The Rolling Stones will always remain one of popular music's most iconic and historic bands. While the Beatles, Beach Boys and Bob Dylan took rock music to its artistic zenith and James Brown transformed its rhythmic bedrock, the Rolling Stones have kept to the basic blues-influenced rock and roll sound and earned their status as "The World's Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Band."
Written By: Jeff B.
ROLLING STONES BIOGRAPHY:
"I'm really an absolute stone fan of the Stones, and always have been. Their early shows were just shocking, absolutely riveting and stunning and moving and they changed my life completely...(The) Stones will always be the greatest for me. They epitomize British rock for me" - Pete Townshend
"I always admired them because I like their funky music and I like their style" - John Lennon
"They stole my music, but they gave me my name" - Muddy Waters
"Mick Jagger is the perfect pop star. He's rude, he's ugly attractive, he's brilliant. The Rolling Stones are the perfect pop group they don't give a shit" - Elton John
"The Rolling Stones are my life. If it wasn't for them, I would have been a soprano for real" - Steven Van Zandt, member of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band
"The Rolling Stones are really fabulous" - Paul Simon
"The Rolling Stones are one of Britain's major cultural assets, who should be honored by the kingdom" - Allen Ginsberg, American poet, 1967
For nearly half a century, the Rolling Stones have essentially kept to their basic rock and roll sound and image while proving to be incredible adapters of various rock music styles and trends. From blues-based rock to psychedelic rock, country rock to disco, the Stones have left classics in each of these categories that they touched, and their flirtations with reggae, folk music, funk, Latin, jazz, gospel and soul music are exceptional.
The Stones spearheaded the blues-based spectrum of the British Invasion in 1964 and were seminal in re-introducing the blues to American audiences and maximizing R&B and blues to the British people. Their arrogant, raunchy, misogynistic, and unkempt bad-boy image and aggressive guitar-driven sound provided a blueprint for hard rock and helped shape garage rock. In addition, their massive stadium and world tours helped prefigure arena rock, and their solid songwriting, driving rhythm section, memorable riffs and forays into different sounds inspired countless groups in their wake. Future members of the classic groups the Pretty Things and the Kinks have passed through their ranks.
While hardly innovators when compared to the likes of the Beatles, James Brown, Chuck Berry, the Beach Boys, and Bob Dylan, the Stones, like the Isley Brothers, have a rarified talent of being great imitators of varied popular rock sounds. And in the tradition of Elvis Presley and the Beatles, they had much respect and reverence for their musical forebears and peers, name-checking their heroes for the masses.
Led Zeppelin, The Who, Aerosmith, the Doors, Iggy Pop & the Stooges, Bruce Springsteen, Guns N' Roses, Bon Jovi, New York Dolls, Bonnie Raitt, AC/DC, Kings of Leon, Joan Jett, MC5, and the Allman Brothers Band are just some of the artists that have been influenced by the Stones.
Despite being called "The Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Band in the World" by many and their legion of perennials across the globe, the Rolling Stones are eclipsed only by the Beatles as the greatest rock band in music history.
As with all British Invasion rock artists, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were weaned on '50s rock and roll through the sounds of Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino, Eddie Cochran and Bo Diddley as key formative influences. Blues giants such as Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Elmore James, and Little Walter also left their legacies on the Glimmer Twins. All of these musical forms would later form the foundation of the classic Rolling Stones sound.
Jagger and Richards had crossed paths several times before the Rolling Stones were ever created. They had gone to the same primary school growing up, crossed paths on a train ride, and soon put their love of black music into an R&B band called Little Boy Blue & the Blue Boys, which also included future Stones member Dick Taylor.
The year 1962, however, was a pivotal one for Jagger and Richards. They both met four future Rolling Stones members in London: the Jimmy Reed- and jazz-loving Brian Jones, the boogie-woogie-minded Ian "Stu" Stewart, who had answered Brian Jones' May 1962 advertisement in Jazz News requesting musicians for the formation of an R&B group, the Charlie Parker-fanatic and jazz-inclined Charlie Watts, and bassist Bill Wyman. Jones, Stewart, and Watts, like Jagger and Richards, frequented the seminal Ealing Club in London, a club that would boast Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker (both later of Cream), Rod Stewart, Eric Burdon, Paul Jones (later of Manfred Mann), and the Detours (later known as The Who) among its attendees.
On the week of July 7, 1962, the musical weekly Disc mentioned that a new band would be performing at London's Marquee Club in a matter of days, replacing Alexis Korner and his Blues Incorporated outfit for the night. The band in question was a "rhythm and blues group, Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones," named after Muddy Waters' 1950 classic "Rollin' Stone" (Jagger's friend Dave Godin insists that it came from the "I'm a rollin' stone" line in Muddy's "Mannish Boy"). The performance date was reinforced by Jazz News on July 11: "Mick Jagger, R&B vocalist, is taking a rhythm and blues group into the Marquee tomorrow night."
