One of the benefits of being the youngest of three brothers is that you get influenced by your older brothers’ musical tastes, and you get into cool music earlier than some of your friends. We always had The Rolling Stones playing in our house since as far back as I can remember, and they consistently remain in my Top 3 bands overall. Other regulars in my Top 5 include Guns n’ Roses, Live and The Eagles.

There was a documentary that I remember us recording on VHS and I wore that video tape out. It was the 25×5: The Continuing Adventures of The Rolling Stones, from 1989. I knew it back to front. It had some great new interviews with the band as well as lots of archive footage. There was an old black and white interview with an Irish teenage girl who was asked what she liked about Mick Jagger. She answered, in a lovely lilting Irish accent, “Everyting”. I find myself quite often saying “Everyting” in this same way whenever I get the chance to say it in conversation. It’s just become habit, after watching the documentary so many times. I think I still own the VHS. It’s a great documentary, with lots of exclusive interviews with the band itself. At the time of writing this there apparently is going to be a version of it Premiering on this YouTube channel on March 18th, but I’ve no idea if that’s a scam or not. Here’s the cool opening to it though.

It was very tricky narrowing this down to my favourite ten Stones songs. They kind of have several eras of their music, from their early Blues covers, to their early writings, to the pinnacle of their writings in the late sixties, and on to slightly different sounds in the 80s and beyond. The Stones are known for having a huge number of albums (92 at the last count, 30 of which are studio albums) and also having incredible longevity, still performing into their late 70s. But their main piece of work is arguably during their late 60s run, and this Top Ten below (purely personal to my own tastes) contains 8 songs from between 1968-1969. They really did have an insanely hot run for two and three years. It must have been an amazing time to witness it in person. I basically grew up on the Hot Rocks compilation album that had all their best songs from 1964-1971.

Little Red Rooster (1964) – I do love the early Blues work by the Rolling Stones. Their roots really were in old Blues music, and that’s a genre I love. It’s fascinating seeing this impact their work throughout the years, and meld with other styles that they introduce. Little Red Rooster, the classic track by Willie Dixon and made famous by both Howlin’ Wolf, and also Sam Cooke, is one of my favourite early Stones songs.

Time is On My Side (1964) – This is another example of one their early sixties hits. Only a couple of years after the Beatles became huge. It’s also one of the few songs that isn’t written by Mick and Keith.

Get Off My Cloud (1965) – Written by Mick and Keith, this song definitely has that early sixties feel too, but it also brings with it a kind of edginess that I really like. You start to hear the Stones’ own edgy identity here.

The Last Time (1965) – Very similar to Get Off My Cloud in the sense that it’s one of the first ones written by Jagger and Richards and it really has that early sixties feel but with a Stones’ edge. I love the intro riff.

Under My Thumb (1966) – One of the first songs to have the cool, sexy rhythm that would become more prevalent in songs like Sympathy for the Devil, Gimme Shelter, You Can’t Always Get What You Want and Miss You.

Tumbling Dice (1971) – This is one that often makes people’s Top Ten lists, but I actually don’t know it quite as much as the others. It must have just missed out on being included on that Hot Rocks compilation. So it just misses out on my list. But definitely one that I really like.

Undercover of The Night (1982) – The Stones do have a very distinct sound as they move into the 80s. It doesn’t always quite connect with me, but this one really does. I love it. I don’t see it on my other people’s top 10 or 20 lists but it is one that I really love. It probably is about 12 or 13 on my list. Another good 80s song (written in 79 and released in 81) is Start Me Up, but I chose not to add it to the list.

Angie (1972) – Although the majority of songs in this honourable mentions list are in date order, I thought I’d put this one last, as it’s probably the one that just missed out on making it into the top ten. I do enjoy these slower Stones songs, like Wild Horses.

(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (1965) – Many people would have this in their Top Ten. Many people might also have this as their no.1 Stones song. But it’s just never totally jived with me. I think it’s very good, and it probably has arguably one of the most iconic song intros ever but I prefer other Stones songs. Whenever I hear this song I think of the sequence in the film Contact (which I love), where the Voyager spacecraft shoots away from Earth and you hear some of the music of Earth from different eras, and the first few notes of Satisfaction are unmistakable.

Now onto the proper Top Ten countdown. After I had written my Top Ten I realised that I had somehow left out You Can’t Always Get What You Want. No idea how that happened. But I couldn’t face removing one of my lower entries, so I’ve just turned my Top Ten into my Top Eleven!

11. It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll (But I Like It) (1973)
Album – It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll!
This song has a bit more of a mainstream feel to me, and in places sounds a bit like Marc Bolan’s T-Rex, who were a contemporary band at the time. But it is still undoubtedly a famous Stones classic. It’s got a great chorus and the video is infamous for first being a bit weird having them dressed as sailors in a foam party, but also for everybody forgetting that Charlie Watts sits about two feet lower than everybody else and him getting lost in the bubbles towards the end of the video!

