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Lemme Get an Encore: The Rolling Stones

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 Lemme Get an Encore: The Rolling Stones

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 he’s 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 Can’t 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, there’s 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.

-Mike Madden
Associate Editor

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 hasn’t 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, it’s clear this two-and-a-half-minute gem is due for a resurrection. -Mike Madden

09. “Sway”

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. Who’s 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. “Mother’s 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 man’s 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 life’s problems can fast become the biggest difficulty of all. “Mother’s Little Helper” predates Darren Arnofsky’s Requiem for a Dream by more than three decades, but its words are an accurate summary of the film. The perilous ménage à troise of social pressure, escapism, and pharmaceutical addiction can strike anyone. Even a sweet old yenta. -Dan Pfleegor

07. “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking”

One of the seminal tracks of 1971‘s Sticky Fingers, Jagger’s 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 Dijon’s conga bursts backing the sumptuous solos, the track clocks in at seven heady, rambling minutes, a definite pièce de résistance for an already prolific set of freewheelers. -Paula Mejia

06. “Memory Motel”

Though it’s been played at least once on every Stones tour since 1994’s 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 it’s 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 album’s bluesiest number. Nicky Hopkins’ contribution of schizophrenic keys and Jim Price’s trombones particularly place you a sort of dust-ridden haze, heightened by Jagger’s 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. There’s 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 Richards’s 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 that’s exemplified here. Plus, since the only official version of “Do You Think…” was released with 2010’s Some Girls reissue and features vocals Jagger recorded the same year, it’s the one song on this list whose live version would sound almost identical to its studio counterpart. (Though his pipes haven’t diminished as much as, say, Dylan’s, Jagger simply doesn’t sound as dynamic as he did 20, 30, 40 years ago.) -Mike Madden

01. “Yesterday’s 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.

“Yesterday’s Papers” is also important because it gives the world a glimpse of Jagger’s own unique brand of misogyny. Lead singers are known to cycle through women. Models, actresses, leather-clad groupies with hoop earrings; it’s almost a job requirement at this point.

“Who wants yesterday’s girl / Who wants yesterday’s papers / Nobody in the world” may not stand out compared to today’s 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, it’s much catchier than, say, “Wham, bam, thank you ma’am.” -Dan Pfleegor

Playlist

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