ART / 50 Happy returns - Mick Jagger will be 50 on 26 July, Keith Richards on 18 December. Among other things, they are great songwriters. But which of their 266 songs is the best? We asked 50 musicians, friends, critics and others to name their favourite

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AT FIRST, 30 years ago, they didn't write their own songs. When they did, it was for all the wrong reasons. It was partly money - their manager, Andrew Loog Oldham, liked the idea of double royalties - and partly rivalry: the Beatles did it, so they had to. Jagger & Richards never did match Lennon & McCartney, whether for range, originality, tunes, or reach - it was a lot harder to get 50 people to join in this exercise than the one we did for Paul McCartney's 50th birthday. But not being as good as the Beatles is not the same as not being good. And among British rock songwriters, Jagger & Richards come a distinguished second.

On some scores, they come first: riffs ('Satisfaction', 'Jumpin' Jack Flash', 'Start Me Up'), sexiness (all the above, and many more), danger ('Gimme Shelter', 'Sympathy for the Devil'), and sheer volume - 266 songs on the Performing Rights Society computer. Nor are they far behind on range. There are all the songs named in these pages, and then some: pop songs like 'The Last Time', rockers like 'Hang Fire', ballads like 'As Tears Go By', unclassified classics like 'Happy', and a disco hit ('Miss You') that's good enough to be performed regularly by Prince. The Stones famously lack authenticity, whatever that is, but when we rang John Prine, as genuine a country singer as any, the song he chose was a country ballad.

The past 10 years have been their worst, by common consent; but they've still come up with some bone-hard rockers ('Undercover of the Night', 'One Hit', 'Rock and a Hard Place'), some great rolling R&B ('Mixed Emotions', 'Highwire'), and some classic ballads ('Almost Hear You Sigh', 'Slipping Away'), as well as unexpected gems on their solo albums - in the last year alone, Jagger's 'Sweet Thing', which would be an all-time great if it weren't for 'Miss You', and Richards' 'Hate it When You Leave', a love song as touching as any that bears his signature.

They will always be better known for other things than songwriting - for sex'n'drugs'n'

live performance, for Altamont and Hyde Park, Times leaders and Mars bars. It's not only rock'n'roll. But we like it. Tim de Lisle

JOHN CALE

Viola player, the Velvet Underground

'My Obsession' (Between the Buttons, 1967). There are very muddy instrumental sounds on it, it's exciting, hypnotic and very New York-sounding. There's also something about the way the instrumentals workedout which is different from their other songs.

MARIANNE FAITHFULL

Singer & actress; Jagger's girlfriend 1966-70

'Sister Morphine' (Sticky Fingers, 1971). I do have to declare an interest in this one because I co-wrote the song. I'm very proud of my contribution and I think the Rolling Stones' version is absolutely wonderful.

JOOLS HOLLAND

Piano player and TV presenter

'Rip this Joint' on Exile on Main Street (1972). If somebody said, 'What's rock'n'roll?', I'd say that's it to me. It has this fantastic spirit of original rhythm and blues, yet they've made it their own. He is a great singer. People tend to forget that. He can sing very clever stuff. The other thing about him is that he's rooted in the blues. I was talking to him not long ago and he said, 'When I get up in the morning, I play a few chords on the piano to warm up, and what comes out is rhythm and blues'. I think they're great.

DAVE EDMUNDS

Singer and producer

'Honky Tonk Women' (single, 1969). It's definitive Stones. Keith's guitar riffs are the coolest.

HUGH CORNWELL

Singer, formerly of the Stranglers

I could probably do a whole Desert Island Discs made up of Jagger/Richards faves. But after due deliberation, I have to go with 'Lady Jane' from Aftermath (1966). It's not what you expect from them - very tender, very Sixties, very good.

CHARLIE GILLETT

DJ and record-label owner

'19th Nervous Breakdown' (single, 1966). I never felt as badly about the rest of mankind as Mick Jagger seemed to - most of his songs were nasty put- downs - and I never got used to his mock-black voice. What I liked about the Rolling Stones were Keith Richards's guitar-playing and Charlie Watts's drumming, at their best on '19th Nervous Breakdown'. It was rhythmically much wilder and looser than most Stones records, and for once Mick seemed more exhilarated than spiteful. We were living in New York when it was released, and it sounded fantastic on the tinny mono speakers of the time.

JOHNNY MARR

Guitarist, ex-Smiths, now in Electronic

'Gimme Shelter' (Let It Bleed, 1969). It's perfect - my favourite record by anyone ever.

PAT KANE

Singer-songwriter, Hue and Cry

'Start Me Up' (Tattoo You, 1981) because it reminds me of summer, packets of Chew-its and chasing after unobtainable girls - a time before political correctness darkened my soul. It's skilfully chaotic. It's on a direct line of descent from art-school self-

consciousness right through to Suede. The Stones are gloriously inauthentic in everything they've done: it's always been calculated, and that's fine and dandy.

