The Rolling Stones
hroughout their career, Mick Jagger (vocals) and Keith Richards (guitar/vocals) remained the center of the Rolling Stones. The pair initially met as children at Dartford Maypole County Primary School. They drifted apart over the next ten years, eventually meeting up again in 1960 through a mutual friend, Dick Taylor (bass), who was attending Sidcup Art School with Richards. At the time, Jagger was studying at the London School of Economics and playing with Taylor in the blues band Little Boy Blue And The Blue Boys. Shortly afterward, Richards joined the band and the history of the Rolling Stones began in 1962.
Within a year it had all started when they had met Cheltenham man Brian Jones (guitar/vocals), who had dropped out of school to play saxophone and clarinet. By the time Jones had become a member of the British blues scene, he had already had a wild life. He ran away to Scandinavia when he was 16; he had fathered two illegitimate children before returning to Cheltenham after a few months, where he began playing with the Ramrods. Shortly after, he moved to London where he played in Alexis Korner's group, Blues Inc. Jones quickly decided he wanted to form his own group and left to advertise for his own members; among those he recruited was blues pianist Ian Stewart. As he played with this group, he also moonlighted under the name Elmo Jones at the Ealing Blues Club. It would be at this club that he ran into the new membership of Blues, Inc. now featuring drummer Charlie Watts, and, on occasion, cameos by Jagger and Richards. Jones became friends with Jagger and Richards, and they soon began playing together with Taylor and Stewart; it was during this time that Jagger became Blues, Inc.'s lead singer.
Now adding Tony Chapman (drums), the new band recorded a demo tape. After the tape was rejected by 'EMI', Taylor left the band to attend the Royal College of Art; he would later form the band Pretty Things. Before Taylor's departure, however, the group named themselves The Rolling Stones, taking the name from a Muddy Waters blues song. As the Rolling Stones they gave their first performance at the Marquee Club in London on July 12, 1962. At the time, the group consisted of Jagger, Richards, Jones, Ian Stewart (piano), Mick Avory (drums) and Dick Taylor (who had briefly returned only to leave a few weeks after the concert and was replaced by Bill Wyman (ex-Cliftons)). Avory then left the group to later join the Kinks, to be replaced with Tony Chapman, who proved to be unsatisfactory in the end. After a few months of persuasion, the band recruited Charlie Watts, who had quit Blues, Inc. to work at an advertising agency once the group's schedule became too hectic.
By 1963 they began an eight-month residency at the Crawdaddy Club, which proved to increase their fan base. It also attracted the attention of Andrew Loog Oldham, who became their manager, signing them from underneath Crawdaddy's Giorgio Gomelsky. Although Oldham didn't know much about music, he was a natural salesman, and he latched upon the idea of fashioning The Rolling Stones as the bad-boy opposite to the clean-cut Beatles. At his insistence, Stewart was forced out of the group because allegedly his appearance contrasted with the rest of the group. Stewart didn't disappear from the 'Stones altogether for he became one of their important roadies and played on their albums and tours until his death in 1985. With Oldham's help The Rolling Stones signed with 'Decca' and that June, they released their debut single, a cover of Chuck Berry's Come On. The single made 21 and they followed it up at the end of the year with a version of Lennon-McCartney's I Wanna Be Your Man making the Top 15. Early in 1964, they released a famous cover of Buddy Holly's Not Fade Away that made #3. Not Fade Away became their first American hit, reaching number 48 that spring.
Now successfully considered rougher and sexier than the Beatles, the 'Stones were the subject of numerous tabloid pages in the British press, most notably a story about the band urinating in public. Despite the press' attempts at shame, the stories served instead to convince the world that the Rolling Stones were as dangerous and rebellious as advertised.
Their eponymous debut album came in the spring of 1964, following it up with the spin-off It's All Over Now, their first UK #1. That summer, they toured America to riotous crowds, recording the Five By Five EP at 'Chess Records' in Chicago in the midst of the tour. By the time it was over, they had another number one UK single with Howlin' Wolf's Little Red Rooster.
Oldham then pushed Jagger and Richards into composing their own songs, since they (and his publishing company), would receive more royalties that way, the result was their first original single Tell Me (You're Coming Back) in June 1964 that became their first American top 40 hit. Shortly afterward, a version of Irma Thomas' Time Is On My Side became their first US top 10, followed by The Last Time in early 1965, a number one UK and top 10 US hit that began a virtually uninterrupted string of Jagger-Richards hit singles. But it was (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction in the summer of 1965 that made The Rolling Stones stars. Driven by a fuzz-guitar riff designed to replicate the sound of a horn section, ...Satisfaction signaled that Jagger and Richards had come into their own as songwriters, breaking away from their blues roots and developing their own style. It stayed at number one for four weeks and began a string of top 10 singles that ran for the next two years, including such classics as Get Off My Cloud, 19th Nervous Breakdown, As Tears Go By, "Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadow?"? Many of these tracks would be subsequently featured on their Out Of Our Heads (1965) and December's Children (1965) albums. Their first live effort, Got Live If You Want It! followed in 1966.
