Even cheap mp3s on iTunes cost money, and it can be daunting to a financially challenged music fan to build a library of music that they’re really only curious about and not sure about just yet. In the Essential Download Series, we’ll take a look at groundbreaking and influential artists from each of music’s three classic ages and give you a place to start your own exploration of their music. In this installment, we’re going to stick with classic British rock with the Rolling Stones.

Gimme Shelter (1969). You could actually get by with just this song in your entire music library. Merry Clayton’s vocal ad libs will give you chills (if you have a pulse) – listen closely and you can hear the rest of the people in the studio that night shouting with joy at her performance. Today’s music producers would surely edit out the shouts from the band and then have Clayton redo her vocals until there was no tear in her voice.     

(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (1965). The most iconic riff in the history of rock & roll almost didn’t make the final cut of the record. Keith Richards recorded the riff as a template for what the horns were supposed to do in the final version of the song. The rest of the band vetoed his idea and history was made. If you listen closely at the 1:36 mark you can hear the Fuzztone switch on late and the riff come in a little sloppily. The best performances are often mistakes.

Get Off My Cloud (1965). Admittedly one of Richards’ and Jagger’s least favorite songs, the production and attitude sum up the direction music was beginning to take in 1965. It’s kind of a pre-anthem anthem.  

Sympathy For the Devil (1968). Definitely an album the serious aficionado should have in their collection, Beggar’s Banquet marks the end of puberty for rock & roll. Shocking in 1968 beyond belief for a commercial record release, Sympathy For the Devil is now viewed as an important artistic statement from a time of amazing upheaval and change. It’s a really good song too.

You Can’t Always Get What You Want (1969). The soaring chorus flies in paradox to the feeling of disillusionment after a decade of hope began to crash and burn.  

It’s Only Rock & Roll (1974). Marking a time of change within the band as Jagger and Richards took the producer's chair for the first time, this song also marks the first time Ron Wood would appear on a Stones record. This song could easily come out of Los Angeles or Nashville today.

Shattered (1978). In spite of the Stones’ unfortunate flirtation with disco on Some Girls, a great rock & roll single emerged that also chronicled the vibe of New York City during the hedonistic hey-day of the Studio 54 era.

Beast of Burden (1978). Okay, there were two great songs on Some Girls. Listen to this song today and it doesn’t sound like it was recorded 39 years ago.

Mixed Emotions (1989). So let’s say you’re Keith Richards and you’re really angry with Mick Jagger. What do you do to get back at him? Write this song and make Mick sing it. The best song from the Stones’ later catalog.

As Tears Go By (1964). One of the first Jagger and Richards compositions (originally recorded and released by Marianne Faithful), you could say this is the song that actually kicked off 50+ years of amazing music.

It’s hard to imagine that there are people out there who are not intimately familiar with the music of the Rolling Stones as they are at least as pervasive as the Beatles in the common cultural consciousness, but just in case…here are the 10 Essential Downloads you should start your Rolling Stones library with.