The Rolling Stones made their official debut at that now famous club on July 12, 1962. Mick handled vocal chores, Keith and Brian played the guitars, Ian Stewart handled the keyboard, Dick Taylor was on bass, and Mick Avory played the drums. Weeks after their seminal performance, both Taylor and Avory left the group, replaced by drummer Tony Chapman (August 1962) and bassist Bill Wyman (December 1962). Dick Taylor would later go on to form The Pretty Things, and Mick Avory would later join the legendary band The Kinks. In October of that year, the Stones entered a recording studio and made an acetate of blues and rock covers: Bo Diddley's "You Can't Judge a Book By Its Cover," Jimmy Reed's "Close Together," and Muddy Waters' "Soon Forgotten," but it was stiffly rejected by the record labels who believed that rock and roll was becoming passé.
By January 1963, Tony Chapman left the Stones and was replaced by drummer Charlie Watts. The following month, the Stones gigged at the Crawdaddy Club in Richmond, Surrey, England, and soon became a premiere live act, cultivating a growing following with their frothy renditions of rock and blues favorites, namely by artists such as Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley. In March of that year, the band entered London's IBC studios with friend Glyn Johns (later a famous producer, working with the Beatles and the Who) and recorded Bo Diddley and blues numbers.
On April 14, 1963, the Beatles, with two UK hits and a new release gaining momentum, saw the Stones perform and were impressed, with George Harrison supposedly informing Decca's A&R Dick Rowe about these bad boys. Rowe had previously heard about the Stones, and after initially passing on the Beatles, he was determined not to make the same mistake again. In essence, Dick Rowe was the man who turned down the Beatles and the man who signed the Stones. Also that April, Andrew Loog Oldham joined as the Stones' manager. At this point, the Stones were Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Brian Jones, Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman, and Ian Stewart but not for long. Oldham insisted that Stewart become the road manager since he believed that Stewart wasn't ideal for the group's image. Nevertheless, Stu, holding the title of "Sixth Stone," would play on Rolling Stones records until the mid-1980s.
In June of 1963, the Rolling Stones released a single featuring their version of Chuck Berry's "Come On" and the Willie Dixon classic "I Wanted To Be Loved." It hit #21 in the UK pop charts and ensured them a spot on the popular Thank Your Lucky Stars show that July. Despite this breakthrough and privilege, their appearance on the famed show created controversy as complaints poured in about the Stones' scruffiness and long hair that covered their ears and their rock and roll sound that would supposedly contaminate the English youth despite the boys being dressed in ties and formal jackets on the set.
By September, the Stones were featured on a package tour with the likes of the Everly Brothers and Bo Diddley and were soon presented a tune by John Lennon and Paul McCartney of the Beatles: "I Wanna Be Your Man." Released in November, the single managed a #12 ranking in the UK. The controversially titled flip, "Stoned," borrowed a chord sequence from Booker T & the M.G.s' seminal 1962 hit "Green Onions," which signaled the Stones' deep love and appreciation of the-then burgeoning soul music scene. "Stoned" was also authored by Nanker/Phelge, a collective name that listed Jagger, Richards, Jones, Watts and Wyman as the songwriters and would be used on several early Stones recordings (ASCAP listed Ian Stewart as co-writer on this particular tune and on the Rolling Stones' "Little By Little").
With the thought of being more self-reliant, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards began writing originals. In November, hot on the heels of "I Wanna Be Your Man," they appeared again on Thank Your Lucky Stars which included the now legendary Gene Pitney, and they offered Pitney a song called "My Only Girl," later re-titled as "That Girl Belongs To Yesterday." Around that same time, they had an artist named George Bean record two of their songs, "Will You Be My Lover Tonight?" and "It Should Be You"; both Pitney and Bean had their songs released in January of 1964. Also that same month, the Stones released an EP of covers spanning soul music to doo-wop that was a success on the EP charts: Arthur Alexander's "You Better Move On," the Coasters' "Poison Ivy," Chuck Berry's "Bye Bye Johnny," and Barrett Strong's "Money." In February, their rendition of Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away" was issued and capped at #3 UK and dented the American chart listings at a respectable #48. Their debut LP, released in April of that year in the UK with no title nor their name anywhere to be found on the cover, shot to #1, thereby dethroning With The Beatles. Stones-mania had begun.
By the summer of 1964, the Stones toured the US and at one point recorded for two days at the Chess Studios in Chicago, where they met Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, and Willie Dixon. To put the icing on the cake, they had their first #1 UK smash and US Top 40 hit (#26) with their take on the Valentinos' "It's All Over Now." The US single release "Tell Me," the first Stones single that had a Jagger & Richards composition as the A-side, fared slightly better, landing at #24. Before year's end, the boys scored two additional Top 40 US hits in their performance of Kai Winding's/Irma Thomas' "Time Is On My Side," their first US Top 10 at #6, and "Heart of Stone" (#19 US). The blues-rock of "Little Red Rooster" gave them their second UK #1, and Marianne Faithfull gave Jagger & Richards another UK Top 10 and US Top 30 hit with "As Tears Go By." Both of their American albums, England's Newest Hit Makers and 12 X 5, hit the US Top 20, with the latter reaching #3. Another EP of covers, "Five By Five," also was a success on the UK EP charts, and in October of that year, they performed at the historic T.A.M.I. show alongside Chuck Berry, the Beach Boys, the Supremes, Marvin Gaye, the Miracles, and James Brown.
