In stores this week is GRRR!, a career-spanning greatest hits set by The Rolling Stones. There are several versions of the collection available, including the 80-track “Super Deluxe” version. But with 50 years under their collective belt, even 80 songs doesn’t seem enough. Here, we suggest a couple of other great Stones songs that could make it an even 100 (and there’d still be songs missing).
1. “Tell Me”: The Mick Jagger/Keith Richards songwriting team is one of the most celebrated in the history of popular music, along with Lennon/McCartney and Lieber/Stoller. “Tell Me” was the only Jagger/Richards song on the Stones’ 1964 debut, England’s Newest Hit Makers.
2. “The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man”: One of the early compositions credited to “Nanker Phelge” (or Nanker/Phelge), the pseudonym used on early songs co-written by the entire band, including Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman and the late Brian Jones. The lyrics paint a rather unflattering image of a record label hack claiming credit for the band’s success, decades before Paul Shaffer played Artie Fufkin of “Polymer Records” in This Is Spinal Tap.
3. “The Spider And The Fly”: The B-side to “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” The lyrics originally said, “She was 50, 50, looked about 30.” When the band played the song on their 1995 tour, they changed it to, “She was 50, 50, looked about 50.” Surely they could adjust that lyric again if they break out this chestnut at their upcoming shows.
4. “All Sold Out”: From 1967’s Between The Buttons. It features some of Mick’s most bitter lyrics: “All sold out well I felt so green/It was just like that, I was put down flat/I was sold out just like that, oh baby… you sold me out and that’s that.” Of course, some Stones fans, who can’t afford tickets for the group’s upcoming shows (some of which are in the four-figure range) may have their own interpretation of this one.
5. “My Obsession”: Also from Between The Buttons. Listen to the “ooh baby’s” at about 1:44 in. Then listen to Aerosmith‘s “Draw The Line” at about 3 minutes in and check out the “ooh yeahs.” Not that anyone ever doubted that the Boston’s “Toxic Twins” (aka Steven Tyler and Joe Perry) were influenced by the Glimmer Twins (Mick and Keith) anyway.
6. “2000 Man”: From their most psychedelic album, 1967’s Their Satantic Majesties Request (kind of their answer to Sgt. Pepper). Years later, KISS covered this song, and it became an anthem of sorts for lead guitarist Ace Frehley, who sang lead vocals on the cover.
7. “Live With Me”: From 1969’s Let It Bleed, it’s one of their first recordings with guitarist Mick Taylor. It’s also one of the first times they worked with long time associate and saxophone player Bobby Keys. The band did a steamy live version in their Shine A Light documentary, which featured pop singer Christina Aguilera (where she learned first hand a thing or two about Jagger’s moves years before she sang on Maroon 5’s “Moves Like Jagger.”)
8. “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking”: From 1971’s Sticky Fingers. The Stones aren’t a jam band, but when they play this song live, they “school” most of the groups on the ways of improvisational performance. The studio version, featuring some of the best playing from the short-lived Keith Richards/Mick Taylor guitar team, clocks in at over seven minutes, and is one of the band’s longest songs.
9. “Shine A Light”: The 17th of 18 songs on 1972’s Exile On Main Street. The Stones’ take on gospel gave the their Martin Scorsese-helmed 2008 concert film its title, despite not being a big hit.
10. “Star Star”: The final song on 1973’s Goat’s Head Soup, the song’s original title is unprintable here, and so is much of what is described in the lyrics. ‘Nuff said. (Hear the NSFW song here.)
11. “Hand Of Fate”: From 1976’s Black And Blue, the first album with Ron Wood in the band. But he isn’t on this song, which features Keith Richards’ guitar complemented by the playing of Wayne Perkins. Wood, Perkins and Harvey Mandel were all trying out for the position vacated by Mick Taylor during the recording of this album. But the star of this song is the riff, which is 100% Keef.
12. “Before They Make Me Run”: From 1978’s Some Girls, this is one of Keith Richards’ finest moments. Keith was unapologetic about his wild lifestyle in his 2010 autobiography Life, the seeds of which may have been planted in this song. “It’s another goodbye to another good friend” was widely believed to be about his late friend, country/rock icon Gram Parsons. The lyrics, “Watched my taillights fading, there ain’t a dry eye in the house,” are among Keith’s most poetic, and has an added poignancy when you hear it today.
13. “Black Limousine”: From 1981’s Tattoo You, it’s a rare Jagger/Richards/Wood composition, which led fans to wonder why Ronnie doesn’t get to write for the Stones more often.
14. “One Hit (To The Body)”: One of the high points from the rarely-discussed 1986 album Dirty Work. Another Jagger/Richards/Wood song, it features a guest guitar solo by Jimmy Page, as well as backing vocals by soul legend Bobby Womack (who wrote one of the band’s earliest hits, “It’s All Over Now”) and Patti Scialfa, who (at the time) was a new member of The E Street Band.
15. “Sad Sad Sad”: By the late ’80s, after the band hadn’t toured for their last two albums (Dirty Work and 1983’s Undercover) and Mick and Keith had done solo albums, it looked like the Stones might be done. “Sad Sad Sad” kicked off their comeback album, 1989’s Steel Wheels, and announced to the world that the band rocked as hard as ever.
16. “Thru And Thru”: 1994’s Voodoo Lounge was the group’s first album after Bill Wyman quit; it also marked the beginning of their two-decade-plus relationship with producer Don Was. “Love Is Strong” was the big hit, but there were many gems on the album that didn’t get enough attention, including this Keith-sung ballad. (See also “The Worst,” another Keith song on the same album).
17. “Out Of Control”: From 1997’s Bridges To Babylon, an album where Mick was in the mood to experiment (although the rest of the band wasn’t). He pulled in production team The Dust Brothers (well known for their work with The Beastie Boys and Beck) to help Don Was on some tracks. But this song, which has echoes of The Temptations’ “Papa Was A Rolling Stone,” was the rare new song that could rock the stadium crowds that the Stones played to on that tour. (Check out the live version that closes the 1998 No Security concert album.)
18. “Thief In The Night”: Also from Bridges To Babylon, one of Keith’s loveliest lead vocals.
19. “Stealing My Heart”: A new song recorded specifically for their last career-spanning collection, 2002’s Forty Licks. Of the four then-new songs from that collection, “Don’t Stop” was chosen as the single, and is included on GRRR!
20. “Infamy”: Another Keith classic, this one closed their last LP, 2005’s A Bigger Bang. Practically a Keith solo number, he plays guitar, bass and keyboards, with Mick singing backing vocals, playing harmonica and a bit of guitar and Charlie on the drums. It would have been a great “last” Stones song, but happily their two new songs on GRRR! – “Doom And Gloom” and “One More Shot” show that the band still has life in them fifty years on.
Check out the tracklists to the different versions of GRRR! here, and let us know what songs you think we missed!
— Brian Ives, CBS Local