Really, it’s pointless in this age of digital downloading to contend anyone in their right mind would opt for an entire 50-song greatest hits set over pinpoint song selection.
But what’s the point of blogging if you can’t everyone once in a while give into fits of pointlessness?
So here we have the new Rolling Stones 50th anniversary release, “GRRR!” featuring a song for every year they’ve been together and maybe the worst name and worst cover art they’ve ever conceived.
But who cares about that? As always it’s the songs that matter.
These include some of the most indelible songs ever recorded. Most of them we all know by heart.
So you’re fine, but you’re not about whom I’m worried.
Somewhere out there there is some innocent kid who may be unfamiliar with the Stones repertoire. He or she will look to “GRRR!” as the roadmap for how to get into history’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll band.
That person is for whom this post is written.
I will first mention the songs on the actual flawed collection and then the songs that should be there and why.
My list includes 26 different songs than the ones The Stones pick. Read on and you decide who knows The Stones better: me or The Stones.
Warning: As this is excessively long, it’s bound to be typo-laden for now. Sorry!
- “Come On” -- For historical purposes, this Chuck Berry song should stay.
- “Not Fade Away” -- It’s still an ass-kicking standard. It stays, too.
- “It’s All Over Now” -- To hell with history. This is one of my very favorites and it’s still relevant. But 50 is a demanding number, so instead we substitute “Little by Little,” a bluesy romp that features nifty guitar, harmonica and vocal interplay between Mick and Keith.
- “Little Red Rooster” -- A great Willie Dixon blues song pivotal in Stones history for being a milestone indicating their dedication to roots rock. But better is “The Spider & The Fly,” which is also superior for being an original composition. There’s a great scene from the underrated John Travolta film “Michael” from 1996 in which the angel performs a slinky show-stopping dance to this number.
- “The Last Time” -- Goodbye. Jagger and Arcade Fire did a great stomp with this on SNL in May, but discerning Stones fans prefer “Tell Me,” one of the first songs that will point to what a gift this great rock band has for ballads.
- “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” -- I’m temped to leave this off for reasons of familiarity, but it’s too gargantuan to omit.
- “Time Is On My Side” -- I’m bumping this one for the same reasons many of the others from Disc 1 are stricken: It’s a cover version, albeit a dazzling one. Why not instead, “What a Shame?” It’s a Jagger/Richards original with all the sass and swagger that would soon bloom on songs like “Ruby Tuesday.”
- “Get Off My Cloud” -- This stays. Saw them play it live in ’05. Still an anti-authoritarian anthem, an upraised middle finger to anyone who’s ever yelled, “Turn it down!” when someone cool was playing the Stones
- “Heart of Stone” -- This is just too plodding and lacking of any historical significance to keep. The petulant “Sad Day” would be more interesting to fresh ears.
- “19th Nervous Breakdown” -- Oh, this stays, for sure. These lyrics took them to a new level, as do some of the great guitar work. Love it. Love it. Love it
- “As Tears Go By” -- A bit too Victorian for my tastes. How about swapping this version with a great live version from 2008’s “Shine a Light” concert video? It’s a fresh take on an old tune that used to be more more Marianne Faithful than Mick.
- “Paint it, Black” -- This is to the Stones what “All Along the Watchtower” is to Dylan, an average by their standards song that’s somehow become a staple. It plays well in concert, but better is the psychedelic “2000 Light Years from Home.”
- “Under My Thumb” -- A first ballot hall of famer. Even more than “Satisfaction,” this song is where they really begin to assert their own style. Saw them open with this in Buffalo in 1981. It’s a great live song that sounds ferocious with guitar intro.
- “Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadow?” -- Trumpets, reverb and all those incomprehensible lyrics make this an over-produced mess. I’ve always loved “Dandelion.” Beautiful, great Keith harmonies, too.
