Top 20 Rolling Stones Songs

Rolling Stones
Rolling Stones. Photo by Michael Putland / Getty Images
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"Time Is On My Side" (1964)

Rolling Stones Time Is On My Side
Rolling Stones - "Time Is On My Side". Courtesy Decca

The Rolling Stones are considered by many to be the world's greatest rock and roll band. These are their top 20 songs arranged in chronological order.

"Time Is On My Side" was written by songwriter Jerry Ragovoy under the pseudonym Norman Meade. It was first recorded in 1963 by jazz trombone player Kai Winding and his Orchestra. The recording is notable for young talent including Cissy Houston, Dionne Warwick, and Dee Dee Warwick while a young Phil Ramone was the recording engineer. It was released as a single, but it made no chart impact. In 1964, both R&B singer Irma Thomas and the Rolling Stones released cover versions. The Rolling Stones' interpretation of "Time Is On My Side" climbed to #6 on the US pop singles chart becoming the group's first top 10 hit. 

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"(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" (1965)

Rolling Stones Satisfaction
Rolling Stones - "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction". Courtesy Decca

"(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction)" is considered by most observers to be one of the top rock songs of all times. The song was a #1 smash hit in both the US and the UK. The opening guitar riff was originally planned to be replaced by horns. Instead, the riff has become one of the most recognized sounds in the history of rock. The song is the one that clearly defined the Rolling Stones as one of the world's top rock and roll bands.

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"Get Off of My Cloud" (1965)

Rolling Stones Get Off Of My Cloud
Rolling Stones - "Get Off Of My Cloud". Courtesy London

Mick Jagger and Keith Richards wrote "Get Off of My Cloud" in reaction to the rush of expectations of the group after the success of "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction." The single was another big success for the Rolling Stones and it reached #1 on the pop chart for two weeks. It was included on December's Children (And Everybody's), the fifth studio album released by the group in the US. The album reached #4 on the album chart.

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"19th Nervous Breakdown" (1966)

Rolling Stones 19th Nervous Breakdown
Rolling Stones - "19th Nervous Breakdown". Courtesy Decca

"19th Nervous Breakdown" was written while the Rolling Stones were on a concert tour in 1965. The song title came first and then Mick Jagger wrote the rest of the words around it. Musically, it's notable for what has been referred to as Bill Wyman's "dive bombing" bass line at the end of the song. "19th Nervous Breakdown" climbed to #2 on the US pop singles chart.

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"Paint It Black" (1966)

Rolling Stones Paint It Black
Rolling Stones - "Paint It Black". Courtesy London

"Paint It Black" is the first Rolling Stones song to feature the Indian sitar in the arrangement. It is also the first song featuring the instrument to go to #1 on the pop chart. For the recording, it was played by founding group member Brian Jones. Although the lyrics are primarily about depression using a color metaphor, it caused some controversy when some observers interpreted the song as having a racial motive. "Paint It Black" was a #1 pop hit single in the US, and it is part of the album Aftermath. The album overall was considered to be an artistic breakthrough for the group. It was the first in which Mick Jagger and Keith Richards wrote all of the songs, and it featured a wide range of more exotic musical instruments played by Brian Jones. The album peaked at #2 on the album chart.

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"Mother's Little Helper" (1966)

Rolling Stones Mother's Little Helper
Rolling Stones - "Mother's Little Helper". Courtesy London

In "Mother's Little Helper," the Rolling Stones directly addressed the popularity of tranquilizing drugs to help calm contemporary housewives. A key instrumental riff in the song sounds like an Indian sitar, but it is actually a 12-string guitar. "Mother's Little Helper" is the first song on the group's album Aftermath. The song peaked at #8 on the US pop chart. Aftermath reached #2 on the album chart.

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"Ruby Tuesday" (1967)

Rolling Stones Ruby Tuesday
Rolling Stones - "Ruby Tuesday". Courtesy Decca

The subject of the song "Ruby Tuesday" is in some dispute, but many consider the single of "Ruby Tuesday" on one side and "Let's Spend the Night Together" on the other as one of the greatest double A-side singles of all time. "Ruby Tuesday" received the bulk of radio airplay and hit #1. The songs were included on the Rolling Stones album Between the Buttons which is considered to be one of the group's best albums in the 1960s. It reached #2 on the album chart.

