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Playlist: Rolling Stones: Before the Tongue

A guide to their British Invasion incarnation

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Playlist: Rolling Stones: Before the Tongue

The Rolling Stones, 1965

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Before they got their own label, a tongue logo, and the title of World's Greatest Rock and Roll Band, the Rolling Stones were "only" arguably the best of the UK R&B bands, a major force in the British Invasion, bad boys with a frighteningly quick learning curve who also became adept at delicate ballads, Indian music, and psychedelic pop. Here's a playlist you can assemble to hear how they matured from cover band to teen sensation to icons capable of classic-rock album staples like Beggar's Banquet, Let It Bleed, and Sticky Fingers.

Download the mp3s right here and assemble the playlist yourself! This playlist fits on a standard CD.

  1. Not Fade Away (1:46)
    A cover of the Buddy Holly classic, done with a Bo Diddley beat replete with maracas, and the group's first British Top 10, not to mention the first to crack the American charts.
  2. It's All Over Now (3:27)
    The group angered Bobby Womack when they selected this as the fourth single released in one month (June 1964), reportedly leading him to suggest they "get their own damn song." But he stopped complaining when it became their first No. 1 in the UK.
  3. Time Is on My Side (guitar intro version) (2:52)
    This time the Stones turned to New Orleans Soul for inspiration, an original that the city's "queen of soul," Irma Thomas, had actually recorded in Los Angeles. This version also eclipsed Irma's, but it did help put her on the musical map. An in-concert staple for many years, sort of a twisted love letter to the group's fans. Also their first US Top Ten!
  4. Off the Hook (2:34)
    The Jagger-Richards team finally proved that they'd learned to write their own songs with this Chess homage, which cannily turned technological failure (busy phone line) into a metaphor for a damaged relationship (no communication).
  5. Heart of Stone (2:45)
    An somewhat uncharacteristic sock-hop ballad which Mick, as is his wont, turns into a hateful and resolute stance against the female of the species, presaging "Under My Thumb" and other songs of romantic warfare.
  6. The Last Time (3:41)
    Two years in and the band finally gets its own original across-the-board smash, although it's heavily borrowed -- The Staple Singers' 1955 version of the gospel warhorse "This May Be The Last Time" provided the words if not the melody to the chorus, and then-session man Jimmy Page laid down the solo. In a possibly karmic twist, an orchestral version of this song was later sampled for The Verve's worldwide smash "Bitter Sweet Symphony."
  7. Play With Fire (2:14)
    One of the earliest songs to deal with a popular Stones theme -- sexual power as a means of leveling out economic power -- this dark acoustic number gave another advance look at how the band viewed some of their more affluent female fans. It also prophesied the band's mid-decade move into folk balladry.
  8. (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction (3:43)
    Number One all over two continents, at least, and certainly the biggest song of the Sixties' first half. Written by Keith and Mick while lounging poolside and bemoaning the downside of their fame. Scandalous for being the first popular song to even imply that women had menses ("You better come back later next week / 'Cause you see I'm on a losing streak"). An anticapitalist rebellion by the nouveau riche and also proof that the band had developed a signature sound.
  9. The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man (3:08)
    The b-side to "Satisfaction" was nonetheless barely noticed at the time: who wanted to play the flip when the smash was so addictive? Yet this tune, developed by the whole band under their Nanker Phelge psuedonym (from what sounds like a jam on Buster Brown's "Fannie Mae"), was a vicious stab at hopelessly square music business types desperate to appear hip and involved. Too mean to be a mere novelty.
  10. Out of Time (version from Flowers) (3:41)
    On the other hand, this album track -- originally written and produced by Jagger for UK singer Chris Farlowe -- proved that the boys could also do straight pop as well as anyone; here, the Girl in Question leaves Mick to play around and finds she can't come back and be the "first in line." Ah, groupie politics.
  11. Get off of My Cloud (2:53)
    The Stones continued their new reign as pop music's greatest provocateurs by taking on drugs, albeit not explicitly: they must have been the first band in 1965 to complain of someone bumming their high. Almost as big a hit as "Satisfaction," and for many of the same reasons.
  12. As Tears Go By (2:45)
