Too Tough
Say what? There are far greater Stones’ songs than this gem off 1983’s Undercover album you say? Listen again – wont ya? Raw riffs and the Stones signature sloppiness rarely caught in studio. Add a transition from bridge to chorus that is two songs in one along with a youthful Jagger surrendering to a woman? As I said – listen again won’t ya?
4. Tumbling Dice
Exile on main Street is unique in the fact there were no real ‘hits’ on the album. Therein lies the beauty of the disc as it was made for making music. The tune Tumbling Dice with it’s stinging, creeping changes and harnessed energy released in a rhythm so solid- could very well be on of the greatest songs ever written by anyone. You gotta roll me ..
3. Memory Motel
In 1976 the Stones kinda shocked everyone by sipping into the Reggae / Dance genre. For the fans of the band it was no surprise because Keith had taken up residence in Jamaica and was hanging with the likes of Peter Tosh. The album Black and Blue ( the first with Ron Wood) also contained one of Jagger/ Richards purest ballads. Piano-led ( Keith writes a lot on piano), the song is framed devilishly by Keef’s raunchy (slightly out of tune harmonies). A studio version (vocally) of The Glimmer Twins live. Once again – two tunes in one as the chorus sings the lyrics to sleep.
2. Midnight Rambler
In the words of Keith Richards, if there was one song that could be considered the best example of his and Mick’s taste in music and songwriting skills – Midnight Rambler gets the call. The tune mirrors the transformation in real life of the stones evolving from a blues band into a Rock n Roll outfit. It also displays the transformation of the band as young punks to grown up creatures of the night. Of Richards from rebellious teen to drug addict. Of Jagger from sexual deviant to dangerous. No matter the year, once the Stones play Midnight Rambler live – you know they are starting to get serious.
1. Paint it Black
In 1966 while The Beatles were sending lollipops in the air, the Stones were focusing on reality.
In a false world for the weak, only hand holding went on in Strawberry Fields. In the real world, there was someone with a match waiting in the burnt out building next door. Mental illness, anguish, despair and depression are as much part of reality as lovemaking in the golden wheat. Not only did the Stones identify with the real people lyrically, they solidified themselves as precursors to bands like Black Sabbath and the evil mentality of Heavy Metal. Charlie arrives within the tune just as Keith enters Hell. Mick’s drawl – his initial exorcism. The Stones may have made a deal at the Crossroads and painted them black. The Devil’s gift? No colors anymore for anyone.
Gimme Shelter, Satisfaction, Jumpin Jack Flash, Honky Tonk Woman and three hundred others.