- “Ruby Tuesday” -- Don’t trifle with perfection. I just heard Little Steven from the E Street Band say no one does ballads better than the Stones. Absolutely. Their ballads are sublime.
• “Let’s Spend the Night Together” -- By all means. Lots of great history with this one with everyone from Ed Sullivan to the Red Chinese in 2006 banning it. Plus, it’s just so damn catchy.
- “We Love You” -- Bravo! The Stones themselves should have put more obscurities like this on here. This is exactly the kind of music to which new listeners should be exposed. Plus, it was written about their mid-60s drug trials, hence the sarcastic title. In truth, they hate them.
Now’s when it starts to get tricky. So many of these songs are consensus picks -- exactly why they should go. Most every Stones fan on the planet has everyone of these in multiple formats. I have seven live or greatest hits versions of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” Most of the songs you’ll see on the last two discs are the same ones you’ll see on the 40th anniversary “Forty Licks” disc. So why the redundancy? So some of these are bound to be controversial.
• “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” -- I’m aiming for controversy, but that doesn’t mean I want people to think I’m an idiot. One of their 50 best? It’s one of their 5 best.
- “Honky Tonk Women” -- See above.
• “Sympathy for the Devil” -- How about a little sympathy for anyone who’d dare leave this off the list. Not me.
• “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”-- For reasons stated above, buh-bye. Let’s instead insert “Monkey Man,” a song where the five bandmates each seem to be playing five different songs on the bridge and all comes magically together.
- “Gimme Shelter” -- When I heard this was included as the lead song on the new Denzel Washington movie, I thought, “Man, I have got to see this movie.” This song is just so primal and that’s what a great Stones song is all about.
- “Street Fighting Man” -- I’m sending this one to a neutral corner in favor of “Jigsaw Puzzle,” also from “Beggar’s Banquet.” Great sly lyrics about rock stardom from the band’s perspective. Very underrated.
- “Wild Horses” -- I love their ballads, but this isn’t one of their best. Most Stones fans will agree one of their best songs is the jazzy jam “Can’t You Hear Me Knockin,” a much more vital song from “Sticky Fingers.”
- “She’s a Rainbow” -- A lovely song celebrating the splendors of women. Let’s just for the sake of argument flip that and include “Bitch.”
- “Brown Sugar” -- Maybe their best? I have often argued that. But that works against it here where our mission is to expose novices to the deeper cuts. So it goes. As the Stones only thought to include two songs from “Exile on Main Street,” their best album, let’s dig into that one for “Sweet Virginia.” Everyone loves that, especially the sing-along chorus that features a barnyard epithet.
- “Happy” -- Keith must have been rehabbing when this set list was put together. It’s inexcusable only one of his songs makes the cut. Well, I got your back Keith. And I’m not even happy about “Happy.” Let’s reach back to “Let it Bleed” for his “You Got the Silver.”
- “Tumbling Dice” -- Like “Can’t Always Get What you Want,” they usually play this at every concert. Unlike that one, this one always strikes me as under-exposed. I can’t hear it enough. It stays.
- “Angie” -- Leaving aside the sneering arguments that this one’s about some odd love triangle involving Jagger and Mr. and Mrs. Bowie, the song’s just kind of listless. Let’s detonate that whole aesthetic by bouncing it in favor of their most filthy song, also from “Goat’s Head Soup.” That would be “Star Star.” This is the one Stones song I’d advise everyone to download if you want to understand the Stones. It’s simply the best and is absolutely filthy.
- “Rocks Off” -- I was glad to see this one made the cut. It’s the first song from “Exile” and is worthy of inclusion.
- “Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)” -- Like “We Love You,” this is an unexpected delight. Love this song.
- “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It) -- Never gets old.
- “Fool To Cry,” -- This from 1976’s “Black ‘n’ Blue” is one of the Stones most lovely ballads and it’s only the second best ballad from the album. The first is “Memory Motel” and it’s, indeed, one of their 50 best songs.
