Ranking the 5 Best Album Closers by The Rolling Stones

In 2023, The Rolling Stones released Hackney Diamonds, their 31st studio album. The closing track was a cover of Muddy Waters’ “Rolling Stone Blues,” and it featured Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Ronnie Wood, the three remaining official members of the band, wailing away on the blues classic that gave them their name.

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What a way to finish the record. But then again, the Stones have always had a knack for putting the perfect finishing touch on an album, as evidenced by these five songs, our choices for their finest album-closing tracks.

5. “Waiting on a Friend” from Tattoo You (1981)

Tattoo You is something of a miracle. How many other bands could have culled together a bunch of leftover tracks and turned them into a definitive artistic statement? It’s even more remarkable because they had no choice but to make the album this way, as band relations were at an all-time low and no one wanted to be bothered with coming up with songs from scratch. That’s why it’s almost humorous that the album closes out with one of the most touching songs you’ll ever hear about friendship, with Mick Jagger actually making us believe that he’s not waiting on a lady, but instead waiting on a friend.

4. “Slipping Away” from Steel Wheels (1989)

Steel Wheels came after a rough period in the band’s history where they came a little too close for comfort to breaking up. That’s why it was so reassuring that they rose to the occasion with such a fine album. Continuing a tradition they began with Emotional Rescue (“All About You”) and continued with Dirty Work (“Sleep Tonight”), the Stones closed out the album with an after-hours ballad sung by Keith Richards. And it’s a doozy, all rich horns and soulful backing vocals and Richards singing about the passage of time with defeated grace.

3. “Moonlight Mile” from Sticky Fingers (1971)

The Rolling Stones flexed on Sticky Fingers, switching from genre to genre with each passing song and proving themselves masters of all of them. And then for the closing song, they came with something that floated in some strange, alluring limbo area that was completely uncategorizable. Surprisingly, Keith Richards sits the song out, but what’s left behind is pretty amazing: Mick Taylor’s anguished guitar licks, Charlie Watts’ feathery touch on the drums, arranger Paul Buckmaster’s sweeping strings, and Mick Jagger’s cosmically melancholy musings about a life unmoored from a true home.

2. “Shattered” from Some Girls (1978)

Four of the five songs on this list are ballads. And then there’s “Shattered,” which sends Some Girls out in frazzled, raucous fashion. This was an album where the Stones focused on urban life in all its gritty, decayed glory. That made the closing track, where Richards sounds as if he’s playing the guitar from some subterranean gutter right alongside the rats and bedbugs in the lyrics, so apropos. Jagger’s narrator finds himself frustrated and overstimulated by all the surrounding excess, until he finally just decides to steer into the curve with the closing line: Pile it high on a platter.

1. “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” from Let It Bleed (1969)

If you consciously tried to sum up a decade in a song, you’d probably end up with an overly earnest mess. The Stones managed a poignant, clear-eyed requiem for the ’60s by detailing some gritty slices of life and then soaring beyond them with some expert gospel moves. Al Kooper, who seems to pop up when you least expect him in rock history, provides the piano part that makes Jagger whoop in exultation. This tied into the claims in the chorus that the best you can do in life is to score minor victories and revel in them while you can.

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