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Your Weekend Arbitrary List to Argue About

[ 199 ] May 7, 2017 |

The latest Vulture “every track ranked” list does the Stones. It’s not the worst of these (which is the Led Zep list that basically ranks the songs by AOR airplay, which works particularly badly for that band), but of course there’s plenty to agree with or complain about.   A reader asked for my alternative top 5, which I played around with before deciding that 1)there’s too much competition and 2)I have trouble divorcing songs from their best period from their albums. So while you can feel free to do so I’ll just add some random comments:

  • The fact that the author doesn’t know that the excerpt from “Key To The Highway” was a tribute to the recently deceased Ian Stewart doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in his judgment.
  • I agree with the implicit augment that Sticky Fingers and Let It Bleed are their greatest albums, although “Wild Horses” belongs more towards the end than the front of the former’s songs. Any track-by-track rather than album-qua-album list will disadvantage Exile, though.
  • The rankings of songs on Goat’s Head Soup and especially Some Girls strike me as bizarre. (“Respectable” ranking behind “Lies,” “Imagination,” and a bonus cut?) I agree that the title track of the otherwise-excellent Some Girls sucks, though.
  • I do appreciate him standing up for the best material on Satanic Majesties, especially “2000 Man.”
  • I agree, FWIW, that Dirty Work is a little underrated and their second-best album of the 80s. I don’t get the idea that their 80s albums, are, in general, better than the 3 subsequent non-covers albums, all of which are as good or better than Dirty Work and way better than Steel Wheels or Undercover. Any 80s-over-90s argument would have to lean heavily on Tattoo You, which since it’s mostly polished outtakes from the 70s doesn’t really count.
  • Speaking of which, I’m guessing a lot of criticism will focus on the relatively high ranking of “Start Me Up.” While it’s too high I will out myself as an apologist for this anthem of sports arenas everywhere, for two reasons: 1)”Brown Sugar”‘s riff without its lyric is a valuable public service; 2)Charlie’s fills, especially in the second chorus.
  • I suppose it’s pointless contrarianism to complain about “Satisfaction” in the top 10. It’s a very good song, of course, but even among singles from roughly that era, if we’re talking aesthetic quality rather than influence there are a number I prefer, including “Get Off My Cloud,” “19th Nervous Breakdown” and “Long, Long While” (which is obscenely low at 203.)
  • “The Worst,” which is at 202, also belongs a lot further up from the likes of “Where The Boys Go” and Exile-outtakes-for-good-reason, as does “Saint of Me” (one of their strongest post-Tattoo You tracks, with Ronnie doing an excellent Keith impersonation and Waddy Watchell doing a good Mick Taylor impression, and unusually committed vocals from late-period Mick.)

Anyway, I open the floor to the parlor game.


Comments (199)

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  1. vic rattlehead says:

    How the fuck is Sweet Virginia not top ten?

    Re Tattoo You songs: Start Me Up is waaaaaay overrated. No Use In Crying seems perrenially underrated-it’s one of their best ballads. Slave is another great one.

    • Ahenobarbus says:

      Oh come on. If you love the song, great, but it’s hardly shocking that it wouldn’t make the top 10.

      Heck, Tumblin’ Dice isn’t even in the top 10.

    • Dennis Orphen says:

      Worried About You is also underrated.

      • Scott Lemieux says:

        I actually prefer both it and “Tops” to “Waiting for A Friend,” the Sonny Rollins cameo notwithstanding.

        • Dennis Orphen says:

          The year that album came out, a 13 or 14 year old me was walking home and he passed by his one grade older friend who lived a few doors down. His friend was out in the driveway washing his parents car in anticipation of some of the responsibilities that would come with using it when he received his drivers license. We both were big stones fans (mostly because we liked music in general, being jockish or slightly nerdy otherwise). He had just picked up the Tattoo You LP, and I didn’t have a copy yet. So naturally, he had to tell me we finally had a copy to listen too, yelling to me down the block as soon as I was within earshot. When I was close enough to talk, the first thing I asked was how the other songs were, and were more of them like Start Me Up, which we both liked, and wanted more of. He said something to effect of that It didn’t matter, side two was different, amazing, and what I needed to hear. 36 years later, and I’ve never forgotten that moment.

          • Scott Lemieux says:

            My Grade 5 teacher put her new copy on during gym after getting it over her lunch break.

            • Dennis Orphen says:

              Those were different times, especially for youth culture(RIP?) weren’t they? Still waiting for Bolan to be on the cover of Dynamite over here, although I should be reading Creem, learn more over there, even if I don’t understand a lot of it……

    • lhartmann says:

      you might like this version of Start Me Up better.

  2. NewishLawyer says:

    My personal faves: Play With Fire, Paint It Black, Mother’s Little Helper, 19th Nervous Breakdown, Miss You.

  3. Dennis Orphen says:

    All About You should be #1. And the beat Stones Album after Exile and Tattoo You ( never mind the release date) is John Phillips’ Pay Pack and Follow.

  4. SatanicPanic says:

    I’ve only gotten to the general notes and I’m already annoyed:

    Keith Richards is the Rolling Stone everyone loves, the one with whom you could imagine sharing a beer. Mick, not so much.

    Oh hell no. My takeaway from Life was that poor Mick had to put up with an angry, bitter troll in his band for longer than I’ve been alive. I dunno if the band would have been better without Keith, but Mick has handled him with more grace than I would have.

    • Dennis Orphen says:

      Keith is one of my core musical heroes and a role model (b&b late 70’s/80’s version, not the junkie Keith, ick!). However, you’re probably right, he’s not the guy you want to have a beer with. He’s more the guy you hope puts in a good word for you with his dentist and that older eastern european fellow who always compliments you on your redneck chic western wear when you cross paths.

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      I agree, but in fairness this is also the author’s view — he rebuts the quoted sentence.

