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The Rolling Stones album Mick Jagger called his “finest hour”


“Don’t take life too seriously and always remember: it is just a passing fad.” – Mick Jagger. 

There is a curious pitfall that a great deal of artists plunge into when they appraise their own back catalogue and herald a dud as their greatest. Bob Dylan claims that Shot of Love is his opus, Leonard Cohen crowned 1979’s Recent Songs his favourite Cohen album, and Patti Smith placed Banga ahead of Horses. None of these options are bad albums, some of them are great, in fact, but in the culturally transcendent sense they pale in comparison to the gleaming masterpieces that they managed to produce. 

Mick Jagger, however, is a man who calls a spade a spade when perusing the vast back catalogue of the Rolling Stones. He championed ‘Gimme Shelter’ as the best single in their output (in my opinion the correct choice). “It was a very moody piece about the world closing in on you a bit,” Jagger said of the track that now sadly has a remaining prescience. “When it was recorded, early ’69 or something, it was a time of war and tension, so that’s reflected in this tune. It’s still wheeled out when big storms happen, as they did the other week. It’s been used a lot to evoke natural disaster.”

And when it comes to his “finest hour” the gyrating star was just as on the money. When discussing Exile on Main Street, with The Talks, Jagger was quick to praise the 1972 masterpiece. “My finest hour,” he proclaimed. “Well, it is certainly good and certainly it was a very creative period, a really good period. Some very good things came in that period in music.”

The band were assured in this period, and some could say that they were freed from the sway of The Beatles too. Financial difficulties had forced them to focus, and with that came a liberated return to the slightly more bluesy style that spawned them, and psychedelic experimentations like Their Satanic Majesties Request were shelved. As Jagger said upon initial release: “This new album is fucking mad. There’s so many different tracks. It’s very rock & roll, you know.”

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Nevertheless, when you’re blitzing through a purple patch at the prolific rate the Stones were, then you are bound to gather some moss along the way. As Jagger added in his appraisal of both the Stones and the golden era as a whole during the time: “There was some crap as well but there were some really good things, some good rock things, it was a very good period for soul music as well.”

Aside from his own finest moment, he then went on to add that some of his favourite records came out at that time. “They had great albums by Curtis Mayfield, James Brown, Marvin Gaye,” he added. And then he hit the brakes on his own back-patting, continuing: “It’s a very good album, but I don’t know if I have a best one. […] I don’t really have favourites. And I don’t listen to Rolling Stones albums.”

Keith Richards, on the other hand, is certainly not a man who would apply the same modesty having once grumbled with pride: “You’ve got the sun, you’ve got the moon, and you’ve got the Rolling Stones.”

Despite the fact Jagger might not be quite so forthright in his opinion or spin Exile on Main Street all that often, that doesn’t stop him from looking back at it all with fondness. As he surmised: “I don’t regret anything and I am very fond of all of it. My years with the Rolling Stones are and were a wonderful time, really. I mean, you could paint it in a very dark light: it was decadent, yeah it was quite decadent, but decadence is very enjoyable, isn’t it?”

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