Big Hits (High Tide and Green Grass), released in spring of 1966, was my first favorite compilation album. Why not start with the greatest? It's a gem of a collection, kicking off with their instant classic, “(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction” and sashaying between sounds softer (“As Tears Go By,” “Time Is on My Side”) and harsher: “The Last Time,” “Get Off of My Cloud,” “19th Nervous Breakdown.”
The Stones, who'd issued their first single in America only two years before, didn't have twelve actual hits yet, and there was an unwritten rule back then that albums had to have a dozen cuts. So we get two bluesy numbers that were flip sides: “Good Times, Bad Times” and “Play with Fire.” Hits or flips, Big Hits is more than a handy collection. It's a statement. As songwriters and musicians, the Stones were stunningly quick studies. All the hits are their creation, except for “Not Fade Away,” the Buddy Holly jumper that gave the Stones their first US hit, albeit a modest one, peaking at Number 48.
There are now many other, better and more complete collections out there, including Hot Rocks and Forty Licks. Still, Big Hits maintains a place on my shelf and in my heart.