Despite their phenomenal success, the Stones continued to be seen as a menace to society as parents and authorities hated that their daughters were swooning over these "disgusting" men and that their sons were imitating the band's "filthy" behavior. For example, when the Stones performed on The Hollywood Palace in June of 1964, guest host and now traditional pop music legend Dean Martin made condescending jokes about the band and ridiculed their hairstyle. When he said "aren't they great?" he rolled his eyes in displeasure. When the Stones graced The Ed Sullivan Show in October of that year, Ed himself was angered that these boys reeked of rock and roll rebellion and promised that "they'll never be back on our show."
The Stones were targets of a sensationalistic media as the ruling class and press lashed out at them for all of their immoralities such as urinating in public to instigating mob and street violence. In one episode, Brian Jones swore off a service station attendant to "get off my foreskin!" once the attendant told the band to "get off my forecourt!" The controversies that swarmed the band were bottomless, incurring the wrath of parents and traditional institutions alike.
The Rolling Stones No. 2, released in January 1965, shot to #1 UK, triggering another fruitful year. Also that month, the band toured Australia and the Far East and in March scored their third UK #1 (and first original) and second US Top 10 with "The Last Time".
But nothing would prepare the Rolling Stones for the stratospheric heights of "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction". The song hit #1 in many countries and became an iconic rock 'n' roll anthem, making the Rolling Stones superstars of rock's aristocracy. Full of passion and energy, the anti-authority, anti-commercialism, and sexually-charged song that voiced the disaffected youth's frustrations combined the past, the present and the future of rock and roll into one explosive brew. Its Motown and Stax influences helped it figure a #19 position on the R&B charts that even the Beatles could not achieve (the Stones would later repeat R&B chartings with "19th Nervous Breakdown" and "Miss You"). The song's influential guitar riff became immortalized, and it has since become a radio, Karaoke, bar band, and wedding party staple, with renditions ranging from The Who and Jimi Hendrix to Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin. If any song will vie to be the greatest rock song of all time, it will either be Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode" or this one.
The driving "Get Off My Cloud" was another transatlantic chart topper that fall, and "19th Nervous Breakdown" broke down at the tip of reaching the top position on both sides of the Atlantic in early 1966. In April of that year, the Rolling Stones released Aftermath, their first album where Jagger and Richards composed all of their songs. It became their biggest album success at that point, landing at #1 UK and #2 US, and gave them a worldwide summer smash in the brilliant and haunting "Paint It Black" (#1 US, #1 UK). Also that summer, Chris Farlowe's "Out of Time," written by Jagger & Richards, topped the UK charts, thanks in part to Mick's production. Around this time, Brian Jones began to feel bitter about the adulation heaped upon Jagger and Richards due to their songwriting prowess and with good reason: Jones was the greater looking and most versatile instrumental player of the band with a knack for creativity. Overlooked and underappreciated, hard drugs, particularly LSD, seemed to be his escape and outlet. While the Stones, particularly Jagger and Richards, had a high for drugs, it was Jones who was its most avid taker, and this would lead to a deteriorating relationship between him and the Stones. Increasingly, he would miss Stones recording sessions or was simply uninvited by the band.
"Ruby Tuesday," from the American version of the Stones' 1967 album Between the Buttons, gave them their fourth US #1. But it was "Let's Spend the Night Together" off the same album that deepened the old order's hatred of the band. Ed Sullivan had initially banned the Stones from performing on his famous variety show in 1964, but he reneged on that idea and invited the group to perform a few more times. But that would change once again when the band performed on his January 15, 1967 showing. Prior to their performance, the band members were debriefed that the title and lyrics to "Let's Spend the Night Together" be slightly altered as "Let's Spend Some Time Together." Mick Jagger begrudgingly complied with the stipulation, and every time he sang "some time together," he rolled his eyes in displeasure. During the last segments of the song, Jagger actually sang the original line (in a 1968 interview with Rolling Stone, he claimed that he mumbled, "Let's spend some mmm together"). The band, unsurprisingly, was barred from ever setting foot on Ed Sullivan's show again.
Even more controversial were the band's drug busts that made worldwide headlines. An infamous drug bust occurred when Keith Richards' residence was raided, and an assortment of drugs was found. Caught up in the chaos were visitors Marianne Faithfull and Jagger (George Harrison and his wife were also there that day but had left early. Some insist that the police waited for Harrison to leave since he was so well-liked by the masses). Jagger's and Richard's drug escapades didn't help much in their spring European tour as policemen gave them a hard time at their concerts, and the fact that Richards won the love of Anita Pallenberg, who was once Jones' girlfriend, intensified inner-band conflicts. In the "Summer of Love," Jagger and Richards were ultimately charged with drug paraphernalia and given stiff prison terms. However, much outrage ensued over the matter. The Who announced that their next single would be two Jagger/Richards songs, "The Last Time" and "Under My Thumb," that would help the songwriting duo's plight, and conservative The Times editor William Rees-Mogg cited the harshness of the sentences. To make matters worse, Brian Jones was arrested for drug possession, the same day that Jagger and Richards underwent their court hearings. Although Jagger, Richards, and Jones spent a night in jail as a result of appeals that dramatically lessened the severity of their sentences, their troubles with law officials would continue to follow them. And to add more insult to their injuries, the psychedelic-laden effort Their Satanic Majesties Request, an answer record to the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, was given poor to lukewarm press reviews despite its Top 5 transatlantic success. At this point, Andrew Loog Oldham broke away from the Stones, a band who were tired and fed up with legal woes, and left them to produce the album on their own.
