The top 10 Rolling Stones songs of all time as chosen by the writers & editors of Rolling Stone Magazine and various musicians….
10. “Under My Thumb”
Recorded in March 1966, “Under My Thumb” is best known for its lyrics, which came off like a misogynist screed, describing an aggressive woman subordinated into one who “talks when she’s spoken to,” and is alternately described as a “squirmin’ dog,” a “Siamese cat” and “the sweetest pet.” Yet the music itself is supremely cool and seductive, defined by Jones’ beguiling marimba and Richards’ understated guitar, which add a vaguely swishy softness that undercuts Jagger’s bravado. Jagger later said his lyrics were an honest reflection of “too many bad relationships” he was going through at the time. The song is like a Motown number that wound up at the dark end of the street, and indeed, a cloud seemed to follow it throughout the Sixties.
9. “Wild Horses”
“Songs written by two people are better than those written by one,” Richards said in 2002. This is a perfect, heartbreaking example of that sentiment. The chorus was Richards’, written to his infant son, Marlon, as the Stones set off for their 1969 U.S. tour. “The interesting thing,” Richards noted, “is what you say to someone else, even to Mick, who knows me real well: ‘See what you make out of that.’ ” Jagger turned to the complicated emotions in his relationship with Marianne Faithfull. The song’s pining country grace reflected Richards’ new friendship with Georgia native Gram Parsons, who cut “Wild Horses” with the Flying Burrito Brothers and issued it first, with the Stones’ blessing. But the Stones’ recording, at Muscle Shoals in Alabama, near the end of the ’69 tour, reflected Jagger and Richards’ deeper empathy – “together with the fifth of bourbon, passing it back and forth, and [singing] the lead and the harmony into one microphone,” Jim Dickinson, the pianist on the session, recalled. In short, two as one.
8. “Brown Sugar”
It takes a unique kind of confidence for a bunch of Englishmen to walk into Muscle Shoals Sound Studios in Sheffield, Alabama, in the winter of 1969 and record a song about slavery, interracial sex and cunnilingus, with a title known as slang for a type of heroin. Originally called “Black Pussy” until Jagger thought better of it, the song was pulled together in just a couple of takes – “It should sound fucking dirty,” the singer famously instructed the rest of the band.
7. “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”
“It’s about having a hard time and getting out. Just a metaphor for getting out of all the acid things,” Jagger told Rolling Stone‘s Jann S. Wenner in 1995. After the psychedelic experimentation of Their Satanic Majesties Request, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” released in May 1968, was a primal system shock that kick-started the greatest period in the band’s career. Richards was on a historic run at the time, exploring the open-D blues-guitar tuning for the first time and coming up with some of his most dynamic riffs. He overheard an organ lick that bassist Wyman was fooling around with in a London studio and turned it into the song’s unstoppable, churning pulse.
6. “Paint It, Black”
“We cut it as a comedy track,” Richards confessed. Some comedy. “Paint It, Black” became one of the most flat-out frightening singles to ever hit Number One, driven by a droning sitar riff from Jones. Jagger sings about death, grief and sex (“I see the girls walk by dressed in their summer clothes/I have to turn my head until my darkness goes”) over the band’s repetitive stomp. The song was originally a conventional pop tune and, according to producer Andrew Loog Oldham, not a very promising one. Wyman’s roiling bass line, written on a Hammond organ, pushed the Stones in a new direction. The sound was psychedelic yet disturbing. ”
5. “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”
On the final track of their last album of the Sixties, the Stones delivered the shotgun lesson of that decade with bittersweet flair: Everything was possible, and it all came at a price. They were at a new creative peak and preparing to return to the road. But Richards was using heroin; Jagger’s girlfriend, Marianne Faithfull, had suffered a miscarriage; and Jones was all but gone. “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” was “basically all Mick,” Richards admitted. The singer turned that turmoil into a witty evocation of universal disillusionment countered by the practical hope in the chorus and a sumptuous R&B arrangement:
4. “Street Fighting Man”
“Street Fighting Man” was recorded in the spring of 1968, after Jagger witnessed a massive anti-war protest in Grosvenor Square. The song’s literal meaning was ambivalent. But its energy wasn’t, and it felt like a call for radicals to up their game. Inspired by Martha and the Vandellas’ “Dancing in the Streets,” the song emerged from the band’s first sessions with Jimmy Miller, who produced all of its albums from Beggars Banquet to Goats Head Soup, in 1973. Remarkably, bass aside, it has no electric instrumentation. Richards created the layered guitar parts by distorting his acoustic through a cassette recorder. Jones played sitar and tamboura; Dave Mason, of Traffic, played a droning double-reed shehnai; Nicky Hopkins tinkled some ascending notes on piano, and Watts played a small practice drum kit miked to sound gargantuan.
