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The 411 Music Top Five 11.13.12: The Top 5 Rolling Stones Songs

November 13, 2012 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas


Honorable Mentions: “Street Fighting Man,” “Time Is On My Side,” “Under My Thumb,” “Paint It, Black”

5. “Gimme Shelter”

“Gimme Shelter” probably isn’t a surprise as an entry on my list for those who read my stuff, as its made an entry or two on the 8 Ball. Coming off the 1969 album Let It Bleed, this song is one of the most powerful protest songs about the Vietnam War ever made. From the ominous guitar work and the lyrics about war, murder and rape, this shouldn’t have been as big of a hit as it was in the 1960s but the band had their finger right on the world’s pulse. The apocalyptic themes of “Gimme Shelter” still resonate today and Merry Clayton’s emotionally wrenching guest vocal performance really bring the song home. Clayton tragically suffered a miscarriage upon returning home from the recording studio, which some have attributed to the stress she put herself through in this performance. Whether that’s true or not, from her vocal work you can almost believe it and the resonance was heard throughout rock and roll history.

4. “Brown Sugar”

This song very nearly made my list a couple weeks back of the top misconstrued songs because many, many people failed to realize that this is a song about raping underage slave girls. I’m guessing some people reading this are surprised by that because the song has been used in all sorts of advertisements because of the upbeat sound, including my personal favorite: a famous Pepsi commercial. Not many people even batted an eyelid at it. But controversial lyrics aside, the guitar work is phenomenal here and the sax solo is pretty brilliant as well. It remains one of the band’s signature songs and is considering one of the great guitar songs.

3. “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”

This song, which closed out Let It Bleed, contains what is quite possibly the most famous opening for a song ever in the London Bach Choir and it just rolls on from there. The song has become one of the quintessential rock songs of all-time (much as can be said about pretty much all of these songs). Producer Jimmy Miller (the “Mr. Jimmy” in the lyrics) stepped in for Charlie Watts because Watts couldn’t get the sound that they were looking for. The end result was an appropriately epic final track for one of the all-time greatest albums in rock history.

2. “Sympathy For The Devil”

While it may seem like this is the “top singles of the Rolling Stones list,” this would actually disprove that because it was not released as a single; it became famous thanks to the album-oriented rock format that would play catalogue selections and not just the hit singles. The opening track off Beggar’s Banquet, the song was inspired by the book The Master and Margarita about Satan in Moscow in the 1930s. And while the lyrics certainly fit that, they’re written in a Bob Dylan-like way that gives it a truly timeless quality while Keith Richards waits in the wings to give a scorching solo. The song was originally envisioned as more of a folk number but obviously the end result was pure rock, and likely for the better. It remains one of the band’s most enduring hits.

1. “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”

Iconic. I will admit to using that word moderately often in these kinds of lists (mostly because we are generally covering topics that lend themselves to iconic selections), but few songs fit the word more appropriately than “Satisfaction.” The 1965 song is the absolute essential Rolling Stones song, without exception or equivocation. Mick Jagger’s swaggering attitude, Richards’ skillful guitar work, the amazing lyrics…everything about this song embodies what the Rolling Stones are in a way that words can’t describe. It exemplifies their blues influence and the pop touches they’ve displayed, making for one of the most influential and greatest rock songs ever.

The Final Word
As always, the last thoughts come from you, the reader. We’re merely unpaid monkeys with typewriters and Wikipedia. Here’s what you need to do: List your Top Five for this week’s topic on the comment section using the following format:

5. Artist – “Song”: Why you chose it
4. Artist – “Song”: Why you chose it
3. Artist – “Song”: Why you chose it
2. Artist – “Song”: Why you chose it
1. Artist – “Song”: Why you chose it

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Jeremy Thomas
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