      My Life is superb when it’s writing about music, but the gossipy score-settling gets tiresome pretty quickly. Mick definitely comes off as the good guy inadvertently.

    • petesh says:

      Uh, it’s not Mick’s band. I think Charlie nailed that when he knocked Mick across a table and nearly out the window, and said “I’m not your drummer, you’re my fucking singer.”

      • SatanicPanic says:

        Charlie is maybe the only outstanding talent in the bands in terms of musical ability, but as far as the Stones goes, I’d argue technical ability isn’t what sells records. Their ability as songwriters, their keen ear for finding and maybe predicting trends, and their showmanship are all things that Charlie doesn’t have much to do with. But to be honest I didn’t mean that Mick’s band, only that he’s in a band with Keith.

        • Cool Bev says:

          I’d never heard that Charlie Watts was technical – didn’t I read that the band would sometimes drop a half-bar and laugh at Watts as he tried (in vain) to find the one?

  5. wjts says:

    I’d stump for Beggars Banquet as their best album. “Jigsaw Puzzle” is my idiosyncratic favorite track off that one.

  6. jeer9 says:

    #1: Heartbreaker

    #2: Sympathy For The Devil

    #3: Gimmee Shelter

    #4. Beast Of Burden

    #5: Shattered

  7. Keaaukane says:

    Per last week’s thread, why isn’t Bittersweet Symphony on the list?

  8. solidcitizen says:

    Like some people are, inexplicably, “not Beatles” people, I am, inexplicably, not a Stones guy. I look at this list and see that Jumpin’ Jack Flash is apparently uncontroversially ranked #4. I hear that song and I wonder “Is this supposed to be a good song? Is this why I am supposed to like the Stones?” Apparently so. I feel the same way about Get Off of My Cloud, Start Me Up, Beast of Burden, and so many more. They have a few all-time great songs (Sympathy, Ruby, Satisfaction), but so do many other bands. I just don’t get it.

    • Nobdy says:

      Are you a boomer? I think part of it is an age thing. The Stones are of an era and represent that era, and unlike the Beatles they kept making music and touring into the era when boomers were rich and could actually afford their concerts. Plus they were very innovative.

      I like the Stones OK (and I do like Jumping Jack Flash, though I don’t absolutely love it) but they don’t resonate with me on some deep level. Like when I first started listening to John Coltrane (to name an artist in a different genre who was also not of my era) I said “holy shit” and the Stones never provoked that reaction.

      You have to let people have the music of their era. I assume if I talked to a #Teen today about Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness they would be like “That album name is stupid and it definitely did not need to be a double album, what are you ON about old man?”

      And I would have to just shake my head and say “Porcelina of the Vast Oceans is 9 minutes long, starts with a half minute of silence, and is a PERFECT SONG you ingrate!”

      Context matters for music.

      • The Great God Pan says:

        I was in high school at the time and I have to agree with Hypothetical Modern Everyteen. Siamese Dream was the pinnacle.

        • Nobdy says:

          I was 11 when it came out, so it JUST missed me.

          I bought it a few months after Mellon Collie blew my mind, and know it’s objectively better, but you and the #teen will never be able to convince me to LOVE it more.


        • My ranking of Pumpkins albums would probably go something like (best first) Siamese Dream, Adore, Mary Star of the Sea (I don’t care that it’s not really a Pumpkins album), Mellon Collie, Pisces Iscariot, Machina II, The Aeroplane Flies High, Machina, Gish, ?

          I still like Gish, but never got into it as much as the others. And Adore was criminally underrated for too long, though it finally seems to be getting the love it deserves.

          I haven’t listened to the reunion stuff at all yet. I’ve heard that some of the Teargarden by Kaleidyscope (sp?) stuff is fairly good but just haven’t been able to make myself get around to it yet.

          • Denverite says:

            I once hung out on a corner in River North/Gold Coast with Billy Corgan for 5 minutes or so. We were walking from a Chinese restaurant to the 600 North Michigan movie theater to see Signs (the M. Night Shyamalan alien film that is actually pretty good IMO) and he was out smoking on a stoop. I said something along the lines of “hey Billy, how’s it going,” and he actually responded “great, what are you guys up to?”. We told him that we were going to see a movie, he asked what, and we generally shot the shit for a few minutes. It was surreal in retrospect. (Also, he’s unexpectedly tall — like 6’4″ or so IIRC.)

    • Erik Loomis says:

      In a similar observation, I am just flat out not a Springsteen guy.

      • Dennis Orphen says:

        I agree with that on both general principles and practice but Hungry Heart’s a great song to listen to and even sing out loud acapella sometimes, ennitt?

      • Srsly Dad Y says:

        Exactly what I was going to write. Bruce probably tops my list of artists I respect but don’t “get” why people love them.

        • Erik Loomis says:

          Yeah, it’s not I like I dislike Bruce. I just don’t get it.

          • Nobdy says:

            A lot of it has to do with his legendary live shows and how important he is to New Jersey specifically. My recollection is that during the 80s Springsteen was respected everywhere but only an absolute legend in Jersey. I think the Jersey worship of him has sort of leaked into the mainstream. He has a lot of incredibly passionate advocates who made their way into various positions of cultural influence.

            There’s also the throwback thing. He was a traditional rock star at a time when the big acts were more pop, R&B or, later, rap. So rock fans sort of concentrated around him. He’s a throwback and there’s not a TON of competition in his specific space during his era.

            • Srsly Dad Y says:

              I don’t even get the idea that he was a traditional rock star. Sounds like a highly competent wedding band to me.

              • Nobdy says:

                First of all, I refer back to the comment about the live shows.

                Secondly, have you actually listened to Born to Run or Thunder Road?

                I can understand not liking Springsteen, but come on, if you can’t hear the arena rock power of the chorus of Thunder Road I’m not sure what to say.