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"Jumpin' Jack Flash" (1968)

Rolling Stones Jumpin' Jack Flash
Rolling Stones - "Jumpin' Jack Flash". Courtesy London

Released in May 1968, many observers considered "Jumpin' Jack Flash" a return to the Rolling Stones' blues-rock roots after experiments in psychedelic pop. Mick Jagger has stated that the lyrics are a metaphor for escaping the hard times brought on by all the acid trips during the making of the album Their Satanic Majesties Request. "Jumpin' Jack Flash" is the song played most frequently in concert by the Rolling Stones. It reached #3 on the US pop music chart. Aretha Franklin brought the song back to the pop top 40 with her cover in 1986. Ron Wood and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones both appear on the record.

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"Honky Tonk Women" (1969)

Rolling Stones Honky Tonk Women
Rolling Stones - "Honky Tonk Women". Courtesy Decca

The Rolling Stones' Mick Jagger and Keith Richards wrote "Honky Tonk Women" while on vacation in Brazil. The distinctive opening of the song is the sound of the beat played on a cowbell by producer Jimmy Miller. The group also recorded a country version of the song titled "Country Honk" for inclusion on the Let It Bleed album. "Honky Tonk Women" was released in the UK the day after former Rolling Stones member Brian Jones was found dead drowned in his swimming pool. The song became a big #1 pop hit in both the US and the UK.

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"Brown Sugar" (1971)

Rolling Stones Brown Sugar
Rolling Stones - "Brown Sugar". Courtesy Rolling Stones

"Brown Sugar" is the opening song and lead single from the album Sticky Fingers. The song was debuted live by the group at the tragic Altamont concert in December, 1969, but it was not released until over a year later. Mick Jagger wrote "Brown Sugar" with his secret girlfriend Marsha Hunt in mind. It was the first single released on Rolling Stones Records and soared to #1 on pop singles chart in the US. The album Sticky Fingers was a major success as well hitting #1 on the album chart and selling more than three million copies.

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"Wild Horses" (1971)

Rolling Stones Wild Horses
Rolling Stones - "Wild Horses". Courtesy Rolling Stones

The slow, emotional ballad "Wild Horses" stands out as one of the best ballads recorded by the group. The song has a country rock feel, and Mick Jagger has reported they began writing it when hanging out with Gram Parsons. "Wild Horses" was recorded over three days at the legendary Muscle Shoals, Alabama studios. It is included on the Sticky Fingers album and peaked at #28 on the US pop singles chart.

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"Tumbling Dice" (1972)

Rolling Stones
Rolling Stones. Photo by Michael Putland / Getty Images

Mick Jagger says the lyrics for "Tumbling Dice" were inspired by a conversation he had with a housekeeper about gambling. The song was the only top 10 hit single from the Rolling Stones' classic album Exile On Main St. It peaked at #7 on the pop chart. The album, a two disc set, reached #1 and is considered by many to be the group's best album. Linda Ronstadt recorded and released a cover version of "Tumbling Dice" in 1978 as a single. It climbed to #32 on the pop singles chart.

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"Angie" (1973)

Rolling Stones Angie
Rolling Stones - "Angie". Courtesy Rolling Stones

Although credited to both Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, "Angie" was written primarily by Keith Richards. Speculation through the years about the subject of the song identified David Bowie's first wife Angela and the actress Angie Dickinson as possibilities. In 1993, Keith Richards said that the song was inspired by his baby daughter Dandelion Angela. Later, in his 2010 autobiography, Keith Richards said the title was chosen arbitrarily. The song "Angie" went straight to #1 on the pop singles chart in the US. It was included on the album Goats Head Soup which was also a big hit peaking at #1 on the album chart.