10. Miss You (1977)
Album – Some Girls
The Stones’ sound certainly did evolve in different ways during the 70s and into the 80s. Miss You is a great example of a slightly funkier undercurrent and groove, perhaps influenced by the current disco music. I just think it’s got a really cool vibe and I could imagine it’s great to hear live if they do extended instrumental versions. I might actually see if there is a 12″ version of this song.

9. Midnight Rambler (1969)
Album – Let it Bleed
I really love this track. In particular, the famous version of it below, Live from Madison Square Gardens in 1969. I love tracks like this that slow down and build up again. A bit like the awesome ‘One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer’ by George Thorogood. Midnight Rambler has a real Bluesy vibe, with the Stones going back to their roots, but also with a distinctive Stones sound.

8. Wild Horses (1969)
Album – Sticky Fingers
This was very nearly higher up on my list. The list is getting very difficult now. This is a great song. So relaxing and laidback.

7. Honky Tonk Women (1969)
Album – Through the Past, Darkly (Big Hits Vol.2)
This is such a ‘Stones’ song. Quirky song title, slightly edgy lyrics, funky upbeat rhythm and an extremely catchy chorus. They really do have a real knack to making rocky, bluesy sounding songs but also with a really catchy chorus and riffs. Some of the lyrics are great. “I met a gin soaked, bar-room queen in Memphis” and “She blew my nose and then she blew my mind”. And I love the cow bell intro too.

6. Paint it Black (1966)
Album – Aftermath (US)
We’re getting onto the big guns now. This is just a very stylish and aggressive track. I didn’t always love it though. I sometimes used to skip it when playing the Hot Rocks compilation album. But my main memory of it is actually from the intro sequence of the TV show “Tour of Duty” from the late 80s, and that’s when I started to really love it. It’s been used in quite a movies since then. I’m sure at least one Scorsese film.

5. Jumpin’ Jack Flash (1968)
Album – Through the Past, Darkly (Big Hits Vol.2)
This song and no.3 in the list have really iconic intros. And I actually sometimes get the intros mixed up for some reason. Jumpin Jack’s Flash intro is great and is used to perfection in the intro to the 25×5 documentary that I linked to at the top of this article. The song also has some great lyrics too. “I was born in a cross-fire hurricane. And I howled at my ma in the driving rain.” Great lines.

4. You Can’t Always Get What You Want (1969)
Album – Let it Bleed
This is definitely one of the Stones songs I have played the most. To be brutally honest I could do without the school choir at the start. Not really sure why they have that. But I just love how the song builds. There is such an amazing crescendo throughout the whole song. It starts slow and relatively quiet, and then it just adds that tribal rhythm that the Stones are so good at, and lots more noise and backing vocals and the second half of the song really is amazing.

3. Brown Sugar (1969)
Album – Sticky Fingers
This song comes from the Sticky Fingers album, which had possibly one of the most recognisable album covers of all time. In fact that has given me an idea to write a post about the Top Ten Album Covers. That would be a fun post. I love this song. The intro is great, although not quite as good as Jumpin Jack’ Flash, but the whole song ticks all the Stones boxes; it’s a bit edgy, it’s got a bit of a Bluesy feel, and it’s also quite upbeat and raw. I really do love the lyrics that Jagger comes out with. He doesn’t come out with the normal stuff that British rock bands sing about. There’s something quite edgy or other wordly about a lot of his lyrics. He’s not always just singing from his own experiences.
“Gold coast slave ship bound for cotton fields
Sold in a market down in New Orleans
Scarred old slaver knows he’s doing alright
Hear him whip the women just around midnight.”

2. Sympathy for the Devil (1968)
Album – Beggars Banquet
Now we’re onto the really big guns. For a long time Sympathy for the Devil was my favourite song. I’ve got two older brothers and it was perhaps all three of our’s favourite song. You used to hear the iconic “wooh wooh” backing vocals blast out of our three different bedrooms at the same time and overlap each other in some weird kind of tribal cacophony. But the intro is just incredible with that bongos rhythm, and the shakers and then Jagger grunting away. It just gets into your blood. And then the polite, gentlemanly introduction of the Devil himself. And the lyrics are a bit like a history lesson too. It’s a very unique song and one that really gets into your blood and under your skin. I love it.

1. Gimme Shelter (1969)
Album – Let It Bleed
Once Gimme Shelter became my favourite song it has never left that spot. It often tops people’s list of Stones songs. And to be totally honest it’s probably my no.2 song of all time, after Hotel California. I’ve got two very vivid memories of listening to it when I was in my teen years. One when I was off sick from school with a fever, and one lying on my bed after just coming out of a really hot bath. In both cases, while listening to the song, I almost had a psychedelic experience. There’s just something quite trippy about the guitar and backing vocals in particular. And that female part, that sings the “Rape, murder” lines. Wow. It’s incredible. And apparently it was a last minute addition by the producers and they got the singer up out of her bed in the middle of the night to sing it, and she just absolutely goes for it. I’ve sadly never seen the Stones live, but I would really love to hear what this song is like live. Fantastic song.

There you go. An incredible band with a fantastic back catalogue and amazing longevity. I wonder how many more years they will be performing for.