When you have a career spanning more than 50 years (the Stones’ first album was released in April of 1964) filled with legendary songs, it’s not surprising that some material will fall through the cracks. Greatest Hits releases and concert setlists will polarize towards the well known songs, leaving tons of worthy material unplayed live or on the radio.
It’s funny because for the longest time, I didn’t consider myself a Stones fan. Sure, I liked the hits, but the band in general left me cold. It’s only when I started digging a little deeper into their catalog that I fell in love with their music, finding tons of gems I’d never (or rarely) heard.
So let’s look at 10 Rolling Stones songs that need to be played more often on the radio, at parties and by cover bands everywhere.
10 – Star Star
The final track from 1973’s Goat’s Head Soup, its raunchy lyrics are surely an impediment to more widespread airplay. Originally titled Starfucker, it doesn’t really deal in subtlety. But it’s a great rocking track that recalls the band’s early years covering Chuck Berry songs.
9 – Some Girls
Another song that drew attention for its lyrics, the label wanted the band to drop it from the 1978 album of the same name, which they refused. It’s been described as racist although the band insists it’s a parody of those attitudes.
8 – Dead Flowers
The next to last track from 1971’s Sticky Fingers, this track has a strong country influence, mixed with the Stones’ usual swagger. With its straight up references to heroin usage (“I’ll be in my basement room, with a needle and a spoon”), maybe it’s another case of controversial lyrics hindering a song’s media profile?
7- Sad Sad Sad
The 80’s weren’t a very good decade for the Stones, and Steel Wheels probably marks the beginning of the corporate incarnation of the band, but this straight up rocker is one the band’s best songs ever in my view.
Another great track from Sticky Fingers. A slower, more sensual track, it is the product of years of playing the blues filtered through their British sensibilities.
5- Rock and a Hard Place
Yes, I’m going back to Steel Wheels. Recent compilations (e.g. 40 Licks and Grrr!) both seem to think that the only worthwhile song on that album is Mixed Emotions, but this one and Sad Sad Sad are even better in my opinion. Sure, it’s a little too slick for a Stones track, missing the grit we like to hear in their music, but it’s a killer track.
4- All Down the Line
A rocking track from their seminal album Exile on Main Street, I almost took it off the list when I saw they’re playing it on their Zip Code tour. But still, you don’t really hear it that often anywhere. And it’s one of the best tracks off the album.
3- 2,000 Man
When you think of the Rolling Stones, you don’t readily think of psychedelic experimentation, but 1967’s Their Satanic Majesties Request is just that. A gut reaction to the artistry of the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, this album is much maligned among Stones fans. While much of it is certainly a failure, there are still some nice tracks on it. KISS would later on cover this song in a much more rocking arrangement on their 1979 album Dynasty.
2- Who’s Driving Your Plane
A dirty blues/boogie romp, this song, along with its grammatically incorrect title (you fly or pilot a plane, you don’t drive it) are too often overlooked. The B-Side of the single for Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadow?, it is often unduly overshadowed (pun intended) by the other track.
1-Undercover of the Night
By 1983, it seemed like the Stones were done. Their brand of dirty rock was falling out of favour, and their attempts to adapt to changing styles didn’t catch on with the public. This album is widely seen as a failure, both artistically and commercially, but the title track is a real gem. It perfectly fuses modern dance beats with the Stones’ rock n blues swagger. I know it’s been included on recent compilations, but to me this should be one of the biggest Stones track of all time. Definitely underrated.
I could easily have listed 10 more underrated tracks: the Stones catalog is that vast. What are YOUR favourite underrated Stones tracks?
He's also a regular contributor at the very rad site Montreal Rampage