But the Stones rebounded in 1968. They had a new producer in Jimmy Miller, who helped add a more riff-ridden, anthem-driven element into the band's sound, as demonstrated by "Jumpin' Jack Flash," which hit the US Top 5 and reached the summit of the UK charts. He also helped to inject the acoustic influence that became a key part of Beggars Banquet, which spawned the classics "Sympathy for the Devil" and "Street Fighting Man".
Speaking of "Sympathy for the Devil" and "Street Fighting Man," negativity still haunted the band and increased in intensity. Both aforementioned songs were stirred up in controversy (albeit for different reasons): "Sympathy" seemed to promote Satanism, and "Street Fighting Man" was very much provocative in a year of assassinations by figureheads such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and the heated race riots. Furthermore, Brian Jones was becoming increasingly absent from the Rolling Stones and unreliable: he could not get an American visa due to his deep depression and intense drug habit, which hindered the group's efforts of touring there, and he was also arrested once more on drug charges, although he was given a very light fine. The band members also experienced financial difficulties and frustrations with their corporate enemy Decca.
Around this time, the band worked with the now-luminaries Ry Cooder and Gram Parsons, both of which would leave their roots-influenced musical stamp on the band that would hit its peak in the 1970s.
1969 saw "Honky Tonk Women" (an American and British #1 charter) and Let It Bleed (#1 UK, ousting the Beatles' Abbey Road from the top spot, #3 US) add more to the Stones' iconic discography. "Gimme Shelter" and "You Can't Always Get What You Want" became fan favorites. But with every upside, there was a downside. Once again, the establishment tried to their best to destroy the "world's greatest rock 'n' roll band," a band that represented everything they hated, as Jagger had his home raided for possible drug storage. And to make matters worse, Brian Jones, aside from his rapid deterioration augmented by his legal troubles, was dismissed from the band as the jazz- and blues-loving Mick Taylor, a veteran of John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, filled his position. Before the turbulent decade closed, Jones had drowned in his swimming pool. Mystery still swirls about his death with some deeming it to be a homicide. The Stones performed in memory of him at Hyde Park on July 5, 1969 to a crowd of over 250,000 in attendance.
But the concert at Altamont Raceway track in California differed from the positive atmosphere of London's Hyde Park. From the get-go, the Stones had arrived hours late, facilities for the 300,000 people were inadequate, and the presence of the local Oakland chapter of Hells Angels didn't help matters. An air of tension pervaded the air and reached an apex when four people perished, including a man by the name of Meredith Hunter who was knifed and beaten to death by a member of Hells Angels for drawing a gun and pointing it at the stage. The infamous concert was emblematic of not only the end of the "peace and love" ideals carried on over from the Summer of Love but a decade of tumultuous upheaval and revolution.
The '70s yielded even greater rewards for the Stones. 1970 kicked off with one of the greatest live albums of all time, Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out!, a #1 UK and Top 10 US smash. Mick Jagger also released a hit solo record in "Memo from Turner," and the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio Unit was conceived (which would later be implemented by the likes of Led Zeppelin, Bob Marley, Fleetwood Mac, Iron Maiden, Bad Company, Deep Purple, and Lou Reed). And even when being in debt and exorbitant taxes had forced the band to flee to France, they created their first transatlantic #1 hit album Sticky Fingers, which boasted the #1 US, #2 UK outing "Brown Sugar," their debut label Rolling Stones Records, and the celebrated "tongue and lip" or "lapping tongue" logo as designed by John Pasche.
"Tumbling Dice" entered 1972 as another Top 10 success despite being found on an album that initially received mixed reviews. Exile On Main St., nonetheless, repeated Sticky Finger's transatlantic feat and is now regarded by many as the greatest Rolling Stones full-length achievement in history.
With their incredible worldwide success, the Rolling Stones had amassed an enormous following like the Beatles and by this time were playing in huge venues, largely kicked off by their 1972 US tour, which attracted celebrities such as Andy Warhol and Truman Capote. Their rocker lifestyle escalated, whether it was the consumption of drugs (on top of drug busts), groupies, notorious trashing of hotels, being guests at Hugh Hefner's Playboy mansion, and touring the worldwide concert circuit. Even with Brian Jones gone, the band continued to explore different musical arenas. Goats Head Soup, another double crown winner like its predecessors, was recorded in Jamaica and had a discernible soul and funk music influence. 1974's It's Only Rock 'n Roll, another monster with its iconic title song, nearly repeated the feat of topping both the American and British charts.