MARY COUGHLAN

Folk singer

'Mother's Little Helper' (Aftermath). It reminds me of the morning I got married. I didn't want to get married at all, but my mother gave me valium and brandy and got me through it. It took me eight years to get an official separation. I've been doing the song live for years.

TWIGGY

Model and actress

'Ruby Tuesday' (double A-side with 'Let's Spend the Night Together', 1967; Between the Buttons). It's just a great song, one that always seemed so fresh and inspirational.

PHILIP NORMAN

Author, 'The Stones', 1984

It's 'Under My Thumb' from Aftermath. The Stones aren't usually thought to be album artists in the way the Beatles were, but Aftermath is as good a picture of swinging London as Revolver. 'Under My Thumb' is so good because Brian Jones was such a brilliant instrumentalist - he played the sitar before George Harrison did. It's sneering and chauvinistic, a song that would not be possible now. It has this counterpoint which Brian Jones played on a marimba. It makes a great opening to a Stones concert. They still play it - in a very corrupted way. It's everything the Stones were: sneery and ungracious. Brian Jones was a brilliant natural musician. As soon as he died, in 1969, they stopped experimenting.

RICHARD SKINNER

DJ and Joint Programme Director, Virgin 1215

'We Love You' (single; double A-side with 'Dandelion') from September '67. In the summer of love, Mick Jagger and Keith Richard were both sentenced to jail for drugs offences. Their custodial sentences led to the famous Times leader 'Who Breaks a Butterfly on a Wheel?', written by William Rees-Mogg. After their release Jagger and Richard wrote this song - the most menacing hit of that hippie era? They also filmed a video for it - one of the first - starring Marianne Faithfull as the judge in a court of 'in'-justice. The song, the video and the high emotions roused by the court cases remain etched in my mind. The song still sounds as menacing as ever.

MUFF WINWOOD

Veteran A&R man, Columbia Records

Good grief. 'I Wanna Be Your Man' (single, 1963) because they didn't write it. That's an incredibly difficult question. '19th Nervous Breakdown'. When it came out it said exactly how I felt.

CHRISSIE HYNDE

Singer and guitarist, the Pretenders

The list is of course as long as my arm but if I had to choose I'd say you couldn't better 'Get Off of

My Cloud' (single, 1965), with the lyric 'Don't hang around because two's a crowd on a cloud'. You can't argue with that] Happy Birthday Mick]

TEENAGE FAN CLUB

Nineties pop group

Our favourite song is 'Tumbling Dice' from Exile on Main Street. We love this period. Listen out at the end for Charlie's drums going out of time.

CLIFF RICHARD

Singer, two years Jagger's senior

'Get Off of My Cloud'. Who can tell why the melody and feel of a song appeal? They just do.

DAVID BAILEY

Photographer and friend of Jagger

'Sympathy for the Devil' (Beggars Banquet, 1968) because I have an affinity with Mick and with the Devil.

IMRAN KHAN

Cricketer, often seen with Jagger at Lord's

'You Can't Always Get What You Want' (Let it Bleed). It really appeals to me because I think most people never identify their needs - they confuse them with their wants. It's the Sufi way of thinking - seeing spiritualism and materialism as opposites. If you really identify your needs, you can get them. As the song says, 'You can't always get what you want/But if you try, sometimes/You just might find/You get what you need'.

MIKE OLDFIELD

Symphonic rocker

'Honky Tonk Women'. It was released around the time of the first solo concert of Tubular Bells at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. (Reference books suggest that the concert actually happened four years later, in 1973, but never mind.) Mick Jagger was there and gave me great moral support before I went on stage.

PETER BLAKE

Artist

'Johnny B Goode' because in the early days of the Stones I was a tremendous Chuck Berry fan. The Stones were playing at the Marquee and it was the only way to hear Chuck Berry live. If it has to be one they've written, 'Tumbling Dice' or 'Brown Sugar' (Sticky Fingers, 1971). It's very difficult to say why. It's something to do with the rock'n'rollness of it.

BEN THOMPSON

Rock critic, 'Independent on Sunday'

'Turd on the Run'. Not just for the title. The ruggedest of many fine rocky outcrops in the wide open spaces of Exile on Main Street, this is two and a half minutes of pure felicity. Keith sets up a great louche hillbilly guitar jag, and Mick meanders around it demonstrating a rarely acknowledged prowess on the harmonica and occasionally stretching those scrawny vocal chords. Having heard this song hundreds of times I've still got no idea what it's about, and I don't want to know either. There are whoops and there is yowling and that is enough.