• “Miss You” -- From 1978’s “Some Girls,” such a great album. I really like and recommend “No Spare Parts” and “Do You Think I Really Care?” two of the new bonus tracks recently re-released. I’m tempted to sub “Shattered,” “Before They Make Me Run,” but “Miss You” is just so representative of the album and the era it has to stay.
- “Respectable” -- No disrespect meant, but c’mon. This one’s kind of average. Keith’s “Before They Make Me Run,” take a bow.
- “Beast of Burden” -- Keith’s said this is one of his favorite songs he’s ever written. It’s not mine. But in deference to Keith I’m subbing in what I think is his best in an era-jumping maneuver, “This Place is Empty” from 2005’s “A Bigger Bang.”
- “Emotional Rescue” -- I don’t share the visceral hatred many Stones fans have for this album, but there’s no way I’m including this on any of their greatest hits packages. It’s not even top 100. Instead try “Worried About You,” from 1981. Starts like slow MoTown with languid snaps and guitar licks and then builds to a monster. An outstanding song.
- “Start Me Up” -- I just can’t do it. For all it’s catchiness, it’s really a bit of a bore. It’s the same thing over and over. It can start me up, but it just doesn’t know when to quit. Let’s sub “Sparks Will Fly” from 1994’s “Voodoo Lounge,” a truly great album.
- “Waiting on a Friend” -- Lovely, often overlooked ballad.
- “Undercover of the Night” -- “Undercover” from 1983 is a very average Stones album save for two spectacular songs and this is one of them.
- “She was Hot” -- And this is the other. Outstanding rocker. Fun. Rollicking. Download! Download! Download! Now! Now! Now! It also featured maybe their best rock video.
- “Streets of Love” -- An interesting choice from among the many great songs on “A Bigger Bang.” I’m keeping it.
- “Harlem Shuffle” -- Keeping this is in the spirit of my mission of highlighting under-appreciated songs, but this isn’t the one. It’s from 1986’s “Dirty Work,” which I argue is even worse than “Emotional Rescue.” But I do love “One Hit (To The Body)” and believe it warrants inclusion.
- “Mixed Emotions” -- This is the welcome-back song from what many consider the comeback album of “Steel Wheels” in 1989. I like it, but I’m going with the sublime ballad, “Almost Hear You Sigh.” Remember, nobody does ballads like The Stones. Attention must be paid.
- “Highwire” -- Yes! A true rarity blasting the folly of war. It’s a good tune, too, a studio song from 1998’s otherwise live album “Flashpoint.” But in the spirit of highlighting rarities, I’m going to with a great blues stomp “The Storm” a B-side from “Voodoo Lounge.”
- “Love is Strong” -- Again with Voodoo Lounge? Yes. It’s a great album that’s seems all but forgotten. A keeper
- “Anybody Seen My Baby” -- This song from 1997’s “Bridges To Babylon,” is tainted. Jagger apparently subconsciously lifted the melody from k.d. lang’s “Constant Craving” so alt-country gender bender lang now shares a song-writing credit with Jagger/Richards. I wasn’t even aware of this until I’d read Keith’s autobiography. Who knew? Let’s dump it for a kick-ass rocker, “Gunface.” k.d. lang ain’t touching that one.
- “Don’t Stop” -- A toss off to add interest to the “Forty Licks” 40th anniversary album. It’s okay, but doesn’t belong among the greats. I’m going back to “A Bigger Bang” for “Rough Justice,” although I could have easily chosen, “Back of My Hand,” or “Biggest Mistake,” or any number of others. “A Bigger Bang deserves to be heard.
• “Doom and Gloom” -- Like “Don’t Stop,” this is a new song written to add spice to the an old collection. But, wow, does this work. Great song, great lyrics. It’s a top 50 right out of the gate.
• “One More Shot” -- Unavailable until the album release. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and say this will be great.
Just like the Rolling Stones.
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