Despite this pattern of phenomenal popularity, Mick Taylor was increasingly unhappy being in the Stones due to the fact that his contributions were under-recognized, not properly credited, and the fact that he was underpaid. He also had a desire to explore other musical sounds and even played with former Cream bassist Jack Bruce while still being a part of the Stones. In what many see as a foolish decision, Mick parted ways with the gang in December 1974, just as the band was about to record what would become another golden success, Black and Blue. With Taylor's exit, the Stones held auditions for a new guitarist. Everyone from Jeff Beck to Rory Gallagher was sought after. But the band's best bet seemed to be Richards' longtime friend Ronnie Wood (shortened to as Ron), who was still a member of the Faces. Although Wood contributed to the Black and Blue sessions and toured with the Rolling Stones in 1975, he officially became a Rolling Stones member in February 1976 after the demise of the Faces. The Stones were now Jagger, Richards, Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman, and Ronnie Wood.
Black and Blue furthered the Stones' musical diversification as reggae, funk, jazz, and Latin sounds graced the album, but 1978's Some Girls was an even greater and more inspired effort (despite its controversial cover). The centerpiece was the exceptional disco outing "Miss You," which shot to the top of the Billboard Hot 100, #6 in the disco charts, #33 in the R&B charts, and #3 in the UK pop listings. Despite these classic successes in the age of punk and disco, the drug problems continued unabated (which now included Wood's incessant intake), and tensions mounted between Jagger and Richards over the direction of the band.
An Emotional Rescue followed suit in 1980. Although seen somewhat as a disappointment by music critics, the album was a mega-seller and brought the boys once again twin peak positions in the US and UK. The title track figured a Top 10 ranking on both sides of the Atlantic as well. The last great Rolling Stones album, Tattoo You, also gave them their final major hit and all-time classic in "Start Me Up" (#2 US, #7 UK). From here on out, the band's success began to decline when compared to their '70s chart career, though a few releases did make good impact, including 1983's "Undercover of the Night," the 1986 remake of Bob & Earl's immortal "Harlem Shuffle," and 1989's "Mixed Emotions." Although the material of this decade was no match for previous ones, all of their studio albums still managed to chart in the Top 5!
In December of 1985, Ian "Stu" Stewart sadly died of a heart attack. To add more doom, Jagger and Richards continued to be at each other's throats, and Ron Wood's drug addiction worsened, all contributing to less successful band and solo endeavors. By the late '80s, the press was certain that the band would split. But surprisingly by 1989, Jagger and Richards made up, and the two, including Brian Jones, Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman, Ian Stewart, Mick Taylor, and Ronnie Wood, were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The Rolling Stones rocked well into the '90s and scored a few certified classics such as "Highwire", "You Got Me Rocking" and "Love Is Strong." While the hits continued to lessen in impact, their tours were still monster successes (and resulted in them releasing more live albums than studio ones during this decade). Accolades abounded, including induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1993. Despite Bill Wyman withdrawing from the band in 1992 (and being replaced unofficially by Darryl Jones), the band continued to score successes as Voodoo Lounge and Bridges to Babylon made the Top 10 on the album charts on both sides of the ocean.
In 2003, Mick Jagger was knighted, a move that upset some people. After all, Mick Jagger was the very symbol of anti-establishment. But in a more positive light, it could be seen as the establishment finally paying their dues to a man who, along with the other Stones, helped change the course of popular music. And Keith Richards? He was simply disgusted...but not to the point where he wouldn't record another Stones album. A Bigger Bang was released in 2005 and garnered critical success that wasnt seen in a long time, peaking at #2 UK and #3 US.
In true rock legacy fashion, a reissue of Exile On Main St. in May 2010 hit #1 UK and #2 US, an astonishing feat considering the album aged nearly 30 years.
The Rolling Stones will always remain one of popular music's most iconic and historic bands. While the Beatles, Beach Boys and Bob Dylan took rock music to its artistic zenith and James Brown transformed its rhythmic bedrock, the Rolling Stones have kept to the basic blues-influenced rock and roll sound and earned their status as "The World's Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Band."
Mick Jagger (1962-present)
Keith Richards (1962-present)
Charlie Watts (1963-present)
Brian Jones (1962-1969)
Bill Wyman (1962-1992)
Ian Stewart (1962-1963; was the "Sixth Stone" until death in 1985)
Mick Taylor (1969-1974)
Ronnie Wood (1976-present)
Dick Taylor (1962)
Tony Chapman (1962)
Mick Avory (1962)
THE ROLLING STONES AND SOUL MUSIC:
It is common currency that the Rolling Stones are fanatics and purveyors of blues and straight R&B/'50s rock and roll. But what is lesser known is their appreciation for other early rock and roll musical styles, especially soul music.
The Stones appreciated and befriended many R&B/soul acts. They were fans of James Brown (he blew them away at the 1964 T.A.M.I. concert), Otis Redding, Solomon Burke, Curtis Mayfield, Al Green, the Temptations, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, Bobby Womack, and Arthur Alexander.
Keith Richards loved Aretha Franklin. He produced her version of "Jumpin' Jack Flash" and played guitar on it along with Ron Wood, said her voice was the greatest in rock music, and called her "a national monument to America". "The Human Riff" also called Etta James' singing "a voice from heaven and hell," called Sam Cooke one of the Top 3 greatest rock singers of all time, was a big fan of reggae music (he loved Byron Lee, for example), and was an admirer of the Neville Brothers.