JIMMY PAGE

Guitarist, ex-Led Zeppelin

My favourite is 'One Hit (to the Body)' (Dirty Work, 1986) because I played on it. I didn't get credited and didn't get paid. Happy Birthday Mick.

JOHN PRINE

Country singer

At my favourite bar, Brown's in Nashville, there's a jukebox. It has one Stones song, 'Waiting on a Friend' (Tattoo You), and the rest is all country music. It's got great lyrics and a cheesy keyboard thing in it, and it just sounds so good beside George Jones. Otherwise I go for 'Stupid Girl' (Aftermath), again because it's got great lyrics. Jagger and Richards are great writers because they've got a sense of humour.

BB KING

Bluesman

I toured with the Rolling Stones in '68, and really admire Mick Jagger and his material - but not specific songs.

RICHARD ASHCROFT

Jaggeresque lead singer, Verve

'Memo from Turner' (solo single, 1970), for the Ry Cooder-style lead guitar and the way it's performed in the film Performance.

PADDY McALOON

Singer-songwriter, Prefab Sprout

'Jumpin' Jack Flash' (No 1 single, 1968), from their post-'threat-to-the-nation's-morals' period. Or to be more precise, their aristocratic voodoo phase. As with all their best stuff, while it's playing you can't imagine anyone making a more exciting record.

BRUCE MORTON

Comedian

When I was five years old, I was at a children's party and the mother was playing records. She put on '(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction' (No 1 single, 1965) and when the song finished, I liked it so much that I was brave enough to ask her to play it again.

CHRIS KIMSEY

Producer of most Stones LPs since 1978

'Mixed Emotions' (Steel Wheels, 1989). For me the guitar in it says everything about Keith: it's his favourite groove. And, for their later writing period, it has one of Mick's better lyrics.

AARON NEVILLE

Soul singer

'Honky Tonk Women': it's grooving, it's funky and it shows where they got their roots.

DANNY KELLY

Editor, 'Q'

'Gimme Shelter' for the undertone of violence, an effect which many rock records aspire to but few achieve. And for the way it is performed in the American film Letters Home. Accompanied by 'Gimme Shelter' an American helicopter crew blow up the entire horizon. It's enough to make you join the Army there and then. It's that good and exciting: two parts piano and three parts male testosterone.

ROBERT FRIPP

Guitarist and songwriter, King Crimson

Among the musicians of my generation - teenage semi-professional musicians in the Bournemouth district - you either went for the Beatles or the Stones. I went for the Beatles. The only time the penny on the Stones ever dropped with me was one night in a disco in Frankfurt over a beer. I was beating 5/8 against the Stones' 4/4 rhythm section. It sounded great. I don't remember the song.

PAUL GAMBACCINI

DJ and rock historian

'Satisfaction'. I voted for it in high school, for our class song. I lost - Simon and Garfunkel won. To me 'Satisfaction' summed up - and the cliche is true - a generation's frustration, discontent and declaration of independence. It's no longer my personal anthem but I still like it a lot.

GILES SMITH

Pop critic, 'Independent'

'Beast of Burden', a breezy ballad from Some Girls (1978). Like many of the Stones' best things, it's a piece of blues and a pop song at the same time. The guitars knit together, the drums slap and skip and Jagger runs right through his book of tricks - wounded tough guy in the verses, sulky defiance for the choruses, pleading falsetto in between. Shortly after the album's release, the Stones played this song on American television's Saturday Night Live and Ron Wood later recalled: 'I had my eyes closed for a few seconds and suddenly I felt this wet warm thing slurping on my face. It was Mick's tongue. I tried to kick him but he was too fast.' It takes a powerful song to drive a man to snog Ron Wood.

DEREK PRINGLE

Cricketer and record collector

I like most of Let It Bleed. The three albums they made in the late Sixties to early Seventies - Beggars Banquet, Let It Bleed and Exile on Main Street - were their best. I gave up on them in '75. Best song? 'You Got The Silver' (Let It Bleed) for the slide guitar. I think Ry Cooder may have played it. It's non-standard rock'n'roll. Mick sings it very bluesily.

MARK SINKER

Editor, 'The Wire'

'Shake Your Hips' (Exile on Main Street). Drums like a clatter of knitting needles, a vocal so nasal there are no vowels in it, a cheesily relentless rhythm as miraculous as a drunk still standing at 45 degrees to the vertical. As R&B, it's demeaning sleaze - and Jagger gives it zonked pride and near-spiritual energy, telling you things about R&B that no one white has dared point out since Ike Turner invented it. Soul may promise grown-up emotion and uplift, but in the Seventies 'adult' started to mean clubs with LIVE BED SHOW over the door.

PAUL CONROY

Managing Director, Virgin Records;

signed the Stones, 1992

'Out of Time' (Aftermath). The moment I heard Chris Farlowe's cover version (No 1 single, 1966), I rushed out and bought it, and kept playing it on the dansette. The Stones released it as a single years later (1975) and I loved that too.

