One Very Underrated Track from Each of The Rolling Stones’ 1970s Albums

The Rolling Stones established themselves as the world’s finest rock and roll band at the beginning of the 1970s with the classic albums Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main St. After a bit of a rough patch in the middle of the decade, they came back strong with Some Girls in 1978.

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They usually found a way to churn out a hit or two from every album during that time period. But what about some of the more underrated ’70s tracks from the band? Here is a look at one song from each of their six ’70s albums that deserves more recognition than it gets.

“Moonlight Mile” from Sticky Fingers (1971)

This beautiful album closer probably gets short shrift because it’s too much of a studio creation to be recreated live with ease, which is why the band has rarely played it in concert. But its quirkiness makes it the perfect send-off to an album of such impressive diversity. It features some of Mick Jagger’s most interestingly introspective lyrics, as well as evocative instrumental work from Mick Taylor on guitar and Charlie Watts on drums. Paul Buckmaster’s string arrangement is the perfect touch on top of all that.

“Ventilator Blues” from Exile on Main St. (1972)

The Stones recorded Exile on Main St. in a dank basement on Keith Richards’ French estate. Between cigarette smoke, alcohol, and various other substances wafting through the cramped quarters, it must have been tough to get a fresh breath of air. Hence, you get the “Ventilator Blues.” This is as grimy a blues song as the band has ever concocted, with horns from Jim Price and Bobby Keys pitching into the atmosphere and a snaky Mick Taylor solo squeezing into the middle of the claustrophobic arrangement.

“Winter” from Goats Head Soup (1973)

A lot of critics talked about the Stones running out of gas on Goats Head Soup. Go back to that record, and you might just be surprised at how much goodness is to be found. The hits are fine, and then there’s “Winter,” a restrained, meandering ballad that equates the coldest season with an indefinable sense of melancholy. Mick Jagger pulls back on the histrionics and delivers a passionate vocal, while the guitars of Mick Taylor and Keith Richards fill in all the bluesy gaps.

“Fingerprint File” from It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll (1974)

Every now and again, a band will use the final track on an album to perhaps look ahead to where they might be headed next. In the case of “Fingerprint File,” the Stones might have been subconsciously previewing the funk and disco turns they’d be taking on records to come. Jagger actually plays the rhythm guitar part that provides the song’s foundation. Charlie Watts handles the urbane rhythms with typical effortlessness, and the extended instrumental section is compelling and surprising.

“Hand of Fate” from Black and Blue (1976)

Black and Blue is a bit of an odd one in the Stones’ catalog, as they used it primarily to audition possible replacements for Mick Taylor. On “Hand of Fate,” the Alabaman Wayne Perkins gets the chance to play lead, and he rips off an impressive solo. (Many claim he would have got the permanent gig if he had been British.) The song is an outlaw anthem that’s a rocking throwback on an album that’s otherwise a bit ballad-heavy.

“Respectable” from Some Girls (1978)

It’s hard to find a song on Some Girls that’s underrated, because many of those songs were either hits or have become band staples through the years. “Respectable” did get released as a single in the UK, but not in America. And it has sort of taken a back seat to other songs on that record. But it’s a fun blast of energy, with the Stones using a punkish framework as a way of sarcastically commenting on how acceptable they’d become to the public that once feared them just by sticking around for so long.

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Photo by John Minihan/Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

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