The Rolling Stones’ 19 greatest songs revealed

With the Stones playing Wembley on Saturday, which are their greatest songs, of course, becomes an urgent question.

The Rolling Stones, Southampton, 2018
The Rolling Stones, Southampton, 2018

Here is my take. But what is yours?

1) Let’s Spend The Night Together. The cheeky rascals. How can you not listen to it and think of that hilarious US TV show on which they sang it? Mick had been told that in 1960s America you really really can’t go singing about spending the night together. He was told to change the lyric to Let’s Spend Some Time Together. He dutifully complied… but the way he rolled his eyes each time he sang it was priceless. Absolutely priceless. The little scamp!

2) Like A Rolling Stone. An absolutely glorious song which feels like an anthem, their anthem. Thank you for writing it, Bobby D, but it was never truly yours. It’s the Stones wot nailed it.

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    3) Biggest Mistake. One of the more modern songs. Well, it’s all relative. But I’d never really rated it until I was standing bored stiff in a French supermarket one day. Suddenly it was playing, and I have loved that song ever since. The couscous, the baguettes, the tartes aux pommes faded. Suddenly I was somewhere else.

    4) This Place Is Empty – a sublime Keef vocal. Never better. Well, apart number 10 below.

    5) Ruby Tuesday – how can you not sway, how can you not sing along? Love the verse, but when Ruby Tuesday comes back in, wow. Just wow.

    6) Angie. Maybe the word beautiful is a word best used sparingly with the Stones. It’s probably not quite what they are all about. But goodness, this is beauty in a song, enhanced beyond measure by Nicky Hopkins’ lyrical piano. What a guy. The keyboard equivalent of Mick Taylor. Grace, elegance, mastery.

    7) Happy. You’ve just got to love that lyric, the lyric that sums up Keef so completely. “Always took candy from strangers.” What a line. He’s the rogue, the rascal. Let’s not ponder too much just what that candy was…

    8) Sympathy For The Devil. Absolutely at the top of the tree. There’s probably not another song that epitomises the sheer rhythmic power of the Stones. It gets in your head. It gets under your skin. It stays there. It sends you. It is hypnotising. All you can do is give yourself up to it. Wicked in every way.

    9) Start Me Up. So positive. It’s been my phone tone for years. This is what I want to go out to at my funeral. Just love it – and love that video all those years ago. Mick prancing around so much that he fluffs his mime as his own voice comes in. Hilarious. Only Mick could carry it off.

    10) We Had It All. Not a Stones song, but indisputably Keith’s finest vocal. So much tenderness, so much said. Stunning. Absolutely stunning. Another one for the ceremony that will send me on my way. Oh and also In My Life by The Beatles and Some Fantastic Place by Squeeze, just in case anyone is interested.

    11) You Can’t Always Get What You Want. Listen to the words and listen to the way Mick mangles them. Mick at his finest. Listen to the 1973 Brussels live version for that wonderful double solo too – Mick Taylor weaving pure magic on the guitar and Bobby Keys, no one finer on the saxophone.

    12) Brown Sugar. OK, so they have dropped this one. Un-PC maybe, but as one of the Stones once said, immodestly perhaps but completely accurately, it’s the greatest dance track ever written.

    13) Don’t Stop. Another (relatively) recent one. What a track. Love the chug. One of my favourite running songs.

    14) Out Of Time. Will never forget hearing it for the first time. Sixth-form film soc, the Vietnam war film Coming Home. I heard this amazing song. And then I recognised the voice. It was the Stones… a Stones song I had never heard. Brilliant. And fantastic that they are reviving it for the current tour.

    15) Satisfaction. The old chestnut. Was he really, really, really singing about poor room service? Hmmm. But those opening chords. Does anything else offer quite the same shiver right the way down the spine? Almost certainly not.

    16) Jumping Jack Flash. Same as with Satisfaction. A classic that really is a classic. Never ages, never wearies. Unlike all the rest of us.

    17) Gimme Shelter. So much in the Sympathy For The Devil/Midnight Rambler vein. A mesmerising trip into the dark side. Haunting, disturbing, hypnotic.

    18) Honky Tonk Women. Will always remember hearing it live for the first time. The rhythm, the lyrics delivered in the way that only Mick can, the solo, the naughtiness, that dark side again. Never less than electrifying.

    19) Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker). Just wicked. Especially the patterns that Mick Taylor weaves all over it on that glorious 1973 Brussels version.