TIM RICE

Lyricist

'Satisfaction' - it's a foot-tapper with good lyrics.

NICKY CAMPBELL

DJ, Radio 1

'Ruby Tuesday' because Keith wrote it and it shows where the musical heart and soul of the band lies. Richards loves, lives and breathes the Rolling Stones. Jagger loves, lives and breathes Mick Jagger.

ROY WOOD

Singer-songwriter, ex-Wizzard

'Honky Tonk Women'. When they were recording it at Olympic Studios in London, I was next door mixing a track for The Move. Because the engineer was late, I spent a couple of hours watching them. Jimmy Miller was producing it and I knew him since he'd produced for The Move, so I went and sat in on it. Reperata and the Dull Runs - I think it was them - were their backing singers. Not many people realised that. There was a good atmosphere.

SARAH CRACKNELL

Singer, Saint Etienne

'Under My Thumb'. As they said in Spinal Tap, 'Sexist? What's wrong with being sexy?'

MICHAEL WHITE

Classical music critic, 'Independent on Sunday'

'Satisfaction'. I used to feel that the Rolling Stones were sexier, more dangerous and more verboten than the Beatles. That song summed up the forbidden- fruit qualities that made them more exciting - sociologically, if not musically.

MELVYN BRAGG

Head of Arts, LWT

'Paint It, Black' (single, 1966). It was good to dance to. They were a tremendous band to dance to, and the time I was listening to them was the time I was dancing. I was never a great Stones fan - I was more of a Beatles man; but they did do some great tracks.

JACK DOCHERTY

Comedian

'Little T & A' (Tattoo You). I love it for its deeply sound political correctness, and because Keith sings it. He can't sing - he's got the most fucked, gravelly voice - but he gets away with it because of his attitude. And all his intros are great.

STEVE SUTHERLAND

Editor, 'New Musical Express'

I can get it down to two: 'Satisfaction' and 'You Can't Always Get What You Want'. For 1965, 'Satisfaction' was just the most outrageous record - totally anti-social and antithetical to everything that was happening. It has the most subversive and exciting atmosphere. It's punk rock about 10 years too early. And that for a pop group was unbelievable. 'You Can't Always Get' for its sheer audacity: from the acoustic intro, to when Charlie Watts kicks in, to the dissolute lyric, to the way it ends up with the London Bach choir. Let It Bleed is the most dissipated, fantastically wicked album.

CATHAL SMYTH

Alias Chas Smash of Madness

'We Love You'. The perfect turn-the-other-cheek snub to the Establishment and probably where Johnny Rotten picked up a few tricks.

PHIL MANZANERA

Guitarist, Roxy Music

'Honky Tonk Women'. It combines all the best ingredients of the Stones, ie, sex, drugs and rock'n'roll but most of all 'attitude', which sums up Jagger.

RICK RUBIN

Producer, worked on Jagger's last album

My favourite songs sound like they were never written - they just exist. 'You Can't Always Get What You Want' is such a song. Pure. It transcends time and space and brings about an emotional experience every time it's heard. Most songwriters spend their lives hoping to have one such song - Mick has several.

CHARLES SHAAR MURRAY

Veteran rock critic and singer

with Blast Furnace and the Heatwaves

I've three favourites. Although the Stones are best known for their licentious and rapacious spirit, the songs that mean most to me are all about disappointment: 'Satisfaction', 'No Expectations' (Beggars Banquet) and 'You Can't Always Get What You Want'. My all-time favourite cover is their version of Robert Johnson's 'Love In Vain' on Get Yer YaYa's Out, their first live album, and the only one worth bothering with - the rest are just tour souvenirs.

TIM RENTON

MP, founded National Music Day with Jagger

Mick Jagger is a very likeable person and he works tremendously hard for National Music Day. He radiates charm - but I can't say I hum any of his music.

PETER COOK

Satirist

It's a bootleg that the Glimmer Twins used to do - a re-make of 'Sloop John B', a Beach Boys song. We did it as Baby Oil and the Seychelles. Mick wasn't there because he was in the Bahamas watching cricket. Keith wasn't there because it was the night his house in West Wittering was burning down. It was Ronnie Wood, his wife Jo and me. My name was Praslin - one of the Seychelles. Otherwise it's a toss-up between 'Ruby Tuesday' and 'It's Only Rock'n'Roll (But I Like It)'. Don't ask me why.

AND THE WINNER IS . . .

'Honky Tonk Women' with five votes. Second: 'Satisfaction', four and five sixths. Third: 'You Can't Always Get What You Want', two and five sixths. -

The 'Lives of the Great Songs' series returns next week.

(Photograph omitted)

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