Song of the Day #1,015: ‘Rocks Off’ – The Rolling Stones

AllMusic.com gives the highest 5-star rating to nine Rolling Stones albums, including the five I’m featuring this week. Two of those are their early covers albums, ranked so high apparently more for the ground they broke for the band than the actual content. Another is 1978’s Some Girls, a return to form for the band and, according to these reviewers, the last truly great thing produced by the band.

Another is Sticky Fingers, the 1971 record that followed up Let It Bleed. I have long wanted to own Sticky Fingers and I’m not really sure why I haven’t just bought it along the way. ‘Brown Sugar’ and ‘Wild Horses’ are its best-known tracks, and I like them both quite a bit, and it features other much heralded but new to me tracks such as ‘Sister Morphine’ and ‘Moonlight Mile.’

Sticky Fingers is the fifth of six classic albums released in six consecutive years, a streak that’s pretty unreal by any standards. The sixth is, of course, Exile on Main Street.

I think it’s safe to call Exile on Main Street The Stones’ crowning achievement. It’s a boozy masterpiece, epic in scope but thoroughly unpretentious. It rocks harder than anything else they’d done but also contains moments of sublime beauty. You can hear the tumultuous circumstances of its recording pouring through every messy note.

If an alien landed and asked for a definition of “rock and roll,” you could just hand him this album. Forty-five seconds into opening track ‘Rocks Off,’ he’d nod his alien head and say “I get it” in his alien language.

I hear you talking when I’m on the street,
Your mouth don’t move but I can hear you speak.
What’s the matter with the boy?
He don’t come around no more,
Is he checking out for sure?
Is he gonna close the door on me?

I’m always hearing voices on the street,
I want to shout, but I can’t hardly speak.
I was making love last night
To a dancer friend of mine.
I can’t seem to stay in step,
‘Cause she come ev’ry time that she pirouettes over me.

And I only get my rocks off while I’m dreaming,
I only get my rocks off while I’m sleeping.

I’m zipping through the days at lightning speed.
Plug in, flush out and fire the fuckin’ feed.
Heading for the overload,
Splattered on the dirty road,
Kick me like you’ve kicked before,
I can’t even feel the pain no more.

But I only get my rocks off while I’m dreaming, (only get them off)
I only get my rocks off while I’m sleeping.

Feel so hypnotized, can’t describe the scene.
Its all mesmerized all that inside me.
The sunshine bores the daylights out of me.
Chasing shadows moonlight mystery.
Headed for the overload,
Splattered on the dirty road,
Kick me like you’ve kicked before,
I can’t even feel the pain no more.

But I only get my rocks off while I’m dreaming (only get them off, get them off),
I only get my rocks off while I’m sleeping (only get them off, get them off).

6 thoughts on “Song of the Day #1,015: ‘Rocks Off’ – The Rolling Stones

  1. Amy says:

    I’m not sure this is the song that ought to get the honor of defining rock and roll, but it does get the job done. Of course, 45 seconds in, and I’m thinking, “yeah, that’s about enough of that.” I guess rock and roll, or at least rock and roll – Rolling Stones style – isn’t my cup of tea. 🙂

  2. Dana says:

    I’m not sure I’ve ever heard this album cover to cover, but this really isn’t the style of Stones music to which I gravitate. The only song on this album with which I am familiar is “Tumbling Dice,” and I’m not even all that crazy about that song, though I like it better than the one you are featuring.

    I’m with Amy–I would be turning this song off half way through–and would probably hand that alien Sgt. Peppers:)

  3. pegclifton says:

    I would hand the alien Elvis

  4. Amy says:

    🙂 I think the alien would be better off with either Sgt. Peppers or Elvis, but I think I’m with Peg on this one. Elvis it is.

  5. Clay says:

    Oh boy, so much to comment on!

    First of all, Sgt. Peppers is not rock and roll! And it’s The Beatles’ most overrated album… why would you confuse the alien like that? At least give him A Hard Days’ Night! But The Beatles, for all of their magnificence, were not a rock and roll band the way The Stones were.

    Elvis is a better choice, don’t think you can go wrong there.

    But I would pick Exile On Main Street because it epitomizes what I think it a very important element of rock and roll — a bunch of sweaty musicians in a dirty room punishing their instruments to create a sound that’s bigger than life. The best rock and roll is gritty and angry, soaked with booze and pain.

    I usually understand the differences in opinion that show up in these blog comments. I don’t expect everybody to be a fan of everything I like. But once in awhile I’m completely flabbergasted by the reactions.

    How anybody could hear this song (or this album) and not just friggin’ adore it… that I don’t get.

  6. Dana says:

    I agree that Sgt. Peppers wouldn’t necessarily be the right choice–I was just picking the Beatles’ most celebrated album since you had started the week talking about the Stones vs. Beatles argument. The album is, however, rock and roll, though certainly not the garage band gritty type. Actually, if you wanted to give the alien the type of rock example you have in mind, you might want to go with Led Zeppelin IV or ACDC’s Back in Black or Van Halen’s debut album. Still, I get your point that the Stones came before all of those bands.

    As for not adoring this song, I think I’ve made it pretty clear that I am not a big fan of messy hard rock. In fact, I probably like the Stones best when they are not sounding like their typical selves.

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