"Midnight Rambler" (1969)
"Nobody went in there with the idea of doing a blues opera," Richards said in 2002. "That's just the way it turned out." Written by Jagger and Richards on an Italian vacation with the idea of tempo-changing Chicago blues, the seven-minute epic is a live highlight to this day. It was recorded in March 1969, with Richards spending five nights overdubbing his menacing slide-guitar part and Jones on percussion, one of his last recordings with the band. ("A last flare from the shipwreck," Richards later wrote.) Though it was written with "Boston Strangler" Albert DeSalvo in mind, it took on new resonance after the Manson Family murders that year. But it truly came alive in concert, as heard on the 1970 live album Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out, with Jagger conjuring a crazed killer, using his belt as a whip on the stage. Said Jagger, "Why we should write such a dark song in this beautiful, sunny place, I really don't know."