50 Years of Rolling Stones No. 1s: "Satisfaction," "Paint It Black" and More
Many a joke has been passed about the age of the Rolling Stones...and maybe this fact confirms it: It's been more than 50 years since the band released its first American no. 1 single, "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," which peaked on the Billboard Hot 100 chart from July 10, 1965. It wasn't the "big breakthrough" that the band needed in the United States, but it certainly got the ball rolling faster, ensuring the group's status as one of the biggest bands in music history. The Stones released seven other no. 1 singles over the next 50 years, and you can check them out below.
Here's a hint if you want to guess in advance: Although the band released seven no. 1 singles over the last 50 years...they all came within a 13 years span. So yeah...there hasn't been a no. 1 single from the group since 1978 in the United States. Then again, there hasn't been a no. 1 for the band in its home UK since 1969.
"Get Off of My Cloud" (1965)
"No Satisfaction" certainly kicked off a streak for the Stones, as the band's next single, "Get Off of My Cloud" also managed to top the Hot 100. "Get Off Of My Cloud" spent a relatively successful two weeks at no. 1, although that didn't compare to the four weeks that "Satisfaction" had reigned. This is one instance where a noticeable trend emerges across the list of the band's no. 1s: They rarely come from acclaimed albums. None of the albums that we hold in the highest regard now—Beggars Banquet, Let It Bleed and Exile On Main Street—featured a no. 1 single. "Get Off Of My Cloud" was part of the lesser known release December's Children (and Everybody's). This would be the only back-to-back no. 1's in the band's career.
"Paint It, Black" (1966)
The most obvious assumption to come to when you read that none of the most acclaimed Stones albums featured a no. 1 single is that listeners are simpleminded and only enjoy the most saccharine of tunes. History immediately proves that hypothesis (somewhat) incorrect by having "Paint It, Black," one of darkest songs in any band's discography, somehow find its way to no. 1 on the charts. Maybe depression was popular that year: 1966 saw both "Paint It, Black" and Simon & Garfunkel's iconic "Sound of Silence" spend two weeks at no. 1.
"Ruby Tuesday" (1967)
This would be the first of the Stones singles to spend just the one week at no. 1 in the United States. Of course, back in those days, songs tended to shuffle almost as much as records on the Billboard 200 do now. Nowadays, the Hot 100 is constantly seeing six and seven-week runs. But we digress. "Ruby Tuesday" is also the first example of the band's more balladic numbers rising to no. 1 rather than its more rock-oriented fare. This won't come as a surprise to anyone who keeps an eye on the Hot 100...rock songs rarely make it to the top. Even nearly 50 years ago, rock songs often needed some gentle touch to get to no. 1.
"Honky Tonk Woman" (1969)
At some points you get lucky however, and not only does a rock song make it to the top, but a rock song about prostitutes and cocaine might make it to the top. The song was the band's longest stay atop the Hot 100 since "No Satisfaction," spending four weeks at no. 1, as well as topping the charts in the UK. Of course, there may have been an unfortunate backstory for the success of the single: It was released, coincidentally, the day after founding guitarist Brian Jones was found dead. The news and fascination with the story drove people in droves to buy the song. Alas, it would be the group's last no. 1 single in the UK.
"Brown Sugar" (1971)
We at Music Times can handle a single about questionable content gaining popularity, as was the case with "Honky Tonk Woman." Unfortunately, we still feel somewhat awkward about the fact that "Brown Sugar" managed to go to no. 1 in the United States. Circa 2015, there are still plenty of racial issues to be addressed, as we see in the case of the South Carolina Confederate flag. We're not criticizing the band for the content—we understand that rock 'n' rollers have made a career off of pushing the ethical line—but we have to raise an eyebrow at American listeners for jumping so strongly on a single about a slaveowner sleeping around with his "property," especially just a few short years after the Civil Rights Movement was at its peak.
The Rolling Stones would end their streak of no. 1 songs with a pair of downtempo numbers...not hot rockers like the previous two entries. The first was "Angie," a selection from Goats Head Soup, which has probably inspired more mixed reviews than any other album in the band's catalogue. Your correspondent would have been thankful to the DJs who opted to play a shortened, three-minute version of the song on the radio...although the idea of shortening a 4:30 single is absurd.
"Miss You" (1978)
Some Girls was considered a return-to-form for The Rolling Stones, the first well-reviewed album since Exile On Mainstreet, and boy did music need it: During 1978, 13 weeks on the Hot 100 were run by the Bee Gees, another nine were run by Andy Gibbs (the little brother of the three Gibbs who were in the Bee Gees), while Donna Summer and Chic had a combined five weeks. That's 27 weeks of disco at no. 1 in one year. There's something to be said for some parts of that genre. But too much is too much. That's why we're not mad that "Miss You," a relatively lame entry from the Stones' catalogue, was selected as the first single and got to no. 1. We would have preferred "Beast of Burden" or "Shattered" but we'll take it.