                No Surrender is another one. Those are big, catchy, songs with good hooks. They are MADE for waving a lighter around to in a big crowd of people swaying alongside of you in the old Meadowlands stadium.

                • TroubleMaker13 says:

                  I can understand not liking Springsteen, but come on, if you can’t hear the arena rock power of the chorus of Thunder Road I’m not sure what to say.

                  Totally with you. I’m by no means a Springsteen fan, but I actually feel like some of his work is underrated for its pure garage rock intensity.

                • rm says:

                  I think Springsteen’s best songs have great lyrics. I don’t care as much about the guitar line in “Born to Run” as the words, because I don’t really understand music but I do require a song to have good lyrics.

                  “Wendy, let me in” is a brilliant line. The song went through many performed versions before Bruce decided to name the lover “Wendy,” and with that the narrator is suddenly a would-be Peter Pan and a much less reliable and more pathetic character.

                  Edit: was trying to reply to the comments just below

              • David Allan Poe says:

                I’ll go even further and say I don’t find him to be a particularly compelling songwriter, either.

                I don’t really dislike him, and I’m not moved to passionately argue against him while drinking the way I might against say, Pearl Jam, Eric Clapton, or the Grateful Dead. I just kind of shrug my shoulders at everything he’s done that I’ve ever heard.

              • Srsly Dad Y says:

                The main guitar line in Born to Run is non-bluesy and is doubled by the sax and some sort of synthesized bells. There’s a sax solo. I hear a wedding band with a bitchin sound system playing to a stadium of Disco Sucks people.

                • David Allan Poe says:

                  This comment made me sit here and try to remember the “Born to Run” riff. I can’t do it, and in fact when I try I just keep thinking of the beginning of Blondie’s “Dreaming”, which is a way better song and one I’d happily listen to three or four times in a row.

            • Dennis Orphen says:

              If Rock and Roll was the American League West of the late 70’s, Springsteen would be the Kansas City Royals. Now who would be the Angels and the Twins (Cheap Trick would be the Brew Crew, over in the East, don’t even think about using them)?

            • tsam says:

              He introduced himself to me with Dancing in the Dark, so he was fine tossing out a pop song here and there for whatever reason. Born in the USA and I’m on Fire changed my attitude about him completely. Both perfect songs.

          • Dennis Orphen says:

            He’s safe(er). It’s the inverse of why the Stones are my faves: They’re not! (Unsafe does not mean reckless in this context, it means something else and is also more complex conceptually and far more in the mental than the physical sphere. The boss is okay for me, when he’s at his most dangerous.

            • someoneelse says:

              The classic Greil Marcus quote, rewriting a 70’s “you’ve got a friend” ad for Jonathan Edwards as an imaginary ad for Mick Jagger: “His songs are loud, brutal and mean, containing feelings you like to pretend you do not have, recollections you would like to forget and temptations that up until now you have wisely avoided – Mick Jagger, a new friend.”

        • Srsly Dad Y says:

          Hard to think of anyone who’s even close to his quadrant on a graph where X is how acclaimed the artist is and Y is how much I don’t get it.

        • cleek says:

          my top three are:

          The Clash
          The Ramones

          • Srsly Dad Y says:

            Oh see I totally get the social class and sonic aspects of the last two.

            • MaxUtility says:

              Yeah, you really can’t “get” the Clash or Ramones outside of the context of the cultural time period or the moment in music history. Neither of their stuff can stand alone the way some other “greats” can. (See: Stones, Rolling)

              I suspect that is part of why I don’t “get” Springsteen. There was no context for me at the time.

              • I find London Calling still stands almost perfectly on its own, actually. I completely agree about the Ramones, though. I’m just lost by them. I appreciate their contribution to music in its historical context on an intellectual level, but I don’t get any particular emotional reaction to it.

                I enjoy quite a lot of Springsteen’s work, but there are periods I’ve gotten into a lot more than others. Born to Run and The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle are my favourites.

                • Cool Bev says:

                  Springsteen lost me around Born to Run and Darkness. I like his uptempo rockers and Fellini-from-Jersey lyrical excursions (“Listen to your junkman, listen to your junkman.”)

              • David Allan Poe says:

                Totally disagree about the Clash. Strummer/Jones were legitimately great rock songwriters and arrangers, and the four-piece (with Topper Headon as opposed to Tory Crimes, who wasn’t much of a drummer) of the London Calling era is as good as guitar-based rock and roll gets. They’re the least context-dependent of all the major early punk bands, except for maybe the Jam.

              • SatanicPanic says:

                Yeah, you really can’t “get” the Clash or Ramones outside of the context of the cultural time period or the moment in music history.

                Wait, what? Unlike the Stones or Jimi Hendrix I was never introduced to the Ramones or the Clash by my parents, so I didn’t grow up with them, but both are really important to me. I can’t imagine punk rock without the Ramones, no one’s done it better. It could help that the early 90s was experiencing a rebirth in that kind of music.

            • cleek says:

              i always feel let-down by both of them. i’m just shy of being able to grow up with them in real time. but i heard a lot about how punk rock as dangerous and rebellious and evil and etc.. but when i heard The Clash, it was Train In Vain and Should I Stay. that is not rebellion. where’s the danger? Lost In The Supermarket doesn’t match the outfits and the name and the iconography. they’re just pop songs.

              and The Ramones seem like cartoons.

              metal delivered on everything punk promised.

    • jpgray says:

      I think a lot of it has to do with what you want out of your music, because, depending on that, the Stones can sound completely derivative/mediocre. Depending on what you’re there for, all you’ll be thinking about is “I’ve heard this done a million times better by someone else.”

      I feel that way about any slow blues song from the Beatles. (ducks)

      • Nobdy says:

        I think a lot of it has to do with what you want out of your music

        Sometimes what you want is catchy guitar riffs playing underneath misogynist and/or racist lyrics that make you very uncomfortable in 2017.

