Click here to return to the main site.
Everybody loves books of lists, right? Someone else’s opinion, for you to digest and contradict. After all, lists of ‘the best of...’ always come down to the author’s personal opinion. Jim Beviglia, a feature contributor for American Songwriter magazine, has already produced similar list books for both Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan, so it wouldn’t be such a big leap to take on his present opus.
Counting Down the Rolling Stone: Their 100 finest songs (2016. 201 pages) is Beviglia’s personal chart, which is based on song quality rather than commercial success, although those two criteria are not mutually exclusive.
Beviglia has a little problem in finding bands which can fulfil the criteria after all the band or artist would had to have had an extensive career to have created a large enough body of work. The Stones, like the Beatles, have been around since the sixties and while they have had periods of greater success, never have they completely faded into the musical background. Their music, mainly blues based, has also produced touching ballads as well as the odd disco moment.
Beviglia has been able to include the entire catalogue, excluding bootlegs and so presents a fascinating look at the band and the cultural and social world which generated the songs. Beviglia has no pretence about this being his top 100 based on artistic merit alone, as he judges it and I’m sure some long time fans will find some choices contentious. That said, each song is provided with an insightful critique, which discuses the background of the song and examines its musical and lyrical merits.
To give you some idea of where he is coming from his top ten in descending order are 'Memory Motel', 'Gimme Shelter', 'Ruby Tuesday', 'Paint it Black', 'Moonlight Mile', 'You Can’t Always Get What You Want', 'Sympathy for the Devil', 'Brown Sugar', 'Street Fighting Man' and 'Jumping Jack Flash'. Already I want to argue the toss about why he thought ‘Jack’ was a better song than ‘Sympathy’.
You’re not going to agree all his choices, but he provides a well informed reason for them and the book acts as a good primer for any newbie fans as well as a talking point for others.