The Rolling Stones, still active to this very day, remain to be one of the longest running rock bands of all time. That means they've got records both old and new! Formed in 1962, the band have been active for six long decades and with over 200 million records sold under their name, they rank highly amongst the best-selling music artists.
With such a prestigious reputation, there’s no doubt that the Stones have a number of records that are worth owning. Whether you’re already a fan or are just looking into their albums for the first time, we’re here to give you the absolute must-owns of The Rolling Stones on vinyl!
One of the most important factors of this record in particular is its original cover. At first glance just a cheeky closeup of a man’s crotch in some jeans, but then you notice there’s a neat die cut in place of the zipper. And the zipper is real! A real, functioning zipper on an album cover. It’s so weird that it’s incredible. Interestingly, this album is also the first appearance of the tongue and lips logo designed by John Pasche.
As well as its cover, there is of course the album itself. The Stones shook off their legal shackles to come out with the most vulgar, shameless and emotionally driven set of tracks they had written to date. What came of it was one of their strongest albums to date. “Brown Sugar”, a very popular Stones song debuted here with its iconic opening riff, followed by 9 more amazing tracks like “Sway”, “Moonlight Mile”, “Bitch” as well as the rest. A great album, showing a great band with no restraints!
While there is no functional zipper on this album’s cover, it is essentially a memorabilia of its own. The cover is composed with a compilation of photography from decades before its release, from all over the world. It’s worth it alone to get a small glimpse into cultures of the past via little pictures from years passed. This album was the Stones first ever double album! Packing over 60 minutes of great tracks. While Jagger took the helm of most of the writing due to Richards being made pretty unavailable by his crippling heroin addiction, the album is healthily sprinkled with American influence by Keith.
The Stones stay true to their rock ‘n’ roll blues roots, though they are mixed in well with the big-band sound of trumpets and horns. “Tumbling Dice”, the track that garnered the most attention, “Shake Your Hips”, “Sweet Virginia” and “Happy” all draw strongly from Keith’s strongly rooted American influence. The album also feels as emotionally driven as the prior “Sticky Fingers”, especially on tracks like the sincere “Shine A Light”. Most people will know this album for how it came to be, that the band were on the run from their taxes and recorded the entire thing in Richards’ villa in France, but this record deserves to be known for its content, too.
This record was Mick Taylor’s first venture with the Rolling Stones. The colourful cover with the pleasant looking cake and the miniatures of all the present band members deeply contrasts the dark, grungy energy of the material within. The tragic irony comes with this darker album personifying the Stones as the bringers of chaos and doom, for it to have been the setlist of their free concert in California in which they hired the brutal Hell’s Angels as their security, which resulted in the unnecessary death of Meredith Hunter.
Evergrowing violence and worries brought this album to life, and it resonated with people who were having the exact thoughts and feelings it portrayed. “Gimme Shelter” was predominantly influenced by the Vietnam war and its atrocities, and covers harrowing topics like murder and rape. “Midnight Gambler” continued the dark theme, as written from the perspective of the Boston Strangler. This dark album ends on an epic high with “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”, which signs out the disturbing themes of the album with a beautiful contribution from London’s Bach Choir.
If you know anything about The Rolling Stones, you may have noticed that all records featured so far have been from what many would call their golden era. This record is no exception and is in fact, the one that started it off. Happily slipping back to their rock and blues roots, the Stones viewed themselves as a pack of delinquents who somehow brought their music to a wider culture, as seen in the theme of graffiti and a mucky toilet on the cover.
“Jumpin’ Jack Flash”, “No Expectations”, “Parachute Woman” and a few more tracks truly return to the blues the Stones were best known for. It also comes in strong with the political song “Street Fighting Man” and takes on a very interesting perspective of Lucifer himself in “Sympathy for the Devil”. This is the album that brought The Rolling Stones back into form from their experimental years, this is the record that told everyone they were kings of rock ‘n’ roll.
This record marked another important stepping stone in the Rolling Stones career, that being the first time they had an entire album of completely original songs. Jagger and Richards put their heads together to write every song, what came of it was clever instrumentation and lyrical freedom on social commentary tracks such as “Mother’s Little Helper” and what was interpreted as misogynistic at the time, “Under My Thumb”. The band also tackled a multitude of genres in one album, such as taking on “I’m Waiting”, a pop song, and “Lady Jane” which drew more influence from folk.
Aftermath also brought about the popular single “Paint It Black”, which layered itself in unsettling hums to match the guitar play. This song centered around the heavy topic of depression and the isolation it can cause. The cover of this album sees the Stones with a blurred effect over each of their left halves while their rights are more darkly lit, with the album and band name in a navy blue at the top. It’s simple, but it’s a mesmerizing cover nonetheless. Its almost ethereal look perfectly matches the thought provoking content within.
Down to the extensive length of their career, it's incredibly hard to pick out just a small fraction of their records to call the best. However, we believe that if you want to get into the Stones, these are the records you should start with. And if you're already a fan, you should absolutely own them!
With the Stones being some of the most important names in the rock 'n' roll business as well as being such a dominant force during the classic reign of vinyl records, we feel like it only makes sense to recommend their albums.