The Rolling Stones’ 40 best songs

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

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B-side of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”, 1968

JOHNNY MARR: I like it just for personal reasons. When I first discovered the Stones, I was spending a lot of time at a youth club in Manchester, and they had “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” on the jukebox. I used to hang out with the older kids who used to play that and other stuff like “Layla”, Free’s “Wishing Well” and Led Zep’s “Living Loving Maid”. They were the staple tracks. So after “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” had been played five or six times, they’d put the B-side on. So that reminds me of discovering the Stones and it opened up a whole new world for me. In a way, it’s a parallel track to “Rain” by The Beatles, in that it’s a similarly woozy, vaguely psychedelic tune, a B-side that never came out on anything else.


Exile On Main Street album track, 1972

ED HAMELL: Besides the fact that this is my favourite song on my favourite album by them, it reminds me of my friend, Grover. He’s since passed away but he loved this song. He roadied and ran sound for a band I was in, and we had a shitty cassette of the Exile album in the truck at all times. Often, after a night of too much drugs and alcohol (as luck would have it, Grover, a diabetic, had a never ending supply of clean needles), broken promises and ultra-reprehensible behaviour, we’d wake up in the late afternoon with a conscience like the grim reaper. The silence in the apartment, club or truck was like 12 funerals. Grover’s remedy? Grab the cassette which he’d cued up the night before in anticipation of this horror, and play “All Down The Line”. Worked like a fucking charm. A joint and a shot later and we were good to go. I’m sober now, and Grover’s dead, but the song never fails to bring a tear to my eye. I need a shot of salvation once in a while.
ADAM SWEETING: Stones in maximum ‘rogue elephant’ mode. It’s Richards who starts throwing gasoline on the fire with his declamatory stinging licks but, above all, this is a scintillating ensemble piece. Jagger’s vocal is more notable for its urgent tone than its content, and much of the song’s energy derives from the way he has to battle to keep his head above the tumultuous barrage of horns, headbanger piano, and Kathi McDonald’s ballistic-diva wailing. Breaks the ice at parties.
TERRY MILES: A savage singalong rocker.

Exile On Main Street album track, 1972

FRANK BLACK: This is a great example of Keith Richards’ guitar playing and the way he always introduced tracks with really catchy chords. Twenty seconds into the song and bang, you’re hooked! I also really like the way Jagger mixed comedy and venom in lines like “The sunshine bores the daylights out of me.”
PHILL JUPITUS: After “Safe European Home” on The Clash’s Give ’Em Enough Rope, the greatest opening track to an album in my collection. I always preferred Jagger’s vocals slightly on the back foot. It’s almost as if when he was belting them out you could hear the prancing. It’s one of those tracks you find yourself turning up with the onset of each chorus. The horn refrain cuts into your head with each blast. The thing about Exile is the layering of the sounds is so delicately interwoven. You can pick out everybody’s parts, it’s a nice, spacey album.
TERRY MILES: My best friend and I were comparing the sonic brilliance of Jethro Tull’s Aqualung to Deep Purple’s Book Of Taliesyn late one stormy winter’s night (just after losing a healthy bout with our first bottle of Canadian whiskey) when our new friend Nico arrived. He ‘rolled one up’ and put on Exile On Main Street. That sound just changed everything. It was raw, murky and funky (but only in that good way). It kicked my ass. Nico was also responsible for turning us on to Dylan. I think he teaches grade school now. I put “Rocks Off” first because that’s the first track on the greatest Stones album ever. Thank you, Nico!


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