Ask musicians about the best Rolling Stones songs and you'll get so many different answers it's clear the band's influence runs as deep as their catalogue.
For the best part of 60 years The Rolling Stones been considered the greatest rock'n'roll band in the world, and it's testament to both the band's longevity and to their craft that no one has really come along to seriously challenge them for the title.
Want proof? We asked 57 different musicians and got 38 different answers. These are the best Rolling Stones songs.
I’m A King Bee
George Glover, Climax Blues Band: As a teenager I was a huge Beatles fan, buying everything they did with my paper-round money. Then along came the big hoo-hah about these educated bad boys from the south with The Rolling Stones, their first album. I was skint, but borrowed the extra cash from my mother – which took weeks to pay back, but boy it was worth it.
Every track smashed it, and I was converted into a huge fan. I loved how Mick Jagger sang their cover of Slim Harpo’s I’m A King Bee, selling the lyric in such an innuendo-charged way. I still love that first album today. Somewhere I still have the original vinyl.
Walking The Dog
Ian Anderson, Jethro Tull: This was a breath of fresh air at the time, in the face of cheesy UK pop chart songs. I remember learning and playing it in 1964 when I was just seventeen. We played it at a local youth club dance, and a gang of nasty biker youths keep saying aggressively: “Play it again.”
In spite of my polite explanations that we had already played the song three times there was little option, as we could not afford to replace trashed guitars and amps. I lost count of the times we played it “again” and have never been able to listen to the song since!
It’s All Over Now
Andy Scott, Sweet: In the early-to-mid-1960s I was in a band called the Missing Link, who did a lot of Stones covers, so I go all the way back with them. I was a bass player back then, and the one song of theirs that I loved performing live was It’s All Over Now. Until then I’d been a fan of The Beatles and The Shadows, so it was a turning point for me. They made me think: “I really like that bad-boy image.” I fought that change, but eventually I had to go with the flow. The recording of that song is so good, as is the whole rhythmic thing, and you can hear the two guitars – they sound different in the mix. It was one of the first perfect rock-meets-pop songs.
The Stones still inspire me now. Where would we be without them? I blame them for the fact that everyone else is still on the road. Before the Stones came along you had to turn to jazz and folk to find sixty-year-olds going out on tour. In pop or rock, once you hit twenty, or at a push thirty, you were over. The Stones rewrote those rules, and they continue to do so.
Time Is On My Side
Lips, Anvil: My earliest influence was the Stones, mainly because as a beginner guitarist you could actually manage to play bits and parts of songs, whereas with The Beatles you needed a song book to learn the difficult chords. Satisfaction was the first riff I ever played – and it was probably the first distorted guitar tone and precursor to what became metal music. Luckily I had older siblings that bought and collected all the Stones albums.
Time Is On My Side is such a great song. The tone of Mick’s voice is so memorable, and the melody is forever haunting. At different points in my life, different songs would have special and specific meaning. For instance Got To Get Away during my divorce of my first marriage. Heart Of Stone was another. Paint It, Black was such a favourite that Anvil covered it on our first album. It felt really comfortable to sing, as it was completely in my vocal range. Jumpin’ Jack Flash was another that I covered in my early years. The guitar riff was as legendary as it gets. I have always loved this band, and I still do.
The Spider & The Fly
Rod Argent, The Zombies: I don’t have a favourite Stones song – there are just too many great ones – so I’m going to go for something slightly idiosyncratic and choose a B-Side of a single. The Spider And The Fly was the flip-side of (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction. The Stones’ B-sides were always amazing. Back then I had a friend who had a record deck in the back of his car that would play forty-fives. Whenever we went anywhere together I would always make him play that song.
I was lucky enough to see the Stones circa their debut single, Come On [June 1963]. In a meaningful sense it was my real first gig, and they were still playing to crowds of eighty people a night in very small clubs. As a band, The Zombies went to see them at Studio 61 in Leicester Square, a place that held a maximum of a hundred people.
Mick Jagger was sitting on a stool; it was a very purist experience, the most exciting thing I’d ever seen. It was before The Zombies had made a record, and being in my mid-teens I was still living at home. I still recall waking up my mum at two a.m. and telling her: “I’ve just seen the most fantastic group.” To which she replied: “Yes dear, I’m sure you have. Let’s talk about it in the morning.”