Mick Jagger was clearly influenced by Joe Tex's and James Brown's stage performances, Wilson Pickett's wickedness, and especially Don Covay's singing style. Jagger also guest starred on the Jackson's 1984 single "State of Shock," which included Michael. The song was a #3 US and #14 UK smash. He also worked with Nile Rodgers of Chic and Dr. John.
The legendary Billy Preston, who was significantly credited on a number of Beatles records, played on Sticky Fingers, Exile On Main St., Goats Head Soup, and It's Only Rock 'n Roll, among other records of theirs. Other R&B/soul veterans such as Shirley of Shirley & Lee sang backup on Exile On Main St, and Don Covay and Bobby Womack provided vocals to "Harlem Shuffle."
R&B/Soul artists invited by the Rolling Stones for performances include Stevie Wonder in 1972, Etta James in 1978, the Meters in 1975 and 1976, Screamin' Jay Hawkins in 1981, the Commodores, and even reggae legends Black Uhuru. Big fans of Ike & Tina Turner, the Stones invited them on their tours in 1966 and 1969, and the duo proved to be serious onstage rivals.
The Stones' early albums and live engagements were chockfull of R&B and soul covers. Their albums were peppered with soul influences, whether it was their Out of Our Heads LP or attempts at soul music with "Long Long While," "I Got The Blues," "Let It Loose," and the Staple Singers-influenced "The Last Time."
The Rolling Stones' greatest song, "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," was written with Otis Redding in mind (it was also inspired by Muddy Waters' record "I Can't Be Satisfied" and Chuck Berry's "Thirty Days"). When Otis Redding covered the tune, there was belief that his was the original recording. Both the Stones original and the Redding cover impacted the R&B and pop charts, and in the wake of Redding's success with the song, R&B and soul artists such as Chuck Jackson, Mary Wells, and Aretha Franklin recorded the song before decade's end. "Satisfaction's" guitar riff was also influenced by Martha & the Vandellas' classic "Dancing In The Street." The song's soul influences gave it a #19 R&B showing, staying in the R&B Top 40 for a respectable 7 weeks.
Their "19th Nervous Breakdown" and "Miss You" also hit the Top 40 of the R&B charts, with "Hot Stuff" rounding out at #84 R&B. This feat is simply astonishing due to the fact that a white guitar-oriented band, who was criticized for stealing "black music," found favor with R&B audiences, a crowd hard to please.
The Rolling Stones remade Marvin Gaye's classic "Can I Get a Witness?" in 1964, used it as the basis for their "Now I've Got a Witness," and also recorded his gem "Hitch Hike" in 1965. They also performed other Motown tunes such as the Temptations' perennials "Ain't Too Proud To Beg," "Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)," and "I Can't Get Next To You," Stevie Wonder's "I Don't Know Why," and Barrett Strong's "Money." But Motown wasn't the only destination ripe for renditions. Solomon Burke's "Cry To Me" and "Everybody Needs Somebody To Love," Irma Thomas' "Time Is On My Side," Benny Spellman's "Fortune Teller," Don Covay's "Mercy Mercy," and Rufus Thomas' "Walking the Dog," to name a few, were other numbers that got reworked.
It should also be noted that the Stones recorded several classics such as "Brown Sugar" and "Wild Horses" at the world-renowned Muscle Shoals. The instrumental jam "2120 South Michigan Avenue" was the address of the legendary Chess Records, a label with a roster history that included Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, John Lee Hooker, Benny Goodman, Buddy Guy, Willie Dixon, the Ramsey Lewis Trio, and Sonny Boy Williamson (Aleck "Rice" Miller). It also included veteran Chess Records sessions members such as Maurice White, who would later form Earth, Wind & Fire, a soul band that Charlie Watts was a fan of.
GENDER AND RACIAL ISSUES:
For all its liberal intent, rock and roll history is full of ironies and hypocrisy just as much as it is full of rebellion and revolution.
The Rolling Stones were wild, vulgar and unkempt, which made them obvious targets to the old order. But another source of contention were their sometimes misogynistic ways and alleged racism.
Songs such as "Under My Thumb," "Stupid Girl," and "Yesterday's Papers" made no secret that it reeked of male chauvinism. Their album Black and Blue was promoted with an infamous billboard on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood where a model was bound and bruised with the line "I'm Black and Blue from the Rolling Stones - and I love it!" And songs such as "Ruby Tuesday," which hinted at a famous groupie, were unsurprising in the context of a rock and roll lifestyle.
Even the females they had relationships with were the inspirations to a number of classic Stones songs, whether it was Jagger's Chrissie Shrimpton (the root of "Stupid Girl"), Jagger's Marianne Faithfull (the source for the infamous lines in "Let It Bleed"), Bianca Jagger ("Respectable"), or Anita Pallenberg, the lover of three Rolling Stones. And it didn't help matters much that some perceived Faithfull and Pallenberg to be amoral and loose women, not exactly the type of role models that the establishment wanted young girls to look up to. Brian Jones himself was notoriously violent towards Anita Pallenberg, and Bill Wyman had an affair with a female teenager in the 1980s that made headlines. But despite all of this womanizing, the Stones had their bright moments, whether it was tender songs written about the women romantically involved with them such as "Wild Horses" or the desire of being a better father and lover.
