10. Their Current Bass Player
I’m sure he’s fine. I’m sure he nails the groove on “Satisfaction.” He looks like a cool guy and I’m delighted that a working musician has a steady gig. But he joined the band two decades after their glory years. He’s never going to be of consequence. I googled “Rolling Stones bass player.” His name never came up (no joke).
9. Ron Wood
Ron Wood’s most valuable professional asset is his ability to get along with Keith Richards. His second is his hair. His guitar playing is pretty low on the list. It’s just sloppy enough to be noticeable and just competent enough to be boring. The Faces are obviously pretty great, so it’s weird he didn’t bring over more of their shambling beer drinking energy.
8. Brian Jones
A good-looking asshole with minimal talent who played blues covers with all the authenticity of a teenage Englishman. He was one of the co-founders of the band and was almost immediately eclipsed by Mick and Keith. It’s a harsh true: the Stones’ evolutionary leap occurred when he became too drugged out to play and they became truly great when he died.
7. Bobby Keys
Maybe he wasn’t an official member of the band, but check out the sax solos from “Brown Sugar” through to “Emotional Rescue” and tell me that matters. That dude was critical. Rest in Peace, sax man.
6. Ian Stewart
Stewart co-founded of the band before getting fired for not being good looking enough. He stayed on as a roadie and occasional piano player. His friends and loved ones probably constantly tried to talk him out of it through the 60s and 70s and then he was most likely a well compensated salaried employee by the ‘80s and everyone was chill with it.
5. Charlie Watts
I’ve read a shameful number of books about the Stones and writers often call Watts the secret weapon or the soul of the group. He’s a good groove creator; he always plays so far behind the beat his drum rolls seem like attempts to catch up with the rest of the band. But he seems like a sour little man who thinks the Stones music to be beneath him. Now that they suck so much, you’d think he’d follow his heartfelt contempt and just quit, but mansions don’t pay for themselves I guess.
4. Bill Wyman
Ostensibly the band’s bass player, Wyman sat out many of the Stones’ most memorable basslines, including “Sympathy for the Devil,” “Streetfighting Man,” “Tumlin’ Dice” and “Jumping Jack Flash. He was also an unrepentant sleaze who married a girl in her early teens when he was a superannuated rock vampire. But to his credit, he quit. He decided he had enough money and got off the train. Bravo for that, motherfucker.
3. Keith Richards
I used to love Keith Richards. He used to be my favorite guitar player. I loved his feel and his grit. But now he just seems like the laziest, most close-minded professional musician in history. He’s been playing variations on the same riff since 1969 while resisting every musical trend that’s cropped up since 1964 (except for reggae, which he can’t play for shit). A lot of his bet guitar ideas were somebody else’s ideas. Mick Jagger wrote “Brown Sugar,” “Sway” and “Moonlight Mile.” Bill Wyman claims he wrote “Jumping Jack Flash.” And Mick Taylor left the band for his contributions getting overlooked.
2. Mick Taylor
The most tragically ignored, truly great guitar player in rock. Even on their live recordings, Taylor never plays a bad note. Soaring melodies seem to tumble out of his guitar effortlessly. The jam at the end of “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” was the second take of the song and that whole section was unrehearsed. He rarely plays a note more than he has to. Unlike most hotshot guitar players, he concentrates on tunefulness and atmosphere. The band became 60 percent worse when he left.
1. Mick Jagger
The only times the Stones haven’t been completely terrible since 1972 are the times when Mick Jagger took the reins. “Some Girls,” their last gasp of greatness, was entirely him. Left to Keith Richard’s devices, the band would have rehashed the same Open G tuning riffs he’s been stuck on for decades. Jagger’s stage movements are hilarious, bizarre and distinctly his own. His voice still sounds exactly like it did in the 60s. He evidently handles a lot of the Stones’ business dealings personally, making him like the CEO of rock’s biggest corporations. And he’s had to deal with that asshole Keith Richards for 50 years.