        Like you want to listen to “Under my Thumb” and think “That’s a pretty good little melody but also I want to punch this guy right in his smug face.”

        • petesh says:

          Worth noting: That was my first wife’s favorite Stones song, because that’s how as a young hot chick she had dealt with guys. She just thought it was honest.

      • David Allan Poe says:

        I feel that way about any slow blues song from the Beatles. (ducks)

        I mean, there’s under five of them, probably, and the only one I can think of off the top of my head that would fit that description is “Yer Blues.”

        The Beatles weren’t really interested in “the blues” as white Americans think of it the way the Stones were. They crossed R&B (especially girl-group R&B) with rockabilly to get their early sound. They weren’t at all borrowing some kind of hard-bitten Delta sharecropper musical image in the way the Stones and Led Zeppelin eventually started to do.

      • rm says:

        Yeah, I don’t think anyone thinks the Beatles could do blues, including the Beatles. “Elmore James got nothin’ on this failure” (or “on this, baby” — I think John actually said “favy”) was self-deprecating and self-aware.

        But that’s part of why they were incomparably better than the Stones or any combo that included Clapton* or Page — they were not cheap knock-offs (or outright thefts) of better American music.

        *(exception for when the Beatles included Clapton, of course)

        That’s why the Kinks were better, also.

        I like a number of Stones songs, but I wouldn’t miss them if I didn’t hear them again.

    • Bob says:

      Beatles or Stones?
      Only one possible correct answer to that question: The Kinks.

    • JB2 says:

      When I was building my record collection, I bought most of the requisite Van Morrison records. I never listen to them. Totally do not like that guy, outside of a few Them singles.

      Other heresies: I only like 15 or so Neal Young tunes; can’t abide Leonard Cohen; think about 80% of The Who’s songs really suck; hate most Radiohead & Arcade Fire.

      • Denverite says:

        hate most Radiohead

        I wouldn’t beat myself up too much about that. Most horrible monsters just have something wrong in their brain and really don’t have any control over their objectively despicable opinions.

  9. Incontinentia Buttocks says:

    With the very notable exception of the title song — which belongs with “Brown Sugar” on the all-time list of otherwise great pop songs utterly undone by their appalling lyrical content — Some Girls has just kept growing on me in the decades since its release (it was the first Stones album that I was old enough to have a considered opinion of at the time of its release). I’d still rank it just below their very greatest albums, but it’s a lot closer to them than I thought it was in the late ’70s.

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      I actually don’t agree about “Some Girls” the song — even musically I don’t think it works that well. But otherwise I agree I used to think the album was kinda overrated, but it holds up really well. And the B-sides thing that came out a few years ago was shockingly good, particularly considering that some of the best outtakes were already used on Tattoo You. That was incredibly fertile period at a time when Davies, McCartney, Lennon, Wilson et al. were already in pretty steep decline.

      • Bob says:

        Some Girls came out in 1978. In 1978 The Kinks released Misfits followed a year later by Low Budget. Neither was as good as their best work from the 60’s, early 70’s but both are damn good albums. I would say they were to the Kinks what Some Girls was to the Stones – good albums that only suffered when compared to their best earlier work.
        No argument when it comes to McCartney, Lennon, and Wilson.

      • CrunchyFrog says:

        Again, talking context of the times. In 1978 every band was being told to do a disco number. I jokingly think the reason the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac took so long to release their follow-up albums at that time was to outlive the disco requirement. Bands with disco (or close enough to disco to create an extended play disco version) included Kiss, ELO, Heart, Streisand, Queen, others I’m forgetting, and of course the most evil example of all of them, Rod Stewart.

        Under this pressure the Stones came up with Miss You. Of course there was a long disco version and of course it was very popular in discos. But, man, that was amazing.

        Of course, they ruined all the good karma they earned with that later with Emotional Rescue.

        • Fats Durston says:

          Stones had always copied contemporary African-American styles before Some Girls (electric and country blues, obviously; Motown, embarrassingly; horn soul, “Tumbling Dice,” et al.; doomy 70s soul, “Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo”; falsetto soul, “Fool to Cry”; reggae, shamefully, “Luxury” and “Cherry oh Baby”; funk, “Hot Stuff”). I doubt the pressure came from their label.

        • CHD says:

          That’s a great theory I hadn’t heard before. But it explains a lot: even the Grateful Dead (!!) did disco in Shakedown Street

          • lunaticllama says:

            The Dead also played a disco-version (or maybe, a cocaine-version, considering how much faster they played it) of Brown-eyed Woman on the great ’77 tour.

          • CrunchyFrog says:

            Well, if you lived it – that is, if the only source you had for music was nighttime AM radio stations broadcast at higher power over the vast reaches of the west – then you were painfully aware that new hit songs from established bands were often disco. It didn’t take much reading about the music industry to confirm what was happening.

            Then, during the late 70s recession the record industry did some number crunching and learned to their shock that disco records had far shorter shelf life than pop or rock. As in: disco records over a year old didn’t sell at all with the rare exception of the mega hits like the Bee Gees. Record stores found they needed far fewer bins for disco than for other genres – 3 bins, say, instead of 20. In addition, because of the short shelf disco fans were buying albums less and more just listening to top 40 radio instead.

            This info came out in mid-1979 – yes, the year of the infamous Comisky Park Disco Demolition night – and so a lot of people were under the impression that the death of disco was in reaction to the anti-disco movement. In fact, the record industry stopped funding it and instead began promoting other acts, primarily in the New Wave genre. A comparison of the top songs of the summer of 1979 to 1980 is stunning in terms of just how throughly disco was eradicated from the record industry promotions. Pop disco just died seemingly overnight. Even the Bee Gees album with Streisand in late 1980 was devoid of disco although both had just come off disco megahits.