The rock and roll girl groups of the '60s not only influenced the British Invasion bands but also received respect and praise from them, whether it was the Beatles loving the Shirelles or the Kinks favoring Martha & the Vandellas. The Rolling Stones in particular toured with the Shangri-Las, the Ronettes and the Chiffons, with the Ronettes being their particular favorites.
The blues- and R&B-based British Invasion bands were both championed and derided for their music. Detractors generally accused them of stealing and ripping off black music. But the bigger picture is that these bands had a genuine love for black music and were seminal in re-introducing R&B and blues to the masses. Aside from being fans of Robert Johnson and Slim Harpo to Willie Dixon and Howlin' Wolf, the Rolling Stones have always paid respect and tribute to their musical heroes and have helped to keep their legacies alive.
Despite these warm spots, the band still drew controversy. "Some Girls," which was seen as chauvinistic due to its subject matter dealing with women around the world, featured the notorious line "black girls just wanna get fucked all night" which incurred the ire of black organizations. But Mick Jagger tried his best to quell the tension by stating that the song parodied racial beliefs. "Brown Sugar" took it one step further with its topic of slave rape and explicit sexual acts. Again, black and feminist groups were not pleased. But on a positive note, the Rolling Stones did record a song called "Sweet Black Angel" that paid tribute to civil rights leader Angela Davis. In addition, they had befriended, championed, and helped many R&B and blues acts.
To simply write off artists such as Elvis Presley, the Beatles, and the Rolling Stones as simply racist and exploitative is ignorant as all three have expressed tremendous and genuine love and respect for black music and its contributions. In addition, they have befriended many black artists and have influenced black music.
PEER AND CRITICAL RESPECT:
The Rolling Stones were friends with many in the rock industry, whether it was longtime friends Bobby Womack and Billy Preston in R&B/soul circles to Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page (the latter two were seen as possible Rolling Stones members more than once). In addition, the Stones' love of blues artists such as Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf not only imprinted these bluesmen onto the wide masses but also earned them personal respect from their heroes.
Aside from invigorating and reinvigorating the careers of blues and R&B/rock artists, the Rolling Stones also played an important role in the Beach Boys' popularity in the UK. In 1963, the Beach Boys scored a minor UK Top 40 hit in "Surfin' USA," but when Mick Jagger in particular talked effusively of how great "I Get Around" was in 1964, it helped that particular record reach the UK Top 10, thus beginning a series of major hits and a dedicated UK following for the greatest American rock and roll band of all time. The Beach Boys even credited the Rolling Stones for helping them garner fame in the UK, and the two performed at the legendary T.A.M.I. show in 1964.
The Rolling Stones even had some hip-hop influence. Early hip-hop DJs such as legends Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash played Rolling Stones records. "Hot Stuff" and "Honky Tonk Women" were particular favorites of Bam.
The Stones worked with Phil Spector, David Bowie, Peter Tosh, Gene Pitney, Jack Nitzsche, Ry Cooder, Sonny Rollins, and a host of others, and attracted the attention of famous media figures such as Truman Capote and Andy Warhol and historic labels such as Atlantic Records and Chess Records.
Besides the Stones' diverse pool of influences and varied influence, they also implemented different instrumentation and session players that added to their critical appraisal. The marimba, autoharp, sitar, bell, harpsichord, accordion, harmonica, organ, English flute, oboe, dulcimer, trumpet, trombone, saxophone, tambourine, bongos, congas, maracas, timpani, kazoo, piano, vibraphone, synthesizer, dobro, the theremin and the mellotron have all figured into their recordings.
SEXUALITY AND THE BLACK ARTS:
For centuries, music had its flamboyant and androgynous artists and artists who preferred the affections of the same sex, whether it was Tchaikovsky, Liberace, Johnnie Ray and Little Richard, all with varying degrees. The one that stands out the most in early rock and roll is Little Richard, who in turn drew inspiration from rocker Esquerita.
In 1966, the Rolling Stones released the 45 "Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing In The Shadow?" which featured the group dressed in 1940s-style drag. This was a precursor to proto-punkers Rolling Stones-styled New York Dolls, who took this look to even greater heights, and the Rolling Stones-influenced David Bowie, king of glam gender-benders.
Mick Jagger was perhaps the biggest male sex symbol of rock and roll in his time. Just like Elvis Presley and Jagger's peer, James Brown, he defined male sexuality. However, unlike Presley and Brown, Jagger flirted with androgyny. Some of his on-stage mannerisms, the accounts of him mistaken as a woman at times, a song like "When The Whips Come Down" which concerns a homosexual male's perspective, and bi-sexual rumors between Mick and the other Mick (Taylor) and David Bowie only increased suspicions. Even in 1979, the Stones' PR man Keith Altham started a bizarre rumor that Jagger wanted a sex change. While they're just that-rumors-there's no doubt that Jagger appealed to both sexes.
