5 Of The Most Influential Rolling Stones Album
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As the self-proclaimed “Greatest Rock and Roll Band in the World”, the Rolling Stones originated in London in 1962 with founding guitarist Brian Jones getting inspired by Muddy Waters’ “Rollin’ Stone”. The band curated its initial repertoire with blues and Chuck Berry covers.
During the mid-’60s, a period when British bands were ascending to prominence in both the U.K. and American music charts, the dynamic songwriting partnership of Mick Jagger, the Stones’ frontman, and his childhood friend, guitarist Keith Richards, propelled the band to the upper echelons of the burgeoning music scene. This ascent positioned them as the Beatles’ primary rivals in terms of musical excellence.
However, Jones’ personal and musical struggles, exacerbated by his drug use, led to his dismissal from the Stones in June 1969. Tragically, he was discovered dead in a swimming pool a few weeks later.
Despite this setback, the Rolling Stones never halted their musical journey. Instead, they adopted a flexible lineup, anchored by Jagger and Richards. Guitarist Mick Taylor, previously of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, joined the band for a series of enduring albums, including classics like Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main St.
1. Beggars Banquet (1968)
In 1968, the Rolling Stones released Beggars Banquet, an influential album that marked a distinct return to their blues and rock ‘n’ roll roots. Departing from their earlier works, this album set the stage for a series of iconic releases.
“Sympathy for the Devil”, one of the standout tracks, showcased the band’s lyrical and musical prowess, blending dark, introspective lyrics with a mesmerizing rhythm. The album’s historical significance lies in its role as a creative turning point for the band, initiating a new era of musical exploration.
Beyond its musical brilliance, Beggars Banquet embodied the sociopolitical climate of the late ’60s. It boldly addressed the turbulent times, making a powerful statement through its gritty and socially conscious lyrics. The album’s unapologetic attitude reflected the countercultural spirit of the era and solidified the Rolling Stones’ status as musical revolutionaries.
The album achieved significant success in various music markets, attaining a position in the top ten in several regions. It notably reached number 5 in the United States, where it received platinum certification, and secured a commendable number 3 spot in the band’s home country, the UK. The album garnered widespread acclaim from music critics, who heralded it as a return to the band’s prime sound.
2. Sticky Fingers (1971)
Sticky Fingers, unveiled in 1971, is celebrated for its remarkable music and its iconic album cover featuring a functional zipper. This album exemplified the Rolling Stones’ ability to seamlessly blend rock, blues, and country into a unique sound.
Tracks like “Brown Sugar” and “Wild Horses” are timeless classics that exude a raw, untamed energy. Beyond its musical brilliance, the album is a reflection of the band’s resilience and creativity, defining a generation through its bold, genre-defying sound.
Sticky Fingers’ lyrical depth and musical diversity made it a defining moment in rock history, and it remains an enduring testament to the band’s ability to continually reinvent and redefine their sound.
This record is widely regarded as one of the Rolling Stones’ finest albums. It holds the distinction of being the band’s first album to claim the coveted number one spot on both the UK and US album charts. Over time, it has garnered a triple platinum certification in the United States. The album’s lead single, “Brown Sugar”, made waves and ascended to the top position on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1971.
3. Exile on Main St. (1972)
Exile on Main St. is a cornerstone of rock music history that the Rolling Stones unleashed in 1972. A double album teeming with a mix of blues, rock, and soul, this release captures the essence of the Rolling Stones’ legendary, decades-spanning career.
The album’s allure lies in its chaotic, almost frenzied atmosphere, reflecting the band’s nomadic lifestyle during its creation. Each track carries its own unique flavor, from gritty blues-rock to gospel-inspired anthems, weaving together a sonic tapestry of rock’s many facets.
Exile’s recording process was unconventional and scattered, taking place in various locations, including a villa in France and a basement in Keith Richards’ mansion. The resulting album exuded a raw, unpolished quality that resonated with fans. It is a testament to the Rolling Stones’ ability to channel chaos into musical gold.
This Stones classic initially encountered mixed reviews but underwent a significant critical reappraisal by the conclusion of the 1970s. It has since earned acclaim as a groundbreaking hard rock album, often considered the Rolling Stones’ magnum opus and regarded as one of the most exceptional albums in the history of music. Rolling Stone positioned the album at number 7 on its “500 Greatest Albums of All Time” list in both 2003 and 2012.
4. Some Girls (1978)
In 1978, the Rolling Stones released Some Girls, an album that marked another significant turning point in their storied career. As rock music underwent transformative changes in the late ’70s, the Stones embraced this evolution.
The album includes hits like “Miss You”, a funk-infused anthem, and “Beast of Burden”, a soulful ballad. Some Girls not only showcased the band’s adaptability to changing musical trends but also proved that they could successfully navigate these shifts while retaining their signature sound.
Beyond its musical innovation, the record carries historical significance as a reflection of its era. The album captured the spirit of the late ’70s, incorporating elements of disco, punk, and new wave into the Rolling Stones’ rock and blues foundation.
Despite the controversy that swirled around its cover art and lyrical themes, Some Girls achieved remarkable commercial success. Following a revival from the relatively lukewarm reception of Black and Blue, Some Girls secured acclaim from critics, being hailed as a classic resurgence for the band and their finest work since Exile on Main St.
5. Tattoo You (1981)
Released in 1981, Tattoo You is a testament to the Rolling Stones’ enduring relevance and staying power. While it may seem like a compilation of tracks from various recording sessions, the album retains a cohesive quality, showcasing the band’s consistency and timelessness.
With tracks like “Start Me Up” and “Waiting on a Friend”, the album demonstrated the Stones’ ability to create an engaging and eclectic work from diverse musical elements. Historically, Tattoo You reflected the early ’80s rock landscape, where new wave and post-punk were on the rise. The Rolling Stones managed to bridge generations by creating an album that appealed to their loyal fan base while also attracting younger listeners.
The infectious energy of “Start Me Up” and the reflective moments of “Waiting on a Friend” made Tattoo You a bridge between past and future, an album that both honored the band’s legacy and hinted at the changing musical horizon.
Tattoo You enjoyed a dual triumph, finding success both in critical acclaim and commercial performance upon its release as it ascended to the peak of the US Billboard 200 chart. Remarkably, it holds the distinction of being the last Rolling Stones album to attain the number-one position on the US charts, concluding the band’s remarkable streak of eight consecutive number-one albums in the United States, a sequence that had started with Sticky Fingers.