            And now, 35+ years later, we still have these disco artifacts from non-disco bands as curiosities. “Another One Bites the Dust” – originally mean to be disco, but released after disco’s death – may be my favorite. “I Was Made for Loving You”, “Straight On”, “Miss You”, “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy” … that’s why those songs were made.

        • John Revolta says:

          You could tell this was the case with Blondie because on the record it said “Heart of Glass (The Disco Song)”.

  10. Hells Littlest Angel says:

    “Wild Flowers” was a way better song than “Dead Horses.”

    Only on LGM.

  11. Cheerfull says:

    OT: We’re 10 minutes from release of estimates for French presidential election. They are releasing already estimates that 25.3% voted a blank ballot – the highest number since 1969

  12. bender says:

    With artists like Dylan and the Stones, I think it makes more sense to divide their work into periods and rank the cuts within the period. I’m fond of Under Assistant West Coast Promo Man, but deciding whether it’s better or worse than the studio version of Midnight Rambler seems like a meaningless comparison.

    I can’t stand Sweet Virginia. If you are going to parody country music, be less sophomoric.

    I don’t mind the lyrics of Some Girls. I take it as a portrayal of a certain kind of male attitude, like Lady Jane (not sure if that’s the title; the early track with the harpsichord and attempts at eighteenth century diction). See also the lyrics of Midnight Rambler. Bowie’s China Girl is another example.

    For anyone born after about 1980, I would think that listening to the Stones is like me listening to big bands of the Thirties and Forties. I may enjoy the music but the milieu that made the music important at the time no longer exists.

    • bender says:

      Afterthought: This Could Be the Last Time is misogynist, and utterly sincere, and I like it a lot. Sue me.

      My Silent Generation older brother and I discovered a few years ago that we both prefer the Stones to the Beatles. This was a pleasant discovery, since our tastes and interests are otherwise pretty different.

      • TroubleMaker13 says:

        This Could Be the Last Time is misogynist, and utterly sincere, and I like it a lot. Sue me.

        See also The Beatles “Run for Your Life” on Rubber Soul. The way Lennon repeats the “little girl” line in the chorus is super creepy and menacing.

        • I can’t think of another song where I hate the lyrics that viscerally and still love the musical content that much. There are plenty of other songs that I love despite their lyrics, but that one stands out. I can’t even deny its artistic value despite the super misogynistic lyrics, because it’s a terrifying depiction of what an abuser’s mindset is actually like.

          • Scott Lemieux says:

            Yeah, in terms of sexism I don’t really see Jagger/Richards as being worse than Lennon or Dylan.

            • In Lennon’s defence, he got a lot better about that later (and he later expressed explicit loathing for the song and extreme regret for ever having written it). But yeah, the Stones don’t really stand out as much for the period as some people claim they do.

              • Scott Lemieux says:

                Although I’m more of a Lennon guy to his credit I can’t think of a really sexist McCartney song, although I may be forgetting something. So there were some who transcended the times — since I’m Canadian Leonard Cohen and (a touch later) Bruce Cockburn come to mind — but they’re the exception.

                • I’m the same way. I actually think my ranking of the Beatles might go Lennon, Harrison, McCartney, Starr in terms of how much I enjoy their work (although, to be fair, I’m taking solo careers into account here; All Things Must Pass is probably the best Beatles solo album). But at the same time I also can’t think of a really sexist McCartney song.

                  Even artists who are extremely critical of misogyny these days like Todd Rundgren didn’t get through the sixties and seventies entirely without any questionable lyrics (though, to be fair, Rundgren also doesn’t have anything like the worst Lennon or Jagger/Richard lyrics in his catalogue). On the other hand, I’m also willing to evaluate songs based on the contexts they were written in.

                  (I think Cohen later regretted the lyrics of “Chelsea Hotel No. 2”, so even his catalogue isn’t perfect I guess.)

                • CrunchyFrog says:

                  But at the same time I also can’t think of a really sexist McCartney song.

                  I can’t think of an angry McCartney song. Even on Give Ireland Back to the Irish he has to write “Great Britain You Are Tremendous” to defuse the criticism.

                • David Allan Poe says:

                  Paul could be practically feminist (in the mid-1960s context). Lovely Rita pays for dinner and would have slept with the narrator if not for her meddling sisters, the girl in She’s Leaving Home is a little naive but not criticized at all for running away from home, Eleanor Rigby is as devastating a two-minute portrait of a woman boxed into a certain role as exists in popular music, the girl in “Drive My Car” is the actor in the seduction, “For No One” is about how a woman can leave a man for no particular reason and not be seen as a complete bitch for doing it.

                • Denverite says:

                  All Things Must Pass is probably the best Beatles solo album

                  Plastic Ono Band would like a word (unless you don’t count that as “solo”?).

                  I can’t think of a really sexist McCartney song, although I may be forgetting something.

                  I mean, “Getting Better” is all about how the narrator beats the fuck out of his wife/girlfriend, he’s not doing it nearly as often, so he should get a crapload of credit for that.

                • IIRC, John actually wrote that lyric, even though Paul wrote most of the song. And that might actually have been autobiographical on John’s part; I think he really was realising what a terrible person he’d been in the past and trying to change. (If he wasn’t yet, songs like “Jealous Guy” later on were definitely acknowledgements of it.)

                  Plastic Ono Band is All Things Must Pass’ only serious competition, but I almost always give the latter the nod because there’s more of it. Imagine is probably #3.

                • David Allan Poe says:

                  I mean, “Getting Better” is all about how the narrator beats the fuck out of his wife/girlfriend, he’s not doing it nearly as often, so he should get a crapload of credit for that.

                  I always figured that line was either written by Lennon or written by McCartney and directed at Lennon. It’s totally out of character for Paul and totally in character for John.

                • CrunchyFrog says:

                  And the Getting Better line clearly is saying “This is the horrible stuff I used to do but don’t any more”. Hardly sexist.

