Jagger/Richards. Anyone who knows modern popular music immediately thinks of the Rolling Stones on reading those names.
Both are now 70+. So today, most people likely think of them – and the Stones – as tired, aging old rock-n-rollers who still perform hits of yesteryear. And I guess today that’s accurate.
It’s also a shame. Because thinking of them as they are today, sometimes we forget just how damn good these guys were at their peak.
Their peak began in 1968, while the three primary members of the Stones (Jagger, Richards, and the late Brian Jones) were all facing potentially lengthy prison sentences. Though the band had had success previously – and had released “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” in 1965, nearly universally held to be perhaps the best rock & roll tune ever written – they still weren’t fully “locked in”.
The experience of facing jail apparently caused them to focus their efforts. And focus they did.
They returned to their blues/rock&roll roots. Musically, the result was good. And it stayed good for four full years – from May 1968 to May 1972.
Here’s a Baker’s dozen tunes from the Stones’ peak – the original versions. If it’s been a while since you’ve listened to them it might be worth the time to listen again, if for no other reason than to remind yourself just how good they were. (And if you’ve never really listened to the Stones of that era, it might also be worth your while.) The songs are presented roughly in chronological order.
Here’s a bit of perspective. “Midnight Rambler” is considered a quintessential Stones tune. “Honky Tonk Woman” and “Brown Sugar” were #1 hits. “Street Fighting Man” was hugely musically innovative and considered so subversive in it’s day (1968) that many US radio stations wouldn’t play it – but still made the top 50.
And IMO they are the four weakest tunes in the set. The other nine tunes are better.
Find a good set of headphones, crank up the volume a bit – and enjoy. They’re from before the days of music videos, but the audio should be near CD-quality.
- Jumpin’ Jack Flash
- Street Fighting Man
- Sympathy for the Devil
- Gimme Shelter
- Let it Bleed
- Midnight Rambler
- Monkey Man
- You Can’t Always Get What You Want
- Honky Tonk Woman
- Brown Sugar
- Wild Horses
- Can’t You Hear Me Knocking
- Tumbling Dice
During their 1969 US tour, the Stones began billing themselves as “the world’s greatest rock & roll band”. The billing stuck as the group’s unofficial slogan. They still use it today.
Marketing hype is typically exactly that – hype. And calling the Stones “the world’s greatest rock&roll band” today is probably nothing but hype.
But from 1968-1972, that slogan might well have been the truth.