The Stones were supposed to be in the middle of a U.S. tour right now, until COVID-19 upended things. To make up for it, Local Spins fires up the iconic band’s under-appreciated classics for this week’s playlist.
Leave it to the legendary Rolling Stones – who’ve experienced their fair share of turmoil over the years – to come up with a signature rock tune to commemorate the coronavirus pandemic of 2020.
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The band’s reggae-tinged “Living in a Ghost Town” became an instant classic after it was released in late April — the tale of a spectre wandering a ghost town after “we all got locked down,” with an accompanying video taking us through the deserted streets of cities across the globe.
Mick Jagger’s vocals are superbly anguished and impassioned with brilliant, twangy and reverb-drenched guitar work and organ accents throughout. And in true ’70s fashion, the song even fades out at the end.
Written last year but readjusted for the current COVID-19 crisis, the song soared to No. 1 on iTunes in more than 20 countries. Watch the video here.
VIDEO: The Rolling Stones, “Living in a Ghost Town”
The band was set to bring its 15-date “No Filter” summer tour to the United States this year. But that was postponed due to COVID-19, so the Stones’ first original single release in several years comes as a welcome blast amid the concert silence.
The band would have been right in the middle of its tour in June (including a stop at Detroit’s Ford Field). June has plenty of significance in Stones history: The band logged its first TV appearance in June 1963, launched its first U.S. tour in June 1964, released what some consider one of the best rock songs of all-time, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” in June 1965 and released three notable albums in June: “Aftermath” (1966), “Some Girls” (1978), “Emotional Rescue” (1980). Oh, and Brian Jones left the band in June 1969, with Mick Taylor joining the group the same month.
Anyway, all of this inspired me to create this week’s playlist: The Top 12 Most Underrated Rolling Stones songs of all-time – you know, the haunting ghosts behind the hits. Ha. An impossible task to be sure considering the vast catalog. But it’s a wildly entertaining journey to look beyond classics such as “Gimme Shelter,” “Sympathy for the Devil,” “Miss You,” “Start Me Up” and “Brown Sugar.”
And diehard Stones fans will certainly have their own closet faves, so feel free to add them to the comments below or on Facebook.
SOUNDTRACK: The Top 12 Most Underrated Rolling Stones Songs
1. “Ventilator Blues,” 1972 – “Exile on Main St.” has secured its influential legacy in the pantheon of rock ‘n’ roll and “Ventilator Blues” represents what makes this band so damned intoxicating and inimitable, standing alongside enduring tracks such as “Tumbling Dice,” “Rip This Joint” and “Soul Survivor.”
2. “Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker),” 1973 – Appearing on “Goat’s Head Soup,” this is a gem for countless reasons: the dark lyrics (which are eerily pertinent right now), the classic ’70s guitar lead and wah-wah pedal accents, the dance-inspiring horn riffs, the soulful backing vocals. Interestingly, the B-side to the single, “Dancing With Mr. D,” is even darker and could probably appear on this list, too.
3. “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking,” 1971 – Appearing on “Sticky Fingers” right after what I consider the most beautifully written Stones song of all time, “Wild Horses,” this has certainly been a fan – and band – fave during live shows. At 7:16 in length, this track from “Sticky Fingers” wasn’t released as a single, but the opening guitar lick has a classic Faces vibe, with a mesmerizing Bobby Keys sax interlude and lengthy (accidental) ending jam.
4. “Bitch,” 1971 – Another fist-pumping rocker deserving attention. Of course, the last two songs on “Sticky Fingers” – “Dead Flowers” and “Moonlight Mile” – are contenders for under-the-radar glory as well.
5. “Monkey Man,” 1970 – Reflecting the overall vibe of “Let It Bleed” (and the arrival of Mick Taylor), “Monkey Man” is one of those songs that’s grown in stature over the years, nearly rivaling “Gimme Shelter,” “Midnight Rambler” and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” — and a big hit live. Love Jagger’s yowls at the end of this one.
6. “Stray Cat Blues,” 1968 – The same album (“Beggars Banquet”) that produced the classics “Street Fighting Man” and “Sympathy for the Devil” also pumped out the muscular and earthy “Stray Cat Blues.”
7. “The Last Time,” 1965 – Sure, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” on “Out of Our Heads” understandably has endured as one of the greatest rock songs of all time, but “The Last Time” is a charming slice of Rolling Stones pop catchiness and endearing sloppiness. They followed this on their next album with the equally catchy, “Get Off of My Cloud.”
8. “Heart of Stone/What a Shame,” 1965 – The single and B-side from these originals that appeared on the band’s third American album, “The Rolling Stones, Now!” represent the first time you really hear Mick Jagger and Keith Richards strutting their stuff and stretching out on original material – the seeds of future glory.
9. “Good Times, Bad Times,” 1964 – One of only three original compositions on the band’s second (American-released) studio album, “12 x 5,” this track and “Grown Up Wrong” display the obvious influence that American blues musicians had on these guys. Interestingly, the Stones would revisit their blues roots in more dynamic fashion with 2016’s also underrated “Blue & Lonesome.”
10. “Blue & Lonesome,” 2016 – The title track from this 2016 album that paid tribute to blues greats such as Lightnin’ Slim, Magic Sam, Little Johnny Taylor, Willie Dixon and others is drenched in retro charm, with Mick’s snarling vocals and harmonica authentically recreating the raw power of this music – something that the band channels throughout this under-appreciated collection.
11. “When the Whip Comes Down,” 1978 – Certainly, “Some Girls” continued (after “Black and Blue”) to include a dose of funkier, disco-beat-driven material, but there was still plenty of in-your-face rock ‘n’ roll to embrace, including this hard-driving wall-rattler.
12. “Slave,” 1981 – “Tattoo You” generated several big singles, including “Start Me Up” and “Waiting on a Friend,” but “Slave” boils over with jam-flavored soulfulness, rolling on deliciously for more than 6-1/2 minutes.
HONORABLE MENTION: “Dance Little Sister,” 1974 – Overshadowed by “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It),” this ditty still rollicks in fun fashion.
TUESDAY PLAYLIST: The Top 12 Most Underrated Rolling Stones Songs on Spotify
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