But even more controversial was the Stones' perceived connection to black magic and Satanism by religious groups and other media outlets such as Time magazine, the latter which dubbed the band "Satan's Jester's" in May 1971. This was ignited by the Stones' 1967 album title Their Satanic Majesties Request and 1968's hit "Sympathy For The Devil," (later covered by Ozzy Osbourne), which both predate the stories of Black Sabbath's and Led Zeppelin's Satanism/occult ties (although artists such as Screamin' Jay Hawkins to the Beatles were also attacked for their supposed dark endeavors). Other songs such as "Dancing With Mr. D," the album title and cover Goats Head Soup (the name came from a popular Jamaican dish), and quotes such as Keith Richards divulging to Rolling Stone magazine in May 1977 that "we receive our songs by inspiration, like at a séance" was further proof in the detractor's eyes. The "Everybody's Lucifer" and "Jagger - Prince of Darkness" myth is still alive and shows its strongest fanaticism with several Christian groups.
It must be noted that blues (e.g. Robert Johnson) and rock and roll music (e.g. Screamin' Jay Hawkins) were deemed dirty, savage, and evil by society at large. Even the Beatles were seen as the devil's children by some religious camps due to their "backmasking" that supposedly promoted Satanism, their picture of Aleister Crowley on the cover of 1967's Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, the "Helter Skelter" and gruesome Charles Manson connection, and John Lennon's notorious "bigger than Jesus" statement regarding the Beatles. Even Jim Morrison of the Doors had recorded dealings in the occult, and the band's dark themes furthered their denouncers' beliefs that rock and roll was ultimately evil music.
THE STONES VS THE BEATLES:
The Rolling Stones have been compared to the Beatles for a number of reasons, whether it was the sharp contrast of their images in their early days to who epitomized rock and roll more. While the media made the two giants to be arch rival enemies in the 1960s, the truth is that they befriended each other and shared many of the same fans.
The pattern of the Rolling Stones deliberately capitalizing on the Beatles' innovations and popularizations is well-documented. In 1970, John Lennon told Rolling Stone magazine's Jann Wenner that, "I would like to just list what we did and what the Stones did two months after, on every fucking album and every fucking thing we did." While "every fucking thing we did" is an exaggeration, there is some truth behind it. When the Beatles issued "Yesterday" as a single in 1965, the Stones released the similarly-styled "As Tears Go By" several weeks later. "Norwegian Wood" featured sitar, and this instrument was later found on the Stones' "Paint It Black." The Stones' album covers to Their Satanic Majesties Request and Beggars Banquet recalled the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and the "white" album, respectively. Even recently, when the Beatles Anthology book hit store shelves, the Stones had According To the Rolling Stones in a similar book format.
Granted, both bands did have their striking differences, but this monkey-see-monkey-do approach demonstrates the Beatles' big influence on even their major rivals.
Rolling Stones Greatest Albums:
1. Exile On Main St. 2. Let It Bleed 3. Sticky Fingers 4. Beggars Banquet 5. Aftermath (After-Math) 6. Some Girls 7. The Rolling Stones/England's Newest Hitmakers 8. Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out! 9. Out of Our Heads 10. Between The Buttons 11. The Rolling Stones No. 2/The Rolling Stones, Now! 12. Tattoo You 13. 12 X 5 14. Goats Head Soup 15. It's Only Rock 'n Roll 16. December's Children (And Everybody's) 17. Their Satanic Majesty's Request 18. Emotional Rescue 19. Black And Blue 20. Steel Wheels 21. Voodoo Lounge 22. Flowers 23. A Bigger Bang 24. Undercover 25. Dirty Work
Rolling Stones Greatest EP's:
1. The Rolling Stones (1964) 2. Five By Five (1964) 3. Got LIVE If You Want It (1965)
Rolling Stones Greatest Compilations:
1. Forty Licks 2. Rarities 1971-2003 3. The Rest of the Best 4. Rolled Gold: The Very Best of The Rolling Stones (2007) 5. Jump Back: The Best of The Rolling Stones
The 10 Greatest Rolling Stones Songs
1. (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction
2. Brown Sugar
3. Jumpin' Jack Flash
4. Sympathy For The Devil
5. Gimme Shelter
6. Honky Tonk Women
7. Start Me Up
8. Paint It Black
9. You Can't Always Get What You Want
10. Miss You See Entire Top 100 List
Placements On DigitalDreamDoor Lists (as of 12/2010):
Rolling Stones: Greatest Rock Artists - #4 Greatest Live Rock Artists - #7 Greatest British Invasion Artists - #2 Greatest Rock Artists of the '60s - #5 Greatest Rock Artists of the '70s - #5 Greatest Rock Artists of the '70s - #57 Most Influential Rock Artists - #30 Greatest Rock Songwriters - #9 (Jagger, Richards) Greatest Rock Frontmen - #3 (Mick Jagger) Greatest Rock Vocalists - #103 (Mick Jagger) Greatest Rock Lyricists - #38 (Mick Jagger) Greatest Rock Guitarists - #38 (Keith Richards) Greatest Rock Bassists - #95 (Bill Wyman) Greatest Rock Drummers - #91 (Charlie Watts) Greatest Rock Pianists - #22 (Ian Stewart)
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