Stripe’s Song of the Day: The Rolling Stones – Sweet Virginia

The ramshackle country and blues track could be the end of a rowdy night or a laid-back start to the morning after

Shoumik Hassin
Published : 15 Feb 2023, 10:30 AM
Updated : 15 Feb 2023, 10:30 AM

Stripe's Song of the Day is a regular feature showcasing the music currently stuck in our heads. Every week, contributors will string together their daily picks, and a playlist of the week's tracks will be available on Friday.

The Rolling Stones are an S tier band. Their singles from the 1964 cover of Buddy Holly’s ‘Not Fade Away’ to 1978’s ‘Beast of Burden’ might be the greatest run by any rock band ever. But even their biggest fans have to admit, they’re not their best in album form.

Beggars Banquet, Let It Bleed and Sticky Fingers feature a ton of classic tracks, but all of them have songs you’ll skip from the second listen. And, if we’re being especially harsh, they feel less like coherent musical statements than like the last 10 songs the band finished.

Why, then, is Exile on Main Street my favourite of their albums? It’s an ungodly 68 minutes long, the filler is the worst yet in terms of quality and quantity, and it sounds like it was recorded through two tin cans tied together by string.

But none of that actually bothers me. In fact, I kind of like the mushy production. It adds to that tossed off, impromptu feel that suffuses the entire album. Like the Stones are just fooling around and tearing through a show’s worth of songs in their spare time with a few friends.

And all the different directions they go on the album work too. The Stones are London freaks who grew up on jazz, blues, and rock n’ roll. Of course they love the organ, the sax, and gospel choirs. And when they add them to their hard rock sound, it feels rootsy without ever feeling staid.

‘Sweet Virginia’ is the culmination of that idea. It’s a straight-up country track. The guitar that starts the song could be ripped straight from a hymn. But when the harmonica comes in, it grounds it in The Stones’ characteristic grit and grime. The second guitar and the boot-thumping percussion pushes it back into country before Jagger’s mumbly, slightly off-tune drawl brings it back. The sax adds class and the church choir the joy of a good sing-along.

The whole song has the feel of a band tuning up at the start of practice or tuning down before they go to bed.

It’s good either way.

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This article is part of Stripe,'s special publication focusing on culture and society from a youth perspective.