The Stones are back in the public eye this week, following their Havana gig and their much- publicised upcoming international exhibition in London’s Saatchi gallery. There are plenty of column inches in the British press, commemorative pieces about their history going back to the Precambrian and tabloid journalists are once again hanging around Keith Richards in hope of a controversial quote. It’s all business as usual and most of it is rather predictable. Having been around for six decades, the Stones have now been ossified in the culture through a handful of stories and songs. This is lazy. We are talking about a group whose back catalogue is vast and whose mythology is perhaps the most extensive in the history of rock ‘n’ roll. The old dinosaurs deserve better. So, with that in mind, I decided to ramble for a bit on the subject of forgotten Rolling Stones songs, songs that are in my view masterpieces, but have kinda slipped through the cracks and deserve rediscovery. They are not particularly rare, or hard to find, just underrated. Enjoy:
Their Satanic Majesties Request is usually dismissed as a Sgt. Pepper’s knock- off by people who should know better. A hilarious example of what happens when a band as dirty as the Stones try to jump on the hippy bandwagon, the resulting record is in fact far weirder and darker than you remember. It mostly works as a cacophonous, claustrophobic mood piece and less as a collection of songs, but it does possess some killer tunes (2000 Light Years From Home, She’s A Rainbow). Citadel is a glorious slice of heavy psych, anchored by Keith’s distorted riff and Mick’s chanting chorus.
Soundtrack to: Astral projecting from a dingy Portobello flat to the southern Rif mountains.
It’s difficult for a song to escape notice when located in the Stones most well- known album, but somehow Sway does just that. It’s the second song on Sticky Fingers, but for some reason people forget all about it, while Brown Sugar and Sister Morphine get all the love. Sway is the heaviest song that the Rolling Stones ever recorded. Without them, there would be no hard rock, but they always rolled too much to influence metal. Sway is a lumbering, bluesy monolith and I love it. It’s all down to Mick Taylor and his fluid, gorgeous lead guitar work of course (Richards is notably absent here).
Soundtrack to: A big fat spliff.
Let It Loose
It’s hard to single out any specific songs on Exile On Main St., but Let It Loose always did it for me. A soulful, plaintive song in the middle of all the sleaze, it’s good company near the end of a particularly raucous night.
Soundtrack to: Jack & coke.
Dancing with Mr. D.
Goats Head Soup had the misfortune to come right after Exile and is usually looked down because of that. I used to dislike it for some reason, but I can’t even remember why now. It’s very close to a masterpiece and there are plenty of songs there waiting to be rediscovered. Dancing with Mr. D. is satanic shock rock at its’ best and- in contrast to Sympathy For The Devil– it has no high brow patina of respectability. It’s just a fun horror story and it features a hugely pleasurable riff and one of Jagger’s best lyrics (“A drink of Belladonna on a Toussaint night”). Best experience on the Dancing So Free: Goats Head Soup Reheated bootleg, where the rhythm section is pushed in the forefront.
Soundtrack to: Lying spread- eagled on a makeshift altar, drenched in chicken blood while the knife rises.
Jiving Sister Fanny
From the fantastic collection of outtakes Metamorphosis, Jiving Sister Fanny is a light, funky piece with a shimmering guitar line running through it. See also, their cover of Stevie Wonder’s I Don’t Know Why from the same album.
Soundtrack to: Lying in a king sized bed with a bunch of groopies, covered in Moroccan finery.
Dance (Pt. 1)
OK, Emotional Rescue is a shit album, but this is a great tune. Perhaps their best funk song, it slithers and grooves like a bastard. If you don’t move to that one, you are pretty much dead.
Soundtrack to: Snorting through a golden spoon in Studio 54.
Less song and more relentless groove, Slave (like the entirety of Tattoo You, the last great Stones album) is New York all the way. Sony Rollins on the saxophone elevates it to the stratosphere.
Soundtrack to: Sipping cocktails in the back of a limo with Jim Carroll and Jean- Michel Basquiat, circa 1981.
Pretty Beat Up
Undercover is a nasty, gore- streaked album and I like it a lot. Pretty Beat Up is sleazy as fuck (blame Ronnie Wood). The whole thing has an angular, paranoid dub feel and it matches the band and the era. Or maybe that’s just me.
Soundtrack to: Hanging from the ceiling in leather straps. All totally concensual of course.
Flashpoint is one of countless interchangeable live recordings that the Stones made over the decades. I have a soft spot for it because it’s their first album I ever bought, but it’s not great. It does feature two new songs at the end. The awful funk of Sex Drive and this. Highwire is just a hard rock song, but it’s great hard rock nonetheless.
Soundtrack to: Playing pool backstage at the Steel Wheels enormodome tour.
Thru and Thru
A thing of ragged beauty. Thru and Thru is from their comeback album Voodoo Lounge and it’s that rare thing: A latter- day Stones song that feels sincere- probably because Keith sings it. Legend has it that Slash himself wanted to play in it but was rebuffed by an annoyed Richards. It’s a slow, meditative song, until Charlie Watts explodes with thunderous percussion. It sounds like nothing they’ve done in the past. But don’t take my word for it. David Chase liked it so much, he included it to the soundtrack to The Sopranos.
Soundtrack to: Drinking Scotch at the break of dawn.