Keith Richards is a great rhythm guitar player and many will agree on this however, Richards is not just a guitar player but he is more. If you follow rock music then you might know that the Beatles and the Rolling Stones were once a rival, both of the bands were giving hit after hit, and according to the Beatles’ lead guitarist George Harrison, Keith is more than a guitarist.
Richards is one of the most well-known rock musicians ever and why would not he after all he is regarded or known as the human riff. As much as he’s talented to play the guitar, he is also a very incredible lyricist, and his co-written songs like Paint It Black and (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction are widely known and popular.
The 78 years old English musician has helped create magnificent tracks that are loved by millions of people. Really, one of the reasons why people from the 60s and 70s have so great taste in music is because of Keith Richards and the Rolling Stones.
I don’t think it’s wrong to say that Keith along with Mick Jagger, Brian Jones, Bill Wyman, and Charlie Watts changed rock n roll for good with their music. Anyways now let’s get to the point and discuss Richards’ favorite riffs from the Rolling Stones.
What are Keith Richard’s favorite Rolling Stones riffs?
There was a time when we would guess and write various riffs that Keith would love however, it is not necessary because Richard himself has listed his favorite ten riffs from the Rolling Stones. A few years past, Richards went to an interview with Guitar World where he was asked about his favorite Rolling Stones riffs and he talked and shared the story of his ten favorite riffs.
It might be hard for not just Keith but anyone to pick favorites because the Rolling Stones are no ordinary rock band, they were the most sensational band ever. They were eating every other band back in the day and it is no common feat especially when they were in the music field at the same time as the musical giant band, the Beatles.
As mentioned in the interview Richards shared ten of his favorite Rolling Stones riffs and he also shared the story of a few of the riffs. He told that his favorite riffs are, “Satisfaction, Mother’s Little Helper, Paint It Black, Jumping Jack Flash, Sympathy for the Devil, Street Fighting Man, Gimme Shelter, Can’t You Hear Me Knocking, Miss You, and Start Me Up.”
List of Keith Richard’s favorite Rolling Stones riffs
The above-mentioned are the riffs Richard considers his favorite but what about the story he shared? well, that’s what we are going to discuss further in this article. Let’s talk about each song and the story behind the song
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction is a single track from the Rolling Stones’ 1965 album Out of Our Heads. This is a really popular track that was written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Furthermore, Richards’ guitar riffs make the song much more special.
While talking about this track Richards said, “When I wrote the song, I didn’t think of that particular riff as the big guitar riff. That all fell into place at RCA [recording studio in L.A.] when Gibson dumped on me one of those first Fuzz-Tone pedals. I actually thought of that guitar line as a horn riff. The way Otis Redding ended up doing it is probably closer to my original conception for the song. It’s an obvious horn riff.”
2. Mother’s Little Helper
Yes, this song is also written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards and it was released in 1966 on their studio album Aftermath. Obviously, this is one of the tracks Richards mentioned as his favorite riffs.
He said about the track, “It was just one of those things where somebody walked in with it and we went, Look, it’s an electric 12-string. It was just some gashed-up job. God knows where it came from or where it went, but I put it together with a bottleneck and we had a riff that tied the whole song together. There’s probably some gypsy influence in there somewhere.”
3. Paint It Black
Paint It Black is such a beautiful track that is not only the favorite of Richards but even great American musician Frank Zappa mentioned it as one of the finest. This track is also from the Rolling Stones’ Aftermath album. And it also seems that they were inspired by the Beatles as they used sitar in this track which is so like the Beatles thing to do.
Furthermore, Richards said, “Brian [Jones] got into the sitar and used it on a few things, like Paint It Black. I found it an interesting instrument, the idea of the sympathetic strings underneath that resonate to the strings on top.” He further added, “Bill Wyman was also instrumental to the sound of Paint It Black by adding the organ pedals. That song is another one of those semi-gypsy melodies we used to come up with back then. I don’t know where they come from. Must be in the blood.”
4. Jumping Jack Flash
After all the above-mentioned tracks, Richards then started telling the story about this song and he revealed that this track was from Richards’ gardener Jack Dyer. He said, “Mick and I were in my house down in the south of England. We’d been up all night; the sky was just beginning to go gray. It was pissing down raining, if I remember rightly.”
He continues, “Mike hears these great footsteps, these great rubber boots – slosh, slosh, slosh – going by the window. He said. “What’s that?” And I said, “Oh, that’s Jack. That’s jumpin’ Jack.” We had my guitar in open tuning, and I started to fool around with that. [singing] “Jumpin’ Jack…” and Mick says, “Flash.” He’d just woken up. And suddenly we had this wonderful alliterative phrase. So he woke up and we knocked it together.”
5. Sympathy for the Devil
This song was a bit controversial because after the release of this track people started calling the Rolling Stones, the devil worshippers. So this was how they ended up creating this track, “Mick brought that to the studio as a very Bob Dylanish kind of folk guitar song, and it ended up as a damned samba. I think that’s the strength of the Stones: give them a song half raw and they’ll cook it.”
6. Street Fighting Man
This is one of the greatest tracks that the Rolling Stones ever created, furthermore, this track is from their studio album Beggars Banquet which was released on December 1968.
Keith Richards says, “When we went in the studio, we just couldn’t reproduce the sound of the original demo I did on cassette, so we played the cassette through an extension speaker and I played along with it – we just shoved a microphone into an acoustic and overdubbed it onto the track from the cassette.”
He said that he was confused and couldn’t say which guitar layer he was hearing, “There are lots of layers of guitars on Street Fighting Man, so it’s difficult to say what you’re hearing on there. ’Cause I tried eight different guitars, and which ones were used in the final version I couldn’t say.”
7. Gimme Shelter
“Some guy crashed out at my pad for a couple of days, then suddenly split in a hurry and left that guitar behind, like, take care of this for me I certainly did. At the very last note of the take, the whole neck fell off. You can hear it on the original track. That guitar had just that one little quality for that specific thing. In a way, it was quite poetic that it died at the end of the track.”
This was what Richards had to say about their 1969 track from the Let It Bleed album.
8. Can’t You Hear Me Knocking
Keith explains that the riff was just created by circumstance or just by mere luck. He said, “On that song, my fingers just landed in the right place and I discovered a few things about that [five-string, open G] tuning that I’d never been aware of. I think I realised that even as I was cutting the track.”
9. Miss You
According to Keith Richards, this is Mick’s track. Although this is not one of the well-known tracks of the Rolling Stones, it still is a favorite of Richards. Furthermore, this track is from their 1978 album Some Girls.
10. Start Me Up
While Miss You might not be a notable song of the Rolling Stones, nobody can deny that Start Me Up is not their greatest or non-popular track. However, even though this track is quite popular, Richards says that this track disappoints him.
He said, “I was convinced that was a reggae song. Everybody else was convinced of that. It’s reggae, man.” He further added, “The fact that I missed ‘Start Me Up’ for five years is one of my disappointments. It just went straight over my head. But you can’t catch everything.”