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Readers’ Poll: The 10 Best Rolling Stones Deep Cuts

These tracks weren’t released as singles, but they remain some of the most memorable tunes in rock history

The Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones in London in 1964.

Terry O'Neill/Hulton Archive/Getty

The Rolling Stones tend to center their concerts around their vast catalog of hits, but Mick Jagger tells us that this summer's tour will also highlight some lesser-known tunes from Sticky Fingers. Nothing is confirmed, but it seems quite possible they're going to play "Sister Morphine" and "Moonlight Mile" for the first time since the 1990s. This inspired us to ask our readers to vote on the band's best deep cuts. We counted anything that wasn't a hit. Here are the results. 

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The Rolling Stones in London in 1964.

Terry O'Neill/Hulton Archive/Getty

10

“Fingerprint File”

The Rolling Stones 1974 LP, It's Only Rock 'n Roll, is best remembered for its hit title track, but the album wraps up with a song that's equally impressive. The six-and-a-half minute "Fingerprint File" is an insanely funky tune where Mick Jagger sings from the perspective of an extremely paranoid man who believes he's being tracked by the FBI. Jagger played rhythm guitar himself, and the song almost sounds like it could have been a Sly & the Family Stone outtake. It was the first of many dance songs the Stones would try out in the 1970s. They haven't played it since the summer of 1975 and it's hard to imagine it ever coming back into the set list, but hardcore fans will go insane should they ever give it a shot. 

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The Rolling Stones in London in 1964.

Terry O'Neill/Hulton Archive/Getty

9

“Sweet Virginia”

Side Two of Exile on Main Street kicks off with this lovely country ballad, but references to speed, shit and pill-popping made radio play unlikely. The tune emerged during the Sticky Fingers period in 1970 and was properly recorded about two years later during the Exile sessions. According to legend, Gram Parsons sang background vocals, but that's never been 100 percent confirmed. The song has been a live favorite for years, popping up most recently at an Australian gig in 2014. 

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The Rolling Stones in London in 1964.

Terry O'Neill/Hulton Archive/Getty

8

“Stray Cat Blues”

The Rolling Stones were on a roll when they cut Beggars Banquet in 1968, churning out classics like "Sympathy for the Devil," "Street Fighting Man," "Salt of the Earth" and "No Expectations" in a matter of months. No wonder something as strong as "Stray Cat Blues" had a hard time standing out. It's also the sort of song that could never be released today: Its lyrics are about having sex with a 15-year-old groupie. "Bet your mama don't know you scream like that," Jagger sings. "I bet your mother don't know you can spit like that." Even crazier, Jagger changed her age to 13 on the live version. 

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The Rolling Stones in London in 1964.

Terry O'Neill/Hulton Archive/Getty

7

“2000 Light Years From Home”

The Rolling Stones would be the first to admit that their 1967 psychedelic LP, Their Satanic Majesties Request, didn't quite go as well as planned. They simply weren't playing to their strengths, and the experiment felt a little forced. That said, the album does have some amazing gems, like the penultimate song "2000 Light Years From Home." Brian Jones plays mellotron, and Jagger supposedly wrote the lyrics in prison following his drug bust. "It's so very lonely," he sings. "You're 2,000 light years from home." Most songs from this album haven't been touched in over 40 years, but the Stones played this one on the 1989/1990 tour and brought it back at Glastonbury in 2013. 

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The Rolling Stones in London in 1964.

Terry O'Neill/Hulton Archive/Getty

6

“Sister Morphine”

Many great rock songs used coded language to refer to drug use. "Sister Morphine" is not one of those songs: It's about a severely injured man in a hospital bed that gets more than a little comfort from his friends Sister Morphine and Cousin Cocaine. Jagger began the tune in 1968, and Marianne Faithful added in a few lyrics. She cut the song herself in 1969, and when she saw that the Stones released it on Sticky Fingers without giving her any credit she filed a claim. Today the song is credited to Jagger/Richards/Faithful.

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The Rolling Stones in London in 1964.

Terry O'Neill/Hulton Archive/Getty

5

“Time Waits for No One”

It's hard to not feel a little bad for Mick Taylor. Nobody disputes that he was an amazing guitarist who helped the Rolling Stones craft some of their most memorable tunes, but he joined a band with two extremely experienced songwriters and it was hard for him to find space within that team. By the time the Stones cut It's Only Rock 'n Roll in 1974, Richards was going through a rough patch and wasn't always available, so Taylor played a crucial role in writing "Time Waits for No One." He claimed that Jagger promised a writing credit, and the fact that he didn't get one played a role in his decision to leave. Who knows how different things might have been had Taylor stuck around, but the song remains a very nice final statement. 

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The Rolling Stones in London in 1964.

Terry O'Neill/Hulton Archive/Getty

4

“Dead Flowers”

Just nine days after Altamont, the Rolling Stones headed into London's Olympic Studios to cut this new song with dark overtones quite possibly inspired by the recent tragedy. "I'll be in my basement room/with a needle and a spoon," Jagger sings.  "And another girl to take my pain away." This was right at the time that country rock groups like Poco and the Flying Burrito Brothers were taking off, and their influence is pretty clear. Townes Van Zandt covered the song many years later, and this version was memorably used in The Big Lebowski. 

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The Rolling Stones in London in 1964.

Terry O'Neill/Hulton Archive/Getty

3

“Sway”

Tucked between "Brown Sugar" and "Wild Horses" on Sticky Fingers, "Sway" was the first truly great showcase for Mick Taylor. The guitarist wrote the song with Mick Jagger and believed he'd receive proper acknowledgement, but it was ultimately credited to Jagger/Richards even though Keith merely provided backing vocals. It was the type of indignity that Taylor was willing to put up with in the early days but would increasingly become an issue in later years. The guitarist played the tune with the Stones on three occasions in 2013. 

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The Rolling Stones in London in 1964.

Terry O'Neill/Hulton Archive/Getty

2

“Moonlight Mile”

If the Rolling Stones do go ahead and perform Sticky Fingers this summer, the highlight might wind up being "Moonlight Mile," especially if they splurge for a string section to play the song properly. The six-minute tune wraps up the album with gorgeous arrangement by Paul Buckmaster, who was working similar magic with Elton John at the exact same time, and this elevated the song into an absolute masterpiece. The Stones tried it live in 1999, but it never truly took off.

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The Rolling Stones in London in 1964.

Terry O'Neill/Hulton Archive/Getty

1

“Can’t You Hear Me Knocking”

It's pretty clear that Sticky Fingers is popular album among Stones aficionados – half of this list comes from that album. On "Can't You Hear Me Knocking," Keith Richards melds with new bandmate Mick Taylor perfectly, and the song ends with a jam that sounds like the best piece of music Carlos Santana never recorded. It was captured in a single take and Richards didn't even realize he was being recorded, but the back-and-forth is recreated every time the group plays the song live. The Stones didn't bring "Can't You Hear Me Knocking" out much at the time, but in 2002 it finally entered their regular rotation. 

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