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"It's Only Rock 'n Roll (But I Like It)" (1974)

Rolling Stones It's Only Rock n Roll
Rolling Stones - "It's Only Rock 'n Roll (But I Like It)". Courtesy Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones wrote and recorded "It's Only Rock and Roll (But I Like It)" as a reaction against judgments from the press about the quality of each of the group's releases. It's a call to not take their music as seriously. David Bowie sang backup vocals on the record. It was released in July 1974 and climbed to #16 on the US pop singles chart.

The music video was directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg. He created multiple promotional clips for both the Rolling Stones and the Beatles. It shows the band inside a tent dressed in sailor suits while the tent slowly fills with detergent bubbles. 

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"Miss You" (1978)

Rolling Stones Miss You
Rolling Stones - "Miss You". Courtesy Rolling Stones

Mick Jagger insists that "Miss You" wasn't designed to be a disco record, but Keith Richards says it was designed that way from the beginning. "Miss You" remains one of the best disco recordings by the many mainstream artists who experimented with the new form. The song soared to #1 on the pop singles chart and #6 on the disco chart. It received heavy play in discos. It also broke into the top 40 on R&B chart. The album Some Girls was the only Rolling Stones collection to be nominated for the Album of the Year Grammy Award. It was a #1 chart smash.

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"Emotional Rescue" (1980)

Rolling Stones Emotional Rescue
Rolling Stones - "Emotional Rescue". Courtesy Rolling Stones

Emotional Rescue was the first Rolling Stones album recorded after Keith Richards was exonerated of Toronto drug charges. If he had been convicted, he could have spent years in prison. The title cut and lead single was heavily influenced by disco. The album cover art used a thermographic photo technique by artist Roy Adzak. They register heat emissions. A music video designed to promote the song also incorporated thermographic photography. "Emotional Rescue" hit #3 on the pop singles chart, and the album reached the top of the album chart.

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"Start Me Up" (1981)

Rolling Stones Start Me Up
Rolling Stones - "Start Me Up". Courtesy Rolling Stones

The basic track for "Start Me Up" was recorded in 1978 during the sessions for the Some Girls album. It originally was reggae oriented and was ultimately shelved after multiple takes. "Start Me Up" was recorded with what was called the "bathroom reverb" which came from recording some of the drum and vocal tracks in the bathroom of the Power Station recording studio. "Start Me Up" reached #2 on the US pop singles chart, and it kicked off the album Tattoo You which hit #1 on the album chart.

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"Undercover of the Night" (1983)

Rolling Stones Undercover of the Night
Rolling Stones - "Undercover of the Night". Courtesy Rolling Stones

Mick Jagger was the primary songwriter for "Undercover of the Night." It was the first single from the Rolling Stones album Undercover. The song was influenced by the Williams S. Burroughs novel Cities of the Red Night, a story of political and sexual repression. It is one of the few Rolling Stones that tackles political subject matter. "Undercover of the Night" climbed to #9 on the pop singles chart and the album Undercover reached #4 on the album chart.

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"Harlem Shuffle" (1986)

Rolling Stones Harlem Shuffle
Rolling Stones - "Harlem Shuffle". Courtesy Rolling Stones

"Harlem Shuffle" was originally written and recorded by the R&B duo Bob and Earl in 1963. They took it to #44 on the pop singles chart. In 1986, the Rolling Stones released a cover version of the song as the lead single from their album Dirty Work. Bobby Womack sings backing vocals on the recording. "Harlem Shuffle" climbed to #5 on the pop singles chart and #4 on the dance chart. The accompanying music video was directed by legendary animation director Ralph Bakshi.

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"Mixed Emotions" (1989)

Rolling Stones Mixed Emotions
Rolling Stones - "Mixed Emotions". Courtesy Rolling Stones

Mick Jagger and Keith Richards wrote "Mixed Emotions" while on vacation in Barbados, and the group recorded it in Montserrat. It is a straightforward rock song. The piano and organ is played by Chuck Leavell, a former member of the Allman Brothers Band who played as a touring musician with the Rolling Stones. "Mixed Emotions" climbed to #5 on the US pop chart and became the group's final top 10 pop hit so far. It is included on the Steel Wheels album that climbed to #3 on the album chart, the group's highest charting album since 1981's Tattoo You. Steel Wheels was the last full-length album recorded before the departure of bass player Bill Wyman.