The Rolling Stones’ 40 best songs

An all-star cast pick the greatest cuts from Jagger, Richards and co

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Single, 1969

ED HAMELL: I had lunch one time with Jimmy Miller, the brilliant producer of
this record who plays the cowbell at the beginning. This was well into the ’80s, well after his association with the Stones had ended, and well into his much-publicised heroin addiction. He was a shadow of his former self. Later in the ’80s I got a book signed by Marianne Faithfull, whose Stones association as well as junk addiction was behind her. Marianne is one tough cookie. I relay these facts because, as much as I love them, these Stones guys will chew you up and spit you out if you ain’t too careful. This track is as perfect an example of a rock’n’roll song as I’ve ever heard. It’s like higher-fucking-math. If you’re a guitar player, you can only marvel at the finesse and originality of Richards’ signature riff. If you’re a producer, you marvel at the simplicity yet power of the arrangement. There is no bass on the verses! When was the last time you heard that on a hit record? Where was Wyman? If you’re a fan, you can only marvel at how great it is, how nothing else has sounded like it since, from them or anyone else.
JIM REID: It’s just got one of the best intros of a rock’n’roll song ever. Just fantastic the way the drums start and that opening line – “I met a gin-soaked bar room queen in Memphis”! What a fucking brilliant line.
WAYNE KRAMER: In my humble opinion, a perfect rock’n’roll recording. The lyrics
are salacious, the beat has raw sex. Guitars all distorted and funky. Very subtle horn chart in there. Chorus to die for. What’s not to like?
MICK HUCKNALL: This track embodies The Rolling Stones from the start of
Keith’s magnificent guitar lick. It’s sexy, dark, and suits the Stones. It’s what Jagger sings best.


Their Satanic Majesties Request album track, 1967–rSOs

JOHNNY MARR: It’s not surprised me that this song’s become more popular over the last 10 years or so. I think it was overlooked at the time. It’s simple, it’s got a groove and great coolness about it, and Brian Jones’ Mellotron keeps it interesting. And again, a really good riff.
RICHARD HAWLEY: Possibly one of the Stones’ strangest offerings. When everyone else had flowers up their arse the Stones tried to follow, but ended up with a hangover in a spaceship, bleaked out by it all! Dark psychedelia at its very best.
TERRY MILES: Epic. Those backing vocals!
NIGEL WILLIAMSON: Their Satanic Majesties Request is the Stones’ most
underrated album. Ridiculed by many as a pale imitation of The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper, it might have been a tangent for the group but it was also one of the high-water marks of psychedelia. This is one of its best tracks, and was partially rescued from its undeserved neglect when the Stones revived it live 22 years later on 1989’s Steel Wheels tour.
WILL SERGEANT: It’s because it’s totally different from what you’d expect from the Stones. They’d taken acid and you can tell they’re still fucked up. Just some of the sounds on it are amazing – the Mellotron, all the Brian Jones stuff on it. That’s
always my favourite Stones period because he provided them with mystique. This shows the Stones as innovators, and I’ve always liked Keith as a guitarist.

Exile On Main Street album track, 1972

PHILL JUPITUS: The sound of a man inches from death having the time of his life. The opening chop of the first couple of chords and the subsequent joyful avalanche of sounds always lifts me at a very primal level. Amidst this track that sounds like a soundcheck falling down the stairs, there’s such a louche, gangling precision. It beggars belief to think of the state Keith was in when he made and produced this truly astonishing record. And, by the way, fuck what anybody else thinks, I reckon he’s got a lovely voice. And I’m not just saying that because of the scarf he gave me.
IAN McCULLOCH: I don’t like Exile . . . much – it’s too long and bluesy. But I love this one, love Keith’s vocals on this. I always prefer their melodic stuff.
J MASCIS: A great moment on the greatest record ever.
ED HAMELL: Lucinda Williams, when she has lost her joy, goes to west Memphis and Slidell to find it. I need look no further than this song. I’ve been playing the shit out of this lately.
JAY FARRAR: I love it because it’s an unadulterated Keith Richards song. He evidently plays all the guitars on it, even the bass. I like the lyrics. “Never wanna be like Papa, working for the boss every night and day.” That sorta resonates. The placing of the song is good, too. It gives a good sense of the second half. And Exile . . . is my favourite Stones album. I always like the songs Keith sings. And Keith’s guitar is the essence of the Stones – that’s what always pulls me in.
ROB HUGHES: Something invigoratingly plangent and vulnerable about Keith’s singing. Brilliantly subversive and endlessly fascinating, Richards’ signature tune is the jewel in the overrated Exile . . . (too much brass and pomp. Let It Bleed and Beggars Banquet are better records).


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