The Rolling Stones hit London, Brooklyn, and Newark over the next month for their first group of 50th-anniversary shows, and a few things are all but guaranteed to happen at each gig: Mick will be rocking sperm-count-abating pants, Charlie will be pretending hes not sick of Ronnie, and Keef will be burning through Marlboros as he burns through solos, adding further damage to skin that would startle the most jaded dermatologist.
While some if not all of the above is unfortunate, these guys are also guaranteed to tear through a number of their all-time classics: (I Cant Get No) Satisfaction, Honky Tonk Women, Brown Sugar, Jumpin Jack Flash, and Sympathy for the Devil chief among them. This will more than redeem any regrettable circumstances.
But even with those shoo-ins, theres plenty of space left for variety. (And variety is certainly welcome — after all, Jumpin Jack Flash can only be so much of a gas 40 years on.) Fortunately, the Stones five-decade tenure has produced so many great songs that not even a Springsteen-length set could accommodate them all. That said, what follows are just 10 of the infrequently played cuts that would complement those aforementioned standards.
10. Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadow?
The first of many Stones songs to feature a brass arrangement, Have You Seen Your Mother shook the charts upon release but hasnt been played in concert since 1966. However, taking into account Brian Jones overdriven riffs, the high energy that had been more or less foreign to the Stones previously, the echoing backing vocals that are just as catchy as the lead melody, and, yes, those perfectly concise horns, its clear this two-and-a-half-minute gem is due for a resurrection. -Mike Madden
This single, from the Stargroves manor-studded days, was released as a B-side of Wild Horses in the US. Although credited to Jagger and Richards, Mick Taylor swears that he and Jagger penned the track when Richards was absent. Whos to say? Regardless, Sway appropriately moves the listener, swooning and stirring the ear. Featuring a distinctive slide guitar solo, the track glides along, lapping over bluesy ballads from a distant somewhere. -Paula Mejia
08. Mothers Little Helper
In the 1960s, doctors were dispensing Valium like sugar-coated candy to stressed-out housewives facing a dual burden of working in a mans world while raising a successful family. These expectations are crushing, and while the soft respite of chemical escape is a welcome retreat, the very thing used to distract from lifes problems can fast become the biggest difficulty of all. Mothers Little Helper predates Darren Arnofskys Requiem for a Dream by more than three decades, but its words are an accurate summary of the film. The perilous ménage Ã troise of social pressure, escapism, and pharmaceutical addiction can strike anyone. Even a sweet old yenta. -Dan Pfleegor
07. Cant You Hear Me Knocking
One of the seminal tracks of 1971s Sticky Fingers, Jaggers raspy pleas for revelry take on flirtatious forms. The stream-of-consciousness jam thrusts and bursts, propelled by the flutter of Bobby Keys sultry saxophone solos and a classic, open G-tuned guitar solo featuring Richards fluid fingerwork. While writing the solo rounding out the end of the song, Richards muttered: Hey, this is some groove. So it was smiles all around. For a guitar player it’s no big deal to play, the chopping, staccato bursts of chords, very direct and spare.” Some groove indeed. Heightened by Rocky Dijons conga bursts backing the sumptuous solos, the track clocks in at seven heady, rambling minutes, a definite piÃ¨ce de résistance for an already prolific set of freewheelers. -Paula Mejia
06. Memory Motel
Though its been played at least once on every Stones tour since 1994s Voodoo Lounge-accompanying run, Memory Motel, seven minutes of electric and acoustic pianos, light synth, and Jagger and Richards gorgeously swapping lead-vocal duties, is performed at roughly one in 20 Stones gigs. But given that its just as strong as the more common mid-70s ballads Angie and Fool to Cry, that ratio should be narrowed. Also, does anyone know if Jagger/Richards ever received royalties for the Memory Motel rip-off that is the Twin Peaks theme? -Mike Madden
05. Ventilator Blues
The disastrously ventilated basement of Richards home in southern France – as well as a searing heat that tensed guitar strings and relationships alike — could very well be credited for crafting one of the finest albums of the 20th century, Exile on Main St. Ventilator Blues marks a first-time credit for guitarist Mick Taylor, creating the finger-lickin riff largely responsible for the swaggering claustrophobia of the albums bluesiest number. Nicky Hopkins contribution of schizophrenic keys and Jim Prices trombones particularly place you a sort of dust-ridden haze, heightened by Jaggers double-tracked lead vocals, growling in frustration. -Paula Mejia
04. Play With Fire
Play with Fire is a soft little stripped-down tune featuring two musical legends. Theres a lot of hostility in this little ditty though. The song is a rock and roll power struggle between lady and the tramp, accentuating issues of class, parental relations, and the psycho-sexual tensions that can form between star-crossed lovers. Jagger and Richardss naughty escapades are a fabled mythos, but this heartless bravado may be more shield than lance, suggesting the duo could have once been on the receiving end of a messy break. Ironically, this bad-boy sense of danger is the very thing that draws the adventurous ladies to them in the first place. -Dan Pfleegor
03. “Let It Loose
Gospel choirs and a bluesy fervor permeate the redemptive Let It Loose, an intensely memorable track from Exile on Main St. Moved by the sermons of gospel vocalist Reverend James Cleveland, Jagger arranged the track with the aid of crooning soul vocalists Clydie King, Vanetta Field, Shirley Goodman and Tami King. The arrangement of electric guitars handsomely complement a stirring blend of thumping bass, trombone and trumpets, gliding the listener into lapping waves of soul and blues, oscillating calm and nostalgia all the same. -Paula Mejia
02. “Do You Think I Really Care?
In the spirit of Sticky Fingers Dead Flowers, Do You Think I Really Care? is an uptempo country rambler that intertwines acoustic strums and electric leads. The Stones are often at their best when adhering to their Americana influences closely (see Love in Vain, No Expectations), and thats exemplified here. Plus, since the only official version of Do You Think
was released with 2010s Some Girls reissue and features vocals Jagger recorded the same year, its the one song on this list whose live version would sound almost identical to its studio counterpart. (Though his pipes havent diminished as much as, say, Dylans, Jagger simply doesnt sound as dynamic as he did 20, 30, 40 years ago.) -Mike Madden
01. “Yesterdays Papers”
This is the first Rolling Stones song that Jagger penned on his own, and it marks a significant moment in the behind-the-scenes leadership dynamic of the band. A gnawing sense of disquiet crept between Jones and the other members of the group. Jagger sided with Richards and went on to form one of greatest songwriting teams in the history of music. Jones, meanwhile, went for a swim.
Yesterdays Papers is also important because it gives the world a glimpse of Jaggers own unique brand of misogyny. Lead singers are known to cycle through women. Models, actresses, leather-clad groupies with hoop earrings; its almost a job requirement at this point.
Who wants yesterdays girl / Who wants yesterdays papers / Nobody in the world may not stand out compared to todays top 40 mistreatment of the fairer sex. But comparing them to a periodical of bad news that goes in the trash bin is a pretty harsh metaphor. Nonetheless, its much catchier than, say, Wham, bam, thank you maam. -Dan Pfleegor