We now continue with the R list, which is racing more rapidly than I thought. This week, we only deal with my favourites from the Rolling Stones.
If I wanted to cheat (as I did once before) and skip ahead to Retro Roundup's A-Z list of our favourite albums, I would just advise faithful readers to immediately purchase the 1972 album Exile On Main Street, for its great songs and supremely, wonderfully decadent atmosphere dripping from the vinyl (or cassette, or CD, or mp3, or whatever comes next).
But I will restrain myself and limit this week's writings to individual songs, in no particular order of preference or chronology:
We Love You/Dandelion: Instead of leading the pack, the Stones decided to follow the crowd in 1967 and go psychedelic, not only with the self-indulgent Their Satanic Majesties Request album, but with the standalone single release highlighted in bold a few lines above.
We Love You is the less poppy of the sides, a somewhat sinister sounding thank you to the Stones fans who stood in support of Keith Richard(s) and Mick Jagger as they were jailed for drug offences and nearly got long sentences. The intense keyboard part that opens the song is fantastic, but even better is Charlie Watts' impactful drumming during the song's climactic section.
Dandelion represents what Their Satanic Majesties Request should have been, a bright, wonderful flowery pop masterpiece filled with hooks instead of boring ragas. And again, Watts' drumming is wonderful.
Jumpin' Jack Flash: This 1968 standalone single represented the band's emergence from psychedelia and return to rock. The opening riff alone should be enshrined in the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame, while the whole song should be a desert island disc for any lover of rock 'n roll.
Street Fighting Man: Speaking of openings, the story here is that the riffs kicking off this song were recorded by Keith Richard(s) in very low-fi form, and it's my belief that it's one of the greatest musical decisions ever made by anybody. It exactly matches the political intensity of the song's theme, recorded in a year of extreme political intensity (1968). The mono single mix is even more extreme, burying Mick Jagger's voice (and adding some reverb) for an interesting and even more ominous effect.
Dear Doctor: This song, like the one just above, was recorded for the classic album Beggar's Banquet, and chronicles the relief of a man who was delivered from marrying a less than beautiful woman. What he calls her would ensure that this song could never be released in 2018 without severe social media and general condemnation. Still, the song is hilarious.
Miss You: This 1978 single, a huge hit, is referred to by many as a disco song, but it just sounds like a great rock song with a beat. Again, Watts provides a great drum part during the song's climax, one of his best— it provides a real sense of musical tension as The Who frequently did as well. What I like even better is the song's extended 12" mix, with extra and very cool vocals by Jagger.
2,000 Light Years From Home: Yes, it's from the rather self-indulgent Satanic Majesties, and this song is a little over the top in psychedelic effects, but Watts' minimalist but effective drumming after the instrumental break is one of my favourite moments in Stones history.
Citadel: Can't believe I'm doing this, but here's another track from Majesties. In this case, I love the droning sound effect that sounds off throughout most of the song.
Side 4 of Exile: Okay, I'm one quarter cheating. The songs on this side of the classic Exile on Main Street LP comprise the best examples of intense rock and blues, particularly the cover version of blues icon Robert Johnson's Stop Breaking Down and the final track Soul Survivor, which has a guitar riff that could stun an animal at 50 yards.
Time Waits For No One: Yes, it's long, a little indulgent and a bit poppy, but I love the song's ambition and Mick Taylor's towering guitar solo. And the tick-tock drumming is interesting and unique.
(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction: Can't leave off the Stones first #1 hit and the home of one of Keith's best riffs and Jagger's best vocals, now can we? But this entry is also an advisory to stick with the original mono single mix. The stereo version that was first released on CD in England in the 1980s is a mess. (By the way, if you're so inclined, you can find rare stereo mixes of the great 1965-66 singles 19th Nervous Breakdown and The Last Time floating around YouTube.
Think: This song from 1966's Aftermath album has another one of those "stun gun" riffs from Keith. But I actually prefer the cover version recorded by Chris Farlowe, which has a roaring horn part.
Gimme Shelter: In terms of sound quality, 1969's Let It Bleed album is one of the Stones' best. But this song, which many see as signalling the end of the 1960s and a summation of the turbulence of the decade in general, was — like Street Fighting Man — recorded low-fi, which enhances the song's ominous atmosphere. Oh, and the crack in background singer Merry Clayton's voice is one of the best musical moments ever — and you can hear a member of the band utter "woo!" in response.
Please understand, one of my pet peeves is audience members who scream "woo!" at the top of their lungs (and in my ear) at concerts and political events. But in this case, the "woo!" is more than justified.
Next time: The Ronettes and others