                  I would not at all be surprised if this was a message from Paul to John.

                • I just looked it up, because I was certain it had been officially confirmed Lennon had written that stanza, and indeed, Lennon did confirm that it was his own confession of his past misconduct and an admission of guilt.

                  It is a diary form of writing. All that “I used to be cruel to my woman, I beat her and kept her apart from the things that she loved” was me. I used to be cruel to my woman, and physically — any woman. I was a hitter. I couldn’t express myself and I hit. I fought men and I hit women. That is why I am always on about peace, you see. It is the most violent people who go for love and peace. Everything’s the opposite. But I sincerely believe in love and peace. I am a violent man who has learned not to be violent and regrets his violence. I will have to be a lot older before I can face in public how I treated women as a youngster.

                  (From a Playboy interview in 1980)

                • Denverite says:

                  And the Getting Better line clearly is saying “This is the horrible stuff I used to do but don’t any more”. Hardly sexist.

                  I can’t speak to whether John wrote the line or not (it would certainly be in character), but I hardly interpret it like that. I read it as “I don’t do that bad shit nearly as much as I used to,” which isn’t really a credit in my book. The fact that he’s still beating his SO (but not as much!) despite the realization that he shouldn’t be doing so almost makes it worse.

                • I’ve never read the lines that way and as far as I know it’s not how Lennon intended them; see immediately above. That said, from my understanding, it isn’t necessarily easy for abusers who want to reform themselves to do so overnight, but I don’t entirely understand the process and will refrain from commenting further.

                • petesh says:

                  Interesting note, from Rob Sheffield via Christgau: Lennon and McCartney are the only two major rock’n’rollers who followed their main band by working with their respective wives.

                • John Revolta says:

                  I can’t think of an angry McCartney song.

                  “I’m Down”. Angry to the point of terrifying.
                  “Helter Skelter” ain’t bad either.

                • CrunchyFrog says:

                  I’ll give you I’m Down. Didn’t think about that – there probably is another one, but you have to admit it’s pretty rare.

                  Helter Skelter isn’t angry, it’s just a really really bad trip.

              • lambcannon says:

                you are blowing it out your shorts babbling about Yawn and Joko in a Stones thread. the schizoid man you call an avatar is showing his tonsils in deep, crimson embarrassment 4 u. Maybe you need a primal scream on the toilet.

                • Hey, I didn’t directly mention Yoko once, unless you count a reference to a Lennon solo album that happens to mention her in its title as a direct mention, and I wasn’t even the one who brought it up. (Hell, I wasn’t the one who brought up the Beatles, either, and if Scott’s happy to talk about them in his own blog post, maybe it’s time to STFU.)

                • Dennis Orphen says:

                  Maybe you need a primal scream on the toilet.

                  All Things Must Pass has been mentioned previously in this thread.

          • CrunchyFrog says:

            I can’t think of another song where I hate the lyrics that viscerally and still love the musical content that much.

            Sweet Home Alabama

            • I don’t like the musical content of that song much either. It’s far too simple for my tastes; there are really only three chords to most of entire song, and they’re not even particularly interesting chords. (IIRC, almost the entire song is a V-IV-I progression, right? That sounds right offhand, but I haven’t listened to it in awhile.) This is also the main reason I never got into the Ramones despite appreciating what they did for music on an intellectual level.

              I like quite a lot of Skynyrd’s other songs, to be clear. “Sweet Home Alabama” is my least favourite song from Second Helping, and it isn’t even close.

              • MaxUtility says:

                I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anyone arguing for the genius of the Ramones based on their chord progressions.

                • Well, no, that’s obviously not the point. The point is obviously the raw energy more than anything else. The simplicity of their music is probably the main reason it never connected with me on an emotional level, though.

            • jamesepowell says:

              I always thought they were kidding, making fun of the world they grew up in. They are, after all, not from Alabama.

    • TroubleMaker13 says:

      Bowie’s China Girl

      Iggy Pop wrote the lyrics and recorded it first, 6 years before Bowie (although Bowie did co-write, produce, and played keyboard).

    • Dennis Orphen says:

      As another commenter explained (CassandraLeo?) on a previous thread (ranking the Stones LP’s?) the tier system makes more sense than an absolute linear ranking. Rank the tiers, and assign to tiers.

      *I wanted to make the same comment he did, decided it would take to long, as most of my comments are made ‘in the field’ on a mobile device and that time was no exception, then they made the same argument, very eloquently. I would try to find it, but am in the field again, making doing it myself more difficult than it ought to be.

      • That was me, but it wasn’t about the Stones. I missed the “rank the Stones albums” thread. I was ranking Neil Young albums. This was the relevant comment.

        In truth, my rankings of music usually end up this way, because I find that trying to assign an “objective” rating to something as subjective as quality is almost an impossible task. Assigning scores or ranking things in order simply doesn’t work well with my view of music. I suspect the same thing would end up happening with Stones songs if I even were capable of doing so (there are a number of albums I haven’t listened to much or at all, so I definitely wouldn’t be able to rank their whole career).

        I agree with SatanicPanic above that any ranking that includes their four best albums in any order is defensible, though: (Beggars Banquet, Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers, and Exile on Main St., in chronological order.) I’d probably go with the reverse chronological order of those four for my ranking, but ask me after I’ve listened to them again and I might change my mind. I might put Aftermath in my #5 spot, and then maybe Some Girls, but I’m not sure. After that I would definitely be completely at a loss.

        • Dennis Orphen says:

          I just sort of ‘Huck Finned’ you into providing that link, thanks. I’m on a camping trip right now, sitting under one of the last wild inland California Cypress, which is sick, dying and dripping sap. It’s getting all over my hands and the bluetooth keyboard I was fortunate enough to have stashed in a pocket of the messenger bag I always carry (hence the maintenance of verbosity, while my sticky fingers can’t really use the screen very well right now).

