The Rolling Stones have so many great songs... Jumpin' Jack Flash, Brown Sugar, Sympathy for the Devil, Under my Thumb, Bitch, It's Only Rock and Roll, Let's Spend the Night Together, Can't You Hear Me Knockin', Shattered, Dancing with Mr. D...
And there's so many more... but my all time favorite is the infamous "Gimme Shelter"... which imho, is The Stones answer to The Beatles "Helter Skelter" (hell, their titles even rhyme!)... this song is the pinnacle of the rock sound, it's brown man... it's that Brown Sound.
Even those who don't like music, won't deny there's 'something' about these songs... it's like magic.
Gimme Shelter is magic alright... and it holds much mysticism partly due to Keith Richards (KEEFS!) incredibly hypnotic opening guitar riff... a few simple music notes strung together in such a manner that they can transform the air around you into a flashback of Altamont 1969, the summer of love (and hate)...
But that's not all... then, like a Rolling Stone, Jagger gradually builds it into a rock and roll anthem capable of transcending time and space, literally warping your thoughts back to another life... evoking a sort of transcendental time travel (much like Helter Skelter does; instant flashback)... yeah, two flashbacks in one song, due to the one/two hits of acid in the band, Mick and Keef.
Not only that, but a child gave it's life to create this song... yeah, a baby died for Gimme Shelter... female backup vocalist, Merry Clayton, had a miscarriage shortly after recording, due to the extreme tension she exerted to reach such high emotional expression... while the song itself was literally written as an omen of doom, Mick Jagger is quoted saying:
"Well, it's a very rough, very violent era. The Vietnam War. Violence on the screens, pillage and burning. And Vietnam was not war as we knew it in the conventional sense... kind of end-of-the-world song, really. It's apocalypse; the whole record's like that."
So with all that said, our endless love of Gimme Shelter... the real unsung number has to be "Midnight Rambler"... particularly the version off the live bootleg album "Brussels 1973" (the breakout at the end gives me chills every time).
But in retrospect, pointing out a favorite version of this song is actually arguing against my point... the entire reason Rambler is the desert island blues platter #1, is that it's so wildy different each time they play it live... it rambles!
Despite the coolness factor of an ever changing stones track, the lyrics / plot of the song are exceptionally creepy... sung from the perspective of a rapist murderer, heavily based on the "Boston Strangler"... the breakdown lyrics in the middle are said to actually be direct quotes copped from Albert DeSalvos confession.
Even higher strangeness; Mick and Keith wrote this entire song while on vacation at a beautiful sunny town in Italy... where the hell did they come up with the Boston Strangler?!?!?!
Not only is this song seemingly out of character for The Stones, Midnight Gambler has something embedded in it that actually seeps through the speakers and directly into your psyche... perhaps due to it's length, generally clocking 12+ minutes on many versions... it forces you to either get distracted by something else, or forget everything else and fully commit your mind to the experience... so when it finally slows down to a crawl, and Jagger directly injects your mind with DeSalvos darkness, Keef cuts out and breaks loose... and it's something else, man!
None of this may be immediately apparent, which is a huge part of it's charm... but then many aspects of the Rolling Stones career is not... when Black Sabbath wrote "We Sold Our Souls for Rock and Roll"... you know they were talking about The Stones.
*Tumbling Dice intentionally excluded from this description... now go listen to it!