The Rolling Stones: An essential listening guide

BY Jack Horsley

30th Jun 2022 Music

The Rolling Stones: An essential listening guide

With 60 years and 23 UK studio albums behind them, The Rolling Stones' discography can be a little intimidating. Here's a guide to their essential hits

Over the past 60 years, many bands have come and gone. However, not many can say that they have firmly cemented themselves in musical history. The Rolling Stones can certainly claim that they have achieved legendary status. Selling over 200 million records, winning three Grammy awards and being inducted into the rock ‘n’ roll hall of fame, they have influenced musicians all over the globe and made some of the best albums of all time.  

This year, they have embarked on a 60th anniversary world tour, rocking stadiums all over the globe, showcasing the best of their huge back catalogue to hundreds of thousands of fans. Sadly, since original drummer of the group Charlie Watts passed away in August of 2021, this is their first tour since 1963 that he won’t be on.  

Group photographs of the Rolling Stones taken from a 1965 Billboard trade ad. From up to down: Mick Jagger; Charlie Watts and Keith Richards; Brian Jones and Bill Wyman.

The Rolling Stones in 1965. From up to down: Mick Jagger; Charlie Watts and Keith Richards; Brian Jones and Bill Wyman. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

With this tour hitting a stadium near you soon, we have compiled the ultimate listening guide for The Rolling Stones, taken from 60 years and 23 UK studio albums…

“Street Fighting Man” from Beggars Banquet (1968) 

“Street Fighting Man” is one of many huge hits for the group and is often hailed by many as one of the band’s most political songs to date. It is speculated that Jagger wrote this song based on an anti-war rally he attended in London in 1968 at the US embassy, when the police tried to discipline a crowd of over 25,000.  

In 1971, Keith Richards told NME that the song had “been interpreted in thousands of different ways” but it was “ambiguous as a song.”

Even over 50 years later, the song is still relevant, having been used in films such as Fantastic Mr Fox, and in 1998 Oasis recorded a cover and used it as a B-side for their single “All around the World”.

“Start Me Up” from Tattoo You (1981) 

Often referred to as “the last great Rolling Stones songs”, “Start Me Up” is certainly a classic and a staple in The Rolling Stones' back catalogue.

The song is blasted wide open from what can only be described as that iconic riff from Keith Richards, paired with the fearless beat from Charlie Watts and the powerful, echoing vocals from Mick Jagger carrying the song through. The reason this song is regarded as the last great Stones song is because it was their last to reach the top ten in the UK charts.

“Waiting on a Friend” from the same album was only able to reach number 50 three months later.  

“Out of Time” from Aftermath (1966) 

An underrated track from the London rockers, and one of our favourites, is “Out of Time” from the album Aftermath. Featuring some of Jagger’s best vocals and writing, the song was not a huge success for the Stones—it entered the UK charts in 1966 at number 36. However, it did reach number one with a different version.

Chris Farlowe released a drastically different version of the song (produced by Jagger and featuring Jimmy Page) that debuted at number one and stayed there for a week. This song has not been played live by The Rolling Stones until this very tour.  

“Out of Time” saw a new lease of life after featuring in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood.

“Sympathy for the Devil” from Beggars Banquet (1968) 

“Sympathy for the Devil” is one of the most notable songs of all time. Jagger sings from the perspective of the devil, and highlights some of the most horrific atrocities that have taken place over history

Very ironically, this song is attached to the tragedies that took place at Altamont Speedway, where The Stones held a free concert, in which 300,000 people attended. As they took to the stage, the opening notes of “Sympathy for the Devil” rang out, and the outrage worsened. However, this song still holds a very strong place in popular culture.  

“Paint It Black” from Aftermath (1966) 

“Paint It Black” is one of the most memorable songs of all time, included in Rolling Stone Magazine's “Best Songs of All Time” list. 

The haunting riff from Keith Richards has cemented itself in music history and stands out as one of the most iconic of the back catalogue of the Stones. It was the sixth of the band’s songs to reach number one in the UK, spending one week at the top.

It has also been prominent in popular culture, most notably in the film Full Metal Jacket.  

“(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” from Out of Our Heads (1965) 

Saving probably the best until last, one of the most interesting stories about the writing of this song is that Keith Richards wrote it in his sleep. He recorded it on a Phillips cassette and had no recollection of ever doing so. This is the most commercially successful of The Rolling Stones’s repertoire, and it landed them their fourth number one in the UK.  

Cover image © Raph_PH via Flickr

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