      • bender says:

        I made the tier suggestion upthread, with regard to Dylan and the Stones. Probably would apply to other musical artists who write their own material and have long careers.

  13. jamesepowell says:

    I’m tempted to write a really long review of the list and respond to some of the comments upthread but I’m afraid that I would sound like Chuck Klosterman.

    But I can’t resist interjecting this thought: Stones w/Brian Jones when they were trying to compete with the Beatles, Stones with Mick Taylor when they were the Greatest Rock & Roll Band in the World, Stones with Ron Wood when they were primarily a Stones tribute band. Three different bands.

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      The recent book about Brian Jones and the Stones makes a pretty good case that he got screwed out of songwriting credits even more egregiously that Taylor, and it happened in part because Oldham thought it would be cool to have a songwriting duo like Lennon/McCartney.

      • Dennis Orphen says:

        The book is a valid and successful attempt to rehabilitate Jones in the eyes of posterity. It is the Brian Jonestown Massacre after all, people.

      • jamesepowell says:

        You mean this book?

        I will have to check it out. I like reading how songs were developed and especially instruments, arrangements, and engineers notes. I’m not into “behind the music” stuff.

        I’m pretty sure it’s common for band members to get screwed. I mean, are we supposed to believe that during all those sessions, George and Ringo added nothing?

      • JB2 says:

        I’ve read that for many years, but let’s not overrate the Brian Jones-influenced years.

        Cool Calm Collected came on the Underground Garage yesterday while we were in the car. My wife became actively angry: “This is the worst Stones song ever! It sounds like Benny Hill – is that a fucking kazoo?”

    • bender says:

      Those are logical tiers.

  14. mercysquad says:

    Funny that you mention Satisfaction’s place among the 60s singles because I was just thinking about that at work on Friday. My ranking would look something like

    Jumpin’ Jack Flash
    Let’s Spend the Night Together
    Get Off of My Cloud
    19th Nervous Breakdown
    Lady Jane
    Paint It Black
    The Last Time
    Mother’s Little Helper
    Playing With Fire
    Time Is on My Side
    Heart of Stone
    Ruby Tuesday
    As Tears Go By

    Not a big Stones fan so I have to leave off a lot. I wouldn’t really choose to listen to anything post Jones except a few tracks here and there

    • Dennis Orphen says:

      Definitely a tier, and the intra-tier ranking leaves little argue with, perhaps excepting the omission of UMT, possibly a valid one, although one must understand that artists sometimes assume characters, not all expression is autobiographical or confessional.

  15. CrunchyFrog says:

    Re: Satisfaction. Look, we’re all going to have our personal aesthetic preferences, but understanding the song’s appeal in full requires understanding the context of mid-1960s advertising. The best way to get this is probably to do a survey of MAD magazine of the 60s, and such a large part of their material was devoted to satirizing the overly-serious, overly-urgent ad styles of the day. (By 1978 MAD had stopped satirizing advertising altogether, as the industry itself changed.)

    Taken in the context of today Satisfaction’s complaints about “can’t be a man because he doesn’t smoke the same cigarettes as me” and “how white my shirts can be” seem frivolous and silly. At the time they bordered on profound – the whole point of the advertising industry was to tell you, blatantly, that you were nothing without their product.

    Some part of the 60s rebellious attitude was in reaction to the advertising model that had emerged, loud and harsh, in the 1950s.

    • Ahenobarbus says:

      The Who Sell Out would be a good example of this.

    • Dennis Orphen says:

      I look around me and think of the Motor Scooter phenomena parody from the early 60’s often, if not always, right down to the ‘barbarians’ (means ‘other’ not ‘uncivilized’!) from the east, coming in and pushing over the immobile, Weeble-like Americans.

      And I have been for some time, pretty much since I read it as child, reprinted in a Signet paperback, of which I had many and treasured them all.

    • bender says:

      CrunchyFrog is right about the advertising references in Satisfaction. Anybody who doesn’t remember dial telephones is probably not going to get them.

      • Scott Lemieux says:

        I get them, and it’s an excellent song. There are just other singles from the era that I like even more. It’s not an insult to say that DeMacrus Ware isn’t as good as Von Miller.

  16. Denverite says:

    It’s not the worst of these (which is the Led Zep list that basically ranks the songs by AOR airplay, which works particularly badly for that band)

    That list makes me very sad for Bill Wyman. My guess is that the fact that when he dreams of playing the perfect show, he wakes up and his bass work isn’t 1/10 of what Jones does on the Lemon Song or What Is and What Should Never Be, means that he blocks those songs from his memory.

    • David Allan Poe says:

      Nothing I’ve ever read about Bill Wyman suggests he particularly cares about how his bass playing comes across, and nothing about listening to the Stones’ music suggests they particularly did either. He’s the Michael Anthony of 1960s British rock – the guy that makes the noise that bridges the kick drum and the rhythm guitar, who are the ones doing all the work. IIRC, he was hired in the first place because he had the biggest and loudest bass amp in London at the time, and not because of any particular aptitude for the bass.

    • Dennis Orphen says:

      In the playing of the music, the Stones work differently than most rock bands, Neil Young led Crazy Horse and current live Lucinda Williams excepted. Once the band knows the song, the drummer sets the tempo and accents, the bassist follows the drummer (or is locked in with the drummer a la Fleetwood Mac),and the rest of the band sails on top of the rythmn section.
      In the Stones, Keith sets the tempo and accents (the feel) with his guitar, Charlie follows, the bassist follows the drummer, and you’ve got what cab driver Bernie X would call ‘a package’. If any locking in happens, the lead guitarist locks in with Keith (the ancient art of weaving). Your conclusions are valid, but the comparison may be somewhat apples and oranges, as there might not have been as much room for virtuostic bass playing in the Stones without disrupting the formula for the secret sauce.