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction
Spike, The Quireboys: Classic Rock has caused so much trouble with this story. Everybody in the Quireboys has a favourite Rolling Stones song, and they’re all different. There’s been some very heated debate. Everybody had an opinion. I’m gonna go with (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, because Keith Richards once told my good friend Alan Clayton that it was his own favourite Stones song. Could there be a better reason than that?
Rudolf Schenker, Scorpions: I love Satisfaction because of the riff, which is so easy to hum. I once read an interview with Keith in which he said that riff came to him in his sleep, so he woke up and put it down on to a tape player. To me it sounds a little like a horn section. It’s fantastic.
That’s How Strong My Love Is
Michael Poulsen, Volbeat: I’m a fairly new covert to the Stones. Volbeat’s drummer turned me on to the band about a decade ago. That’s How Strong My Love Is is my favourite song from their catalogue, though they didn’t write it, it was by a guy called Roosevelt Jamison. The song speaks to me on so many levels. I like its tempo and I like the mood. It has such a lovely feeling.
The Last Time
Brian Tatler, Diamond Head: The Last Time has such a brilliant riff. My sister brought home this as a seven-inch single when I was five. It was always that beautiful, infectious riff played by Brian Jones. It caught my ear and fascinated me. It’s also has a great chorus.
Paint It, Black
Steve Hackett: If you’re looking for an original, Paint It, Black, which is terrific. Lyrically, rhythmically, the trajectory. I love the Moroccan influence with that exotic melody, as well as the driving power of the rhythm. It’s an incredibly strong and compelling song.
Michael Schenker: It’s still an unbelievable song. I was never that too much into the Stones, but recently I was in Camden Town and heard it played. I was fascinated by how incredible and spooky it is. The background music is so rhythmic, but the vocal… he just sings normal. It’s a really great and unusual song.
One of the most shocking and weird things in my life was receiving a phone call from the Stones, who wanted to know if would audition for them. It was 1973 and I was only seventeen years old at the time. I had just joined UFO and was living in Palmer’s Green in London. I didn’t even have a telephone. Even at my parents’ place in Germany there wasn’t a phone, so I was still very shy and didn’t really know how to use one. One day my landlady knocked on my door, telling me of a call from somebody.
They didn’t even introduce themselves, just saying: “Hey, Michael. Would you be interesting in an audition for the Rolling Stones?” I didn’t know what to say, so I replied: “Let me call you back.” I didn’t even ask for their number, and I hung up. I called my brother Rudolf [of the Scorpions], who apparently doesn’t remember the incident – though he does recall everything he wants to remember – and he said: “You have to make a decision, it’s your life.”
The more I thought about it, I was where I wanted to be in life. I was in England and had just joined a band. That felt like a big enough step. UFO wasn’t famous yet, but this was England! I was extremely nervous about the Rolling Stones anyway. I had seen photos of them in a magazine, looking for lice in each other’s hair. Joining a band like that would be bad news. I would probably have been dead within two years. I couldn’t even call them back anyway, as I didn’t have the number.
Steve Harley, Cockney Rebel: I can still remember buying it as a single. Bob Dylan had already changed my life, but to me Paint It, Black was magnetic. Although I was only around fifteen, my mates and I were out in New Cross, Lewisham and Deptford, and that song was a dance-floor filler. It’s the most energetic and vibrant single the Stones ever made.
I don’t sing many covers, but last winter I went to Athens to sing with a choir and 60-piece philharmonic orchestra right beneath the Parthenon. Among the songs I sang in that incredible setting was Paint It, Black. Let me tell you, the place was swinging. Back in 2007, when we went out as an opening act for some shows with the Stones, Mick took me on stage for a couple of songs. That’s something I’ll never forget.
Joe Elliott, Def Leppard: That’s a great deep cut. It’s from that period just before they became this properly nasty rock’n’roll band with Beggar’s Banquet and all that. It’s one of Brian Jones’s songs, and it’s got all these angular chords where the root note is very gospel against the harpsichord and the sitar. I love Jagger’s vocal performance. He sounds like he’s wearing a cravat and has a gin and tonic in his hand. Although they were snotty little gits, they definitely had an air of Lord Byron about them. The Beatles originally looked kind of posher, but they were a lot rougher than the Stones.
Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing In The Shadow?
Dave Gregory, Big Big Train/XTC: September 1966: “Turn that noise down!” I’d just turned fourteen and my world was in turmoil. Hooked on the pirate station Radio London, I’m hearing new and exciting sounds whenever I tune in, though few quite as brazen or shocking as this latest from the Stones. Off-kilter, reverb-laden fuzz guitars giving way to a fanfare of wailing harmonica and trumpets introducing the opening chorus: ‘Have you seen your mother, baby, standing in the shadow…’ What could it all mean?
The mystery became no clearer as the song progressed: ‘The have-nots would have tried to freeze you in ice’, sings Jagger, to the accompaniment of a hammered piano and the devil’s own bass guitar. Finally, a cacophonous climax, the record ending with free-tempo distorted guitar chords rising from the bowels of the earth.
I was entranced; the jeering, angry statement chimed perfectly with my teenage frustration, and within weeks of hearing it I’d bought my first electric guitar. Credit for those extraordinary sounds must go to the engineer the band worked with at RCA Studios in Hollywood, Dave Hassinger.
With the Beatles’ new album Revolver occupying the nation’s turntables, perhaps the Stones felt some attention-grabbing mischief was called for. The grainy monochrome promo film that accompanied the release includes a crossdressing scenario, with the band kitted out as their grandmothers; outrageous for the time, not to say disturbing! For one of the world’s most successful groups to have issued and promoted such a left-field single at that point in their career revealed a progressive, albeit arrogant mind-set, though that didn’t stop the record becoming another top-ten single on both sides of the Atlantic.
Jordan Rudess, Dream Theater: This song represents the absolute perfect combination of melodic, trippy, catchy and simple. It also lends itself to my frequent piano interpretations. I love the combination of floaty recorder in the high register with the serious tone of the double bass.
Todd Rundgren: I was a big fan of the Stones, especially their album Between The Buttons. In terms of songwriting, I thought it saw them reach a plateau. They weren’t doing many covers, and the songs had become very clever, especially lyrically. I really liked that record.
Mike Portnoy: I know I’m in a complete minority, but my favourite Stones album is Their Satanic Majesties Request. I’m fanatical about it. My six different editions of it include an original eight-track. I don’t know why some people regard it as a poor man’s Sgt Pepper. I could have picked 2000 Light Years From Home, She’s A Rainbow, On With The Show or Citadel, which to me could be the first ever heavy metal song. But I’m going to go with 2000 Man. It’s the high point of that album, though I’m probably the only person to ever say that.
Ace Frehley: I remember when Satisfaction came out when I was a kid, and I’ve had a love affair with the Stones ever since. Over the course of my career I’ve covered a couple of Stones songs. Mick Jagger’s range is kind of limited, and a lot of times he talks his way through songs, so they’re easy for me to sing, since I don’t consider myself a real lead vocalist. I sang on the Kiss version of 2000 Man, from the Dynasty album. We had some fun with it, and I kind of made that song my own.
2000 Light Years From Home
Brian Wheat, Tesla: Because some days I do feel like I’m two thousand light years from home, and this song always captures the mood.
Courtney Taylor-Taylor, The Dandy Warhols: I wish I could explain why I love it so much. I have adored that song since I was a small boy. I heard Killer Queen, Radar Love and 2000 Light Years From Home in the same time frame – until that point radio had just been noise; a thing for grown-ups. Though I cannot provide a reason why, I do know that 2000 Light Years From Home is Charlie Watts’s favourite Rolling Stones song, and that makes me very proud.
Jumpin’ Jack Flash
William DuVall, Alice In Chains: From the moment I first heard it, I loved everything about that song. There’s something sinister and bad-ass about it. It’s sinister but it’s attractive, rather than sinister and off-putting. For me, it never grew old. If anything its appeal grew strong for me the more I learned about the craft of songwriting. It’s still so bad-ass, and production is so good. I kinda felt it was a bit of a comeback for the Stones. It really helped them to reclaim their identity. From that point on they really had it going on again, so it was one hell of a comeback record.