    Originally written by Jagger for his ingenue girlfriend Marianne Faithfull, who had the UK hit with it, this tender "Yesterday"-style chamber ballad -- the Stones' version, that is -- went Top 10 in the US. Apparently no one had a problem believing Mick when he sang "My riches can't buy everything / I want to hear the children sing."
  13. 19th Nervous Breakdown (3:56)
    Yet another chapter in the continuing story of the Stones attacking snotty priviliged rich girls, but with even more incisive bitterness, attacking the entire structure that produced them, and a guitar breakdown taken straight from Bo Diddley's "Diddley Daddy."
  14. Paint It, Black (3:44)
    Once George Harrison taught Brian Jones the wonders of the sitar, it was only a matter of time before it popped up on a Stones track. Actually borne of a group jam that started with Jones on organ, this exotic modal classic gave Mick the musical freedom to explore his darkest thoughts in detail.
  15. Under My Thumb (3:24)
    For the last half of the Seventies, before "Start Me Up" came along, this was the defacto show opener for the band, albeit in a much faster, guitar-based version. On this original Aftermath track, the gentle marimba-based strut sounds sort of benevolent at first, until Jagger gets going on the girl who did him wrong and the fun he's having punishing her. Another signpost of what the band would become in the next decade.
  16. Mother's Little Helper (2:45)
    By this point, the Stones were moving straight into the realm of social commentary, in this case a laughing sneer at the proper PTA types who bashed the Stones' drug use while eating fistfuls of downers to get through the day. Mick pulls no punches, mocking the deathly dullness of both age and suburbia, and o.d.ing his own lyrical creation in the end.
  17. Lady Jane (3:11)
    Not as solid as "As Tears Go By," and a disturbing indication of the band's drift away from the blues, the flip side to "Mother's Little Helper" -- both of which were only singles in the US -- stil managed to make it to #24. Mainly Brian Jones' idea, this song was never played live after his death.
  18. Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadow? (2:33)
    A completely bonkers rocker, featuring a bizarre psychedelic arrangement and, for the first time on a Stones track, a horn section. Though it reached the Top 10 in both the US and UK, it's been unfairly overshadowed by the bigger and more important hits surrounding it. Yet it's one of their best uptempo numbers from this period, harder than anything else from the Between the Buttons sessions.
  19. Ruby Tuesday (3:13)
    Mick and Co. finally got the big ballad smash they wanted with this number, another gentle chamber-music piece conceived by Brian and fleshed out by Keith with a portrait of one of the band's more free-spirited groupies. Also marks a first in that the Stones were finally trying the "double a-side" 45 like their rivals, the Beatles.
  20. Let's Spend the Night Together (3:28)
    Believe it or not, this famous song didn't even crack the US Top 40 -- its blatant (if joyous) offer of a one-night stand scared off lots of stateside DJs, who played the flipside, the more subtle groupie tribute "Ruby Tuesday," instead. Ed Sullivan became notorious for ordering the group to perform it on his show as "Let's Spend Some Time Together." Mick got his revenge by mugging wildly as he sang the cleaner chorus.
  21. She's a Rainbow (4:11)
    This was the true beginning of the band's ill-fated "psychedelic" period, which would leave Brian Jones out in the ether and threaten to destroy the group's popularity. Despite what some figured at the time, however, it didn't affect their songwriting much -- their hippie move was kinder but by no means less musical. Nevertheless, they didn't do many piano intros again.
  22. Dandelion (3:47)
    A double-sided hit that would have made Their Satanic Majesties Request much stronger had it been included there, this b-side of a freakier ode to their fans, "We Love You," is arguably the stronger song. Not written by Keith about his daughter of the same name, as is usually reported: Keith didn't have a daughter until 1972. He did name her Dandelion at first, but happily, cooler heads prevailed.
  23. 2000 Light Years from Home (4:44)
    The band's trippiest anthem, the centerpiece of "Majesties," and the black hole through which the band disappeared for six months in a haze of drugs, disillusionment, sycophancy, and court appearances. Indeed, Jagger wrote the lyrics while in prison, making this a blues of sorts, albeit a strange one. Miraculously pulled out of obscurity and revived during the band's 1989 tour.
  24. Jumpin' Jack Flash (3:37)
    And finally, the Stones right themselves and turn into the classic-rock legends we all know so well, re-establishing Mick's myth so well that Don McLean was inspired to use "Jack" as a Satanic symbol of everything that had gone wrong with rock and roll. Maybe so, but with this smash, the World's Greatest Rock and Roll Band became just that; while still mired in personal problems, they'd finally come to terms with exactly who (and what) they were.
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