Top 10 Mick Taylor Rolling Stones Songs
Even though Mick Taylor‘s stint in the Rolling Stones lasted a mere five years, he appeared on the band’s classic string of late-’60s/early-’70s albums, including Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main St. That’s more consistent than Brian Jones‘ and Ron Wood‘s runs combined. But unlike his more celebrated predecessor and successor, Taylor never seemed to be accepted as a full-fledged Stone. He was unappreciated and an outsider, and it didn’t help that he and Keith Richards clashed in the studio from time to time. Not long after the release of the It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll album, Taylor quit the band, supposedly because he wasn’t given the credit, songwriting and otherwise, he deserved. Without his contributions, most of the tracks on our list of the Top 10 Mick Taylor Rolling Stones Songs probably wouldn’t even exist.
Need proof that Taylor was undervalued by the Stones? Look no further than this gem from the band’s troubled 1973 album Goats Head Soup. “Winter” was the first song recorded for the LP, and Keith Richards wasn’t even around. So Taylor played all of the guitars on the song, including the wistful slide. It’s also likely that he co-wrote the song with Mick Jagger, even though the official credit goes to the usual Jagger-Richards combo.
Richards wasn’t the only Stone to miss recording schedules (see No. 10 on our list of the Top 10 Mick Taylor Rolling Stones Songs) — bassist Bill Wyman was occasionally MIA too. During the band’s chaotic sessions in France for 1972’s Exile on Main St., members would come and go as they pleased, and music got made whenever someone was around and felt like making it. Wyman was absent when “Tumbling Dice” was recorded, so Taylor played bass, pulling double duty on the album’s biggest single: He also played the slide guitar you hear.
Taylor played on two songs from Let It Bleed, which also included the final tracks recorded by the late Brian Jones. By Sticky Fingers, he had become fully integrated into the Stones, playing electric, acoustic and slide guitars. His soft, warm and lyrical tones balanced, and contrasted with, Richards’ more jagged style. Taylor provided the subtle but driving rhythm for this hit single.
“Honky Tonk Women”
You can thank Taylor for “Honky Tonk Women.” The song originally sounded like “Country Honk,” the twangy Let It Bleed goof that featured one of Taylor’s first appearances on a Stones album. Taylor added more rock muscle to the track, which became the band’s fifth No. 1 hit. We love the cowbell, but it wouldn’t even be there if Taylor hadn’t scruffed up the song.
The recording of the Stones’ classic Exile on Main St. album was mired in murky production, rampant drug use and absent members (see No. 9 on our list of the Top 10 Mick Taylor Rolling Stones Songs). The LP’s opening cut fires like a warning, with all five Stones, plus a few session men, splattering intentions and expectations in all directions. Taylor’s short, sweet solo leads the song to its fade.
Taylor’s influence is all over Sticky Fingers, the first album he made as a full-fledged member of the Stones. His melodic guitar lines power some of the record’s greatest songs, including this hook-filled, horn-swamped cut that opens the album’s second side (it was also the B-side to “Brown Sugar”). Undoubtedly, Sticky Fingers would have been a very different album without Taylor’s contributions.
“Can’t You Hear Me Knocking”
The Stones were entering one of their most productive and all-around best eras when Taylor joined in 1969. Two years later, he made the best music of his career on Sticky Fingers (half of the tracks on our list of the Top 10 Mick Taylor Rolling Stones Songs come from the No. 1 LP). This lengthy rocker features an extended solo by Taylor that dominates the last half of the song.
Like several songs from the period, the terrific “Moonlight Mile” came out of a late-night brainstorming session between Taylor and Jagger. And once again, Taylor says he was denied songwriting credit. Taylor built the song around a short guitar riff Richards had written. It was also his idea to add the strings that give the track its epic heft.
“Time Waits for No One”
Most of It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll sinks under the weight of the Stones’ sloppy and careless indifference to the material. But the first song recorded for the record briefly removed them from their comfort zone and featured a jazzy Latin rhythm picked up in Brazil during the band’s 1973 tour. The highlight is Taylor’s great solo, the centerpiece of an otherwise musically lazy album.
Taylor was credited with co-writing only one song during his five years with the Stones, “Ventilator Blues” from Exile on Main St. But he was most likely responsible for sizable chunks of other songs (see Nos. 10 and 3 on our list of the Top 10 Mick Taylor Rolling Stones Songs). This great cut from Sticky Fingers is his best. He not only reportedly wrote the song with Jagger (during another one of Richards’ absences), but he also played the bluesy slide in the middle of the song and the terrific lead at the end. Richards may have been responsible for the Stones’ greatest riffs, but Taylor was behind their best-ever solos.