The Rolling Stones have given us countless hits throughout their illustrious career, and anyone who has ever turned on a radio and flicked the dial would know their classic hits like ‘Jumping Jack Flash’, ‘Brown Sugar’ and ‘Satisfaction’.
But there’s plenty more gold to be found if you dig a little deeper, including a few tracks that have gone criminally underrated, never quite making it onto the usual top ten lists.
With vinyl all the rage once again, here are 12 under-appreciated Rolling Stones tracks that you should keep an eye out for on your next crate-digging expedition – or on Spotify.
Image via The Rolling Stones (Facebook)
A wistful Jagger pines for unrequited love on this heartfelt gem from the classic Exile On Main Street album. The narrative pleads for the love of another, the protagonist desperately offers their heart and affection, gradually building from humble self-deprecation to a passionate plea of desire. The track’s jolting outro reminiscent of the up and down emotions experienced by the love-sick soul.
Another selection from Exile On Main Street, ‘Rocks Off’ is a rockin’ journey through the days of a strung out rock star at the top of the tree. Jagger’s weary vocal delivery and negativity of the narrative suggests a man well and truly affected by the rock n roll lifestyle, brilliantly at odds with the overall party vibe of the track.
Fusing reggae and funk together to create the smooth, cruisy vibe of ‘Hey Negrita,’ The Rollings Stones took their sound into unfamiliar territory while maintaining the feel that crowned them the greatest rock n roll band ever.
Ronnie (Wood) and Keith (Richards) are a match made in heaven, their guitars duel in a blissful interchange of lead and rhythm. It’s hidden gems like this that keep the Stones legacy rolling on.
‘Sad Sad Sad’
In 1989, The Rolling Stones were a band past their prime. The Jagger / Richards creative force was bordering on civil war, the magic of their 60s / 70s heyday had fizzled to a halt with some average mid 80s releases, and then Steel Wheels happened.
Opening track ‘Sad Sad Sad’ recalls all the cocaine-fueled punk energy of Some Girls released a decade earlier. It was a new beginning of sorts, a shot of positivity that made a statement to the music world, the Stones were back and here to stay.
‘Have You Seen Your Mother Baby, Standing In The Shadow?’
Released in 1966 just as the psychedelic movement was making its initial impact in the artistic world, ‘Have You Seen Your Mother Baby, Standing In The Shadow?’ mixed fuzzed out garage rock guitars, mod rock and psychedelic hysteria. This unlikely marriage of styles was influential in the transformation of the Jagger / Richards partnership from early ’60s teen idols into the iconic creative force they would soon be recognised.
The narrative is a loose biography on the Boston Strangler and could easily be the plot of a horror movie, its sexy blues groove would not be out of place as a stripper’s performance piece. Keith Richards even described ‘Midnight Rambler’ as the quintessential Stones track.
Jagger wails on harmonica as Richards’ guitar stalks menacingly, both parts creating an uneasy feeling of paranoia as the track reaches its violent conclusion. An overlooked magic moment in their back catalogue.
A beautiful country-tinged slice of folk hippiedom. The Stones strip back their rough and ready rock n roll sound to a jaunty acoustic muse. ‘Factory Girl’ would easily sit comfortably in the catalogues of future folk wonders Marc Bolan and Devendra Barnhart highlighting the influence and diversity of this seminal rock band.
‘Dead Flowers’ sees Jagger playing the part of a bitter junky pining over an ex-lover who has moved on and living the high life. His mock country vocal style complimenting the lyric’s vicious jibing content as well as complimenting the track’s breezy Gram Parsons-like country vibe.
Covered by country music legends Steve Earle and Townes Van Zandt, ‘Dead Flowers’ again highlights the influence The Stones project on the entire music industry as well as the diverse genius of their creative powerhouse. It will forever stand as one of the best break-up songs ever, the perfect kiss-off anthem for the jilted lover.
From the album A Bigger Bang released in 2005, ‘Rough Justice’ is a straight out rocker. Richards’ riff possesses all the power and energy of past classics, Jagger’s fiery vocal delivery the perfect spark to set the track alight. The lyric suggests a long time yo-yo-like love affair between singer and subject, one minute bitter, the next offering himself.
Not many bands into their 43rd year would have the energy or motivation to produce anything as powerful and raw as this, the fact they did and it sits peacefully off the radar is a testament to their long list of mega hits.
‘She’s A Rainbow’
Released as a single in 1966 and appearing on ‘Their Satanic Majesties Request’ album the following year, ‘She’s A Rainbow’ has been described as the prettiest track of their back catalogue. Lyrically the song possesses beautiful glowing praise for the subject and musically has a sweet floating dream-like feel.
A blast of off-key, out-of-tune strings toward the song’s conclusion gives it a psychedelic weirdness that rivals anything The Beatles produced in this period. An underappreciated slice of beauty hampered by the era it was conceived.
‘Hand Of Fate’
The tale of a man who commits murder for the love of another, a lyric that could have easily come from the pen of Bob Dylan. Instead, this gem appears on the most overlooked of all Stones albums, Black And Blue, released in 1976.
‘Hand Of Fate’ cruises along at odds with its lyrical content, giving the impression of a long drive to nowhere in the summer sun while the narrative paints the picture of a wanted man on the run. Sheer brilliance!
This sexually explicit Chuck Berry-Esque rocker is arguably the most controversial song ever to be released by The Rolling Stones, alluding to sex acts with fruit, name-checking both Steve McQueen and John Wayne and just being downright filthy in general – why would it not be controversial?
The question will always remain as to who the song’s subject is. Is it Carly Simon, who Jagger had a fleeting affair? Or is it a general owed to the rock and roll groupie? One may never truly know the reason behind this overlooked nugget.