Walter Trout: I’ve heard that song twenty thousand times, but to this day when it comes on the radio I turn up the volume and completely lose it. It makes me want to scream and yell. They were coming out of that phase where they had gone all psychedelic and made Their Satanic Majesties, which was intended to be their Sgt Pepper, and were in danger of losing their bluesy roots. The first time I heard that song I was maybe sixteen years old and it floored me – the sound of the guitars. It’s just raw to the bone, man.
Danny Bowes, Thunder: It’s the song that I auditioned with to become the singer of my very first band. It was 1975, and I was aware that my schoolmate Luke Morley, who set up to audition, was a guitarist. I will never forget walking into the room to sing, with a microphone I’d borrowed from an uncle, and seeing a bright red Pearl drum kit in the corner. It was the most stunning thing I’d ever seen in my life. I knew Jumpin’ Jack Flash, but had never sung it lout loud before except in the bath. Whenever I hear it now I’m transported back to the smoky rehearsal room and that drum kit. It gives me a nice, warm rosy feeling.
Chris Robertson, Black Stone Cherry: That song, man… We do it every now and again, and I love it. Cos we do it in E, and it’s, like, heavy as balls. But there’s so many good ones: Beast Of Burden, Gimme Shelter, Paint It, Black… And in Nashville it’s gotta be Honky Tonk Women, right? It’s everywhere. You walk into Tootsies tonight and it’s gonna get played.
Child Of The Moon
Billy Gibbons, ZZ Top: I’ll throw a left-field choice in here. It’s the B-side of Jumpin’ Jack Flash, but quite a piece of brilliant psychedelia in its own right. It’s almost proto-grunge.
If you’ll allow me a runner-up – I know, just one choice, but it’s my prerogative as a dyed-in-thewool Stones fan to suggest another great one – that would be I’m Alright, from Got Live If You Want It! It’s just so raw and real, you can almost touch it. And of course it’s a Bo Diddley composition; using the term loosely, since it’s mostly a wham-jam/rave-up, so that makes it all the more cherished.
Street Fighting Man
Mick Jones, Foreigner: I’ve followed their career since I supported them at the age of sixteen at in a pub in Guildford – I go back that far with them. This song captures the essence of the Stones that I really love; that whole street thing. It’s the kind of song that you cannot listen to sitting down. It’s a monster.
Sympathy For The Devil
Tony Wright, Terrorvision: At the start it sounds like you’re in the jungle; you can hear the beat of the bongos, and animals screeching. After the first chord the vocal comes in: ‘Please allow me to introduce myself/I’m a man of wealth and taste’. That’s just the best introduction ever to a song. And you’ve just got to dance. And if it doesn’t make you want to do that, you’ve got a problem. You’re probably dead, in fact.
Matt Sorum, Deadland Ritual: Coming from a rhythmic perspective, Sympathy For The Devil has always been one of my favourites by that band. If you’ve never seen the movie of the making of that song, then you should, because it’s captivating. When they finally stumble across the rhythm that’s used at the start, it’s just fascinating. I’m so impressed by the way that they work towards finding the perfect vibe, the best scenario to make song happen. When they finally nail it, it just rolls.
Back when I was in Guns N’ Roses we tried to cover that song [in 1994 for the closing credits of the movie Interview With The Vampire], and I wasn’t particularly happy about that. It’s one of those songs that you can’t ever get close to recreating. It’s like Won’t Get Fooled Again by The Who or Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody – why would you want to cover that? Our version was okay, but of course it was never going to match the original.
You Can’t Always Get What You Want
Fish: In my youth I was more of a Beatles than a Stones guy, but I got into them later on. The song of theirs that I like the best I got into via the movie The Big Chill. You Can’t Always Get What You Want appears in its opening scene – the big funeral. It’s so soulful and beautiful. The dynamic – the way it builds into this incredible gospel chorus – really appeals to me. I now find it completely horrible that it’s being used at Trump’s rallies. Somebody should stand up and say: “Stop that now”, before people start to believe there’s an affiliation between the artist, the song and the cause.