10 Underrated Rolling Stones Songs

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Yes, the Rolling Stones celebrated their 50th anniversary last year, but to me their career didn't truly begin until they released "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" 50 years ago this month. Prior to the hit's release, they failed to gain much of a following in the States and in fact, their first U.S. tour--in 1964--was a "disaster" according to Bill Wyman. (Maybe those pesky lads who called themselves the Beatles had something to do with it.) 

Since then, the Stones have had little to worry about. While rediscovering a lot of their catalog during the past few weeks, I realized that I have many favorite Stones songs that could be considered underrated, and are often pushed aside on the radio in favor of "Jumping Jack Flash", "Paint It Black", and "Sympathy for the Devil", just to name a few. Not that there's anything wrong with those songs, but it would be nice to hear the ones I've listed below on Sirius a little more often (or maybe I'm just tuned into the wrong stations.) 

With the exception of one track, none of these are considered deep cuts or rarities; I'm well aware that the Stones have oodles of such material notched on their recording bedpost, but these are the ones that I find kind of special for various reasons and consistently remind me that there's no other group like the Mick and the boys!

"Off the Hook" (1965)

A hooky (ha) little number from the Stones' second UK album, The Rolling Stones No. 2. I wonder how many younger people who grew up with mobile phones know what the expression "off the hook" means, but yes, there once was a time when it wasn't possible to reach everyone at every moment of the day. "Off the Hook" resurfaces briefly at the end of the music video for "She Was Hot." 

"Yesterday's Papers" (1967)

This was the first song that Mick Jagger wrote without Keith Richards, and it turns out it was personally inspired as the song is about Chrissie Shrimpton, the sister of Jean, whom Jagger dated for a few years early in the band's career. One could say that it's considered the first sexist song the Stones released, as it paints a very negative portrayal of women by comparing them to something that can be thrown away, with the lead singer declaring, "it seems very hard to just have one girl, when there's a million in the world." (Newsflash for the new listeners of 1965: meet Mick Jagger; you ain't seen nothing yet.) 

I happen to like it for its late '60s, psychedelic sound and Brian Jones' vibraphone work. 

"Faraway Eyes" (1978)

I'm not a huge country fan, but even I can admit that there's something truly majestic about the honky tonk sound that the Stones occasionally dabble in; sometimes you swear you're hearing a tune by a backwoods Alabama band and not a British one. Mick does a great parody of a Southern accent on this track although something tells me that he isn't going to be saved by Jesus anytime soon. 

"Emotional Rescue" (1980)

Rock and roll purists were none too pleased about their idols jumping into the disco craze, but you have to admit that Jagger's falsetto on this track can stand up to the Bee Gees and Prince anytime. (And side note to Adam Levine: this video, among so many others, proves that there's only one man in the world that has "the moves like Jagger" so quit it, already!)

"Undercover of the Night" (1983)

The '80s was not exactly kind to rock and roll as New Wave music took over the airwaves. Maybe that's why pretty much the entire album Undercover of the Night is an under appreciated effort by the Stones. I'd have to say that the title track is one of my favorite compositions by the band ever. Maybe the political message didn't resonate with listeners, but darned if that driving guitar rift doesn't, especially when it fades out and boomerangs back in. Just a fine rock and roll song, in my opinion. 

"She Was Hot" (1983)

I've always said that the Beatles sang about love while the Rolling Stones sing about sex, and this song, like so many others, pretty much epitomizes that theory. A totally infectious, yummy tune also from Undercover of the Night, and the music video is 1980s hilarity at its best. 

"One Hit to the Body" (1986)

The album Dirty Work marked kind of a dark time for the Glimmer Twins; Mick was focusing too much on his solo career which caused a lot of friction with Keith and the rest of the band. As a result, "One Hit to the Body" is basically a Keif composition and that's just fine with me.

"Harlem Shuffle" (1986)

Yes, it's a cover of a 1963 R&B song by Bob & Earl, but the Stones were able to take it to number 5 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart while the B&E version bottomed out at number 44 (although theirs is just as groovy and danceable.) Plus, I'm tickled by everything about the mid-80s video: the opening animation (and the fact that Mick is a cartoon cat), the Miami Vice-like neon set and colors, and costume design. 

"Jump On Top of Me" (1994)

I love this rarity in the RS catalog; it's the B-side to the less exciting "You Got Me Rocking." "Jump On Top of Me" was more than worthy of being included on an album; instead it was used in a 1994 Robert Altman fashion parody movie called Pret-A-Porter (or Ready to Wear.) Mick may have been showing his age a bit here in the lyrics, alluding to a middle-aged married man who just wants his wife to forget about the household chores and give him a piece once in a while. 

"Saint of Me" (1997)

Don't ever change, Mick. 

What are your favorite Stones songs or ones you feel are underrated?


  1. The Stones have unbelievable longevity. Apparently, I know more of their songs that I thought I did! The last time I saw them was when they did the Steel Wheels tour. A great concert that totally turned me off of big concerts. It was so crowded that my very short friend was pulled along and practically crushed between people. At one point, she said "my feet aren't touching the ground!" and she was truly terrified.

    Well, that's my Stones story, ha ha. Great post, Pam!

  2. Very Cool, Pam! Five '80s stone songs included. As a rock aficionado and an '80s fan, I agree with you that songs from that era were under appreciated. I remember "Undercover of the Night" coming out during the height of the Second British invasion of the '80s, and I really appreciated having a classic British group still in the music mix. And "Harlem Shuffle"... so very Stones-y, yet also so very '80s Miami Vice (with some '80s Roger Rabbit thrown in as well).

    It was also good to see the old '60s footage from "Off the Hook," during the exciting times of the first British Invasion . . . such an excellent era.


  3. I remember all those 80s videos well. The Stones aren't given enough credit for the cool videos they've made over the years.

  4. Thanks, everyone! I could easily double or triple this list..."Hand of Fate," "Memory Motel," and "Mixed Emotions" would easily be on it. Maybe a follow up post will go up in a few weeks...

  5. "She Was Hot" is one of my favorites. Two others that are not heard much these days are "Dandelion" and "Time Waits For No One."


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