      • David Allan Poe says:

        I don’t mean virtuoso bass-playing, since mostly that kind of shit is tedious. Your comment is the charitable, positive version of my opinion, which is that Bill Wyman can get away with doing as little as possible because he’s playing behind Keith Richards and Charlie Watts in a band whose primary mission is not to get asses moving. I don’t think Wyman particularly cared about the fact that John Paul Jones, John Entwhistle, Paul McCartney, and James Jamerson were better than him, because he wasn’t that kind of bass player and the Stones weren’t that kind of band. I think Bill Wyman mostly cared about the fact that being the bass player in the Stones made him a millionaire and gave him access to countless women.

    • John Revolta says:

      Well……..anytime you hear a bass part on a Stones song that is really nice……….it’s usually Keef.

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      You do know this is the critic Bill Wyman (who’s written the same “their famous overplayed hit singles were great and everything else they ever released sucked” article about like 100 artists, although admittedly the Stones one was the best), not the bassist Bill Wyman, right?

  17. Cheap Wino says:

    Not a bad list. Only a couple of eye openers for me:

    – Play with Fire at #125? That seems at least 110 spots low.

    – Emotional Rescue not “accidentally” left off the list entirely? Probably my least favorite Stones tune (and I’m no fan of their blues covers phase).

    – Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker) is top 5. I assume there was a editing mistake when the list was published.

    – Monkey Man would be top 5 on my list.

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      All solid points. A lot of people seem to love DDD(H) — see above — but I’m not sure it would make my top 5 of tracks on Goat’s Head Soup.

  18. JB2 says:

    Almost at the very bottom is Melody; I’m not going to argue its any kind of masterpiece, but I’ve always liked it, especially the fade out.

    And at the very top is Can’t Always, etc. Totally do not get that. I always stop listening to Let It Bleed when that horrible choir starts up

  19. Victor Matheson says:

    As long as Sympathy for the Devil cracks the top 5, I think all is well with the world.

    Well, at least until the real devil rears his ugly ferret-topped head again.

  20. lambcannon says:

    when was 9 i purchased the london 45 of not fade away/i wanna be your man. the mastering was so extreme (ffrr indeed) the needle flew out of the groove on my child’s silvertone record player. i had to tape a dime (pennies looked so cheap) on the tone arm to make it play. Immediately i wanted to have a record label, and make records like that. in 1977 i started Dangerhouse records in los angeles with that approach, the results still speak for themselves 40 years later.

    point being, fuck all you childish lawyer-y elitist pricks and your highfallutin anal-ysis; i am very right that these are the best songs of all time, fuck tumbling dice and angie goathead, mick-goes-disco and the rest of it; you are completely wrong and the smell of your adult diapers confirms it. Your childhood memories amount to sophistry, pomp, and cant; fuck you and the internet pig squeal you rode in on. :)

    ps sympathy for the shitheads is engaging, but the congas are way too upfront in the mix.

  21. Crusty says:

    So much of this is just personal taste, but I probably prefer 30-21 over the top ten, and 20-11 over the top ten. My top ten would have bits from that top 30. Some outside there too. Hard to say what would actually make a final ten. But definitely some outside there- All Down the Line would be a contender, as would under my thumb all the way up there at 52. Wowzers, I got the Blues all the way up at 78. Not a top ten candidate, but a personal favorite of mine. Woah, Happy at 80. The last time at 90? I’d better stop.

  22. N__B says:

    Very late to this game…

    I’m a dinosaur rock fan before anything else, so my real response to every comment here is “sure, I agree.” That said, it’s been about 45 years since I first heard Gimme Shelter, and to this day when I hear the opening chords and Merry Clayton’s voice my blood runs cold. That song was how I learned of the limitless emotional power of music.

    • nosmo king says:

      Second this about “gimme shelter”. With this talk of beatles vs stones (the ford/chevy debate of classic britrock), I place myself as a beatles guy b/c for me, “gimme shelter” is so far and away the best stones song it isn’t even funny. and the fact that I can’t name one so obvious best for the beatles gives them the crown.

      I was more of a who guy when I was young, but I have never seen anyone’s muse desert him so completely as townshend’s did. all of his stuff after moon’s death leaves me utterly baffled and cold.

  23. AdamPShort says:

    I was never a stones fan growing up in the 1980’s – my parents didn’t listen to them so i was exposed only to what was on the radio which at that time was primarily Start Me Up (not a fan) and waiting on a friend which i can now appreciate but which at the time struck me as completely preposterous and possibly some sort of parody.

    It wasn’t until college in the mid 1990s that i met a fellow guitar player who, after we played together a couple times and i happened to mention i didn’t like the stones took me to his room and put on beggars banquet. I loved it immediately, especially “Factory girl” which is still my favorite stones song (i realize this is a weird choice. )

    From there i discovered Exile on main street (i don’t get abbreviations of this title – the best album title in rock history. Spell it out. ) which is one of my favorite rock albums of not my favorite.

    A couple other stones albums strike me as pretty good. The rest is to me about on the level of what i would elect to hear in some random bar.

    That’s not to denigrate the stones- two great albums and a couple of really good ones is about all anybody has in them in my view. But i will never develop any opinion on enough stones songs to weigh in on a list like this because most stones sings make me change the channel.

    When your singer can’t sing you’re relying heavily on catching lightning in a bottle songwriting – wise.

  24. Crusty says:

    When I scrolled down to the bottom (top) of the list, and I sad Beast of Burden so high up there I was surprised. I’d always kind of thought of it as a second tier stones hit from the period when they were past their peak, but could still do it, just not as consistently. But when I think about it a little more, I suppose it is deserving of a very high spot in that it is probably the best example of how Keith conceives of the use of guitars and guitarists in the rolling stones. Neither a traditional rhythm or lead, woven together, barely distinguishable from each other.

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