“Gimme Shelter,” “Paint It Black,” “Sympathy for the Devil,” “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” — all amazing Rolling Stones song that you’re probably sick to death of. Those four, along with about 20 other Stones classics, are seemingly played on the radio and in movie trailers every three seconds, to the point where the bitterness of “Under My Thumb” has been scrubbed away by jingles for Big Al’s Used Car Lot, right off Exit 69.
Today, the Stones announced tour plans to celebrate their 50th anniversary together, so we’ve put together a soundtrack of largely forgotten classics throughout their lengthy discography that don’t make you want to crash your car into a tree to stop hearing “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” for the 47th time today.
“Tell Me” (England’s Newest Hit Makers)
The first great Jagger/Richards pop collaboration was also the first Stones-written song released as an A-side. It charted at #24 in 1964, but has largely been forgotten, though you might be familiar with the Dead Boys cover on their second album, We Have Come for Your Children.
“The Last Time” (Out of Our Heads)
Out of Our Heads was the Stones’ often awkward growing pains albums. They began to resemble the great band they would eventually turn into, but it still contained a few too many covers, though their “That’s How Strong My Love Is” is pretty great. (Then again, a dying rhino and/or Nickelback couldn’t make that song not sound great.) There’s nothing awkward about “The Last Time,” though, unlike that segue — it’s confident, soulful, and made all the better by the Verve, obviously.
“Connection” (Between the Buttons)
Or the time Mick Jagger and Keith Richards wrote a great two-minute song about airports.
“Stupid Girl” (Aftermath)
“Under My Thumb” is generally considered the Rolling Stones greatest bitter song, and although that might be true, don’t overlook “Stupid Girl.” It’s a bit obvious and more overtly hateful (I mean, it’s called “Stupid Girl”), but it’s venomous in a fun way, and a reminder that the Stones are more punk than we give them credit for.
“Torn and Frayed” (Exile on Main St.)
Not unlike Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which might be the Beatles most known work yet produced exactly zero #1 singles, Exile on Main St. is most Stones fans go-to pick for their favorite album. It’s mine, too, because it’s everything that I like about the band: it’s dirty, the production is rough, and there’s no trace of the thin white-man blues of their earlier work or the overwhelming pretentiousness of their later material. Really any track from Exile would work for this list, but let’s go with “Torn and Frayed,” if only because Mick sounds at his most fragile here and it’s a blast to sing while you’re plastered in some godforsaken dive.
“Starf*cker” (Goats Head Soap)
The beginning of the end of the Stones’ greatness, 1973’s Goats Head Soap was excessive and, at times, an unintentional parody of itself. But it ends with a great Chuck Berry rip-off, “Starfucker,” which seems to wink at the band’s worldwide fame. “Your tricks with fruit was kind a cute/I bet you keep your p*ssy clean/Honey, I miss your two tone kisses/Legs wrapped around me tight/If I ever get back to New York, girl/Gonna make you scream all night” is boastful to an extreme that you have to respect.
“If You Can’t Rock Me” (It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll)
The only worthwhile song — and a personal challenge, at that — on an otherwise uneven album.
“Fool to Cry” (Black and Blue)
In 1974, Mick Taylor left the band, leaving the Stones without a second guitar player. That’s why Black and Blue “rocked” less than their previous albums (and apes other genres in a way the band hadn’t done before), so it’s not surprising that the album’s two big highlights were its pair of ballads. There’s “Memory Motel, but also “Fool to Cry,” which, once you get past its corny, of-its-time intro, turns into an mournful, meta moment of Jagger acknowledging that the Stones aren’t as great as they used to be, but they’re still better than most. What’s the point in self-pity if you can record something as affecting as “Fool to Cry”?
“Far Away Eyes” (Some Girls)
Some Girls proved that the Stones still had something left in the tank, and though its best known for “Miss You,” its unintentional (and overrated) disco hit, “Far Away Eyes,” which resembles their Let It Bleed-era country ways, is the song that most lives up to the album’s comeback status.
“Sad Sad Sad” (Steal Wheels)
We’re skipping past Emotional Rescue, Tattoo You, Undercover, and Dirty Work not because those albums are terrible (in fact, Tattoo You is fantastic), but because Steal Wheels was the Stones record that brought Jagger and Richards back together after some patchy years in the late 1980s. It’s not a classic by any means, but it does have “Sad Sad Sad,” one of the late-era’s Stones best self-assured, c*ck-strutting songs. If only the rest of the album was good as its first track.