3. “Sympathy for the Devil”
No band ever summed up its mission on Earth as perfectly as the Stones did here. “Sympathy for the Devil” was a shot at their critics that also mirrored real-world evil. (Jagger had to change the lyric “who killed Kennedy” to “who killed the Kennedys” when news of Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination reached the Beggars Banquet sessions in June 1968.) Originally written as a Dylan-esque folk song, it rolls forward like a storm front, driven by a menacing samba-funk groove from Watts and African percussionist Rocky Dijon and piano and bass (played by Richards), with a wicked guitar solo midway through. The unrepentant whoo-whoo backing vocals were sung by a crowd that included Watts, Jones (who would be dead in a year) and his ex-girlfriend Anita Pallenberg, who was keeping company with Richards. Jagger.
2. “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”
Built on the Stones‘ greatest riff, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” near-singlehandedly turned “rock & roll” from a teenage fad into something far heavier and more dangerous. The guitar line was conjured by Richards while he was asleep. “I had no idea I’d written it,” he recalled in his memoir, Life, explaining how he awoke to discover the bones of the song – evidently recorded the previous night with his acoustic guitar – on a bedside cassette machine. Jagger thinks his partner got the title from a line in Chuck Berry‘s 1955 single “30 Days” (“I don’t get no satisfaction from the judge”); the singer wrote the remaining lyrics sitting next to a hotel pool in Clearwater, Florida, in early 1965, during the band’s third U.S. tour, distilling his “frustration with everything,” especially with “America, its advertising syndrome, the constant barrage.”
1. “Gimme Shelter”
“That’s a kind of end-of-the-world song, really. It’s apocalypse; the whole record’s like that,” Jagger told Rolling Stone in 1995, describing “Gimme Shelter.” Like nothing else in rock & roll, the song embodies the physical experience of living through a tumultuous historical moment. It’s the Stones‘ perfect storm: the ultimate Sixties eulogy and rock’s greatest bad-trip anthem, with the gathering power of soul music and a chaotic drive to beat any punk rock. The song was born during a pounding English rainstorm. “It was just a terrible fucking day,” Richards recalled. He was killing time in the apartment of English art-scene guru Robert Fraser while girlfriend Anita Pallenberg was on set making Performance, a film in which she beds down with Jagger. With chords ghosted by a droning E-note, the music radiated dread – clearly inspired by a mix of Jimmy Reed’s trance-inducing blues, Richards‘ own romantic anxiety, and heroin, which he’d just begun using. It took him about 20 minutes or so to get down the basics, which were fleshed out over several sessions in London and Los Angeles during 1969. The finished version is something entirely new for the Stones, with a slithering Watts-Wyman groove and full gospel-style backing vocals; New Orleans-born Merry Clayton was asked to sing on the track because the band’s first choice, Bonnie Bramlett, was unavailable, and she seized the opportunity, wailing, “Rape, murder! It’s just a shot away!” like the end times were nigh.
(Courtesy of rollingstone.com)