Responding to the Beatles' increasingly complex albums at the dawn of the psychedelic era, the Rolling Stones released their first album of all-original material, Aftermath (1966). Due to Brian Jones' increasingly exotic musical tastes, the record boasted a wide range of influences, from the sitar based Paint It, Black to the Eastern tones in I'm Going Home. These eclectic styles continued on the follow-up Between the Buttons (1967), the most pop-oriented album the group ever made. Ironically, however, this album was released smack in between two serious incidents in the band's history. Before the record was released they performed the suggestive Let's Spend the Night Together, the B-side to the medieval ballad Ruby Tuesday, on The Ed Sullivan Show, forcing Jagger to alter the song's title to an incomprehensible mumble, or face being banned. But later, in February of 1967, Jagger and Richards were arrested for drug possession, and within three months, Jones was arrested on the same charge. All three were given suspended jail sentences.
Jagger, along with his then-girlfriend Marianne Faithfull, then went with the Beatles to meet the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi; they were also prominent in the international broadcast of the Beatles' All You Need Is Love. This experience prompted the recording of the 'Stones' next single, Dandelion/We Love You, a psychedelic pop effort, followed by their response to the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper album in the form of Their Satanic Majesties Request (1967), an album that received only warm reviews and ended their psychedelic ways.
By early 1968, manager Andrew Loog Oldham was fired and replaced with Allen Klein, a move that coincided with their return to driving rock & roll and Richards' discovery of open tunings, a move that gave the 'Stones their distinctively fat, powerful sound. The first example of the new and improved Rolling Stones was showcased on the Jumpin' Jack Flash, single that climbed to number three in May 1968. Their next album, Beggar's Banquet (1968) was finally released in the fall, after being delayed for five months due its controversial cover art of a dirty, graffiti-laden restroom. It proved to be an edgy record filled with detours into straight blues and country. Beggar's Banquet was hailed as a masterpiece among the fledgling Rock press.
During the recording of Beggar's Banquet, Jones was increasingly taking a back seat due to his deepening drug addiction and his power struggle over of the dominance of Jagger and Richards. Jones subsequently left the band in June 1969, claiming artistic differences between himself and the rest of the band; less than a month later he was found dead in his swimming pool. The coroner ruled that it was "death by misadventure", yet his death was the subject of countless rumors over the next two years. Mick Taylor, a former guitarist for John Mayall's Bluesbreakers would be Jones' replacement. He wasn't, however, featured on Honky Tonk Women, a number one single released days after Jones' funeral, and he contributed only a small amount on their next album, Let It Bleed (1969). Let It Bleed was comprised of sessions with Jones and Taylor, continuing in the direction of Beggar's Banquet.
After Jagger returned from the filming of Ned Kelly in Australia during the first part of 1969, the group launched their first American tour in three years. Throughout the tour (the first that saw them billed as the "World's Greatest Rock & Roll Band"), they broke attendance records. The success, however, was short lived when the group staged a free concert at Altamont Speedway in California as an answer to the previous Woodstock Festival. On the advice of the Grateful Dead, the 'Stones hired members of the infamous Hell's Angels motorcycle gang as security, but that plan would prove to not have been the best advice for the entire show was unorganized and in shambles and turned tragic when members of the 'Angels killed a young black man, Meredith Hunter, over some minor dispute during the 'Stones' performance. In the wake of the public outcry, the band again retreated from the spotlight and dropped Sympathy for the Devil from their set, a song some critics ignorantly claimed incited the violence; many years later it would return to live performances. The live Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out (1970), released as a response to the growing popularity of bootleg recordings, was their last album for 'Decca/London' for they formed 'Rolling Stones Records', their own company that would later become a subsidiary of 'Atlantic Records'.
In 1970, Jagger starred in Nicolas Roeg's cult film Performance and married Nicaraguan model Bianca Perez Morena de Macias; quickly entering high society. As Jagger was jet setting, Richards was slumming and hanging out with Country-Rock pioneer Gram Parsons. Keith would feature more musical influence on 1971's Sticky Fingers, the first album they released though their new label. But during this time England's citizens were drowning in high taxes and so following its release, the band retreated to France on tax exile, where they shared a house and recorded the double album, Exile On Main St (1972). After the release, however, the future of the act came into question as Jagger concentrated more on being a celebrity and Richards sank into drug addiction.
During the 1970s their critical support waned. Goats Head Soup (1973), reached number one, as did 1974's It's Only Rock 'N' Roll, but neither record was particularly well received.
Taylor would then leave the band, and the group recorded their next album as they auditioned new lead guitarists, including Jeff Beck. They finally settled on Ron Wood, former lead guitarist for the Faces and Rod Stewart. Despite the newcomers presence by the release of Black N' Blue (1976), he was only featured on selected parts. Indeed, the Rolling Stones were still having internal issues for during the mid- and late 1970s, all the members pursued side projects, with both Wyman and Wood releasing solo albums with regularity. In between the solo effort the 'Stones managed to release Love You Live in 1977. But shortly after, Richards was arrested in Canada in 1977 with his common-law wife Anita Pallenberg for heroin possession. After his arrest, he cleaned up and was given a suspended sentence the following year. But during his time in Toronto the band fell in love with the city and would later use it almost like a second home or cottage, visiting there whenever the mood struck. Toronto would often become the venue for starting or ending international tours or making unannounced appearances in local bars, such as the Horseshoe Tavern; allowing the locals private, affordable and intimate viewings of the Rolling Stones in action. In 2003, the band interrupted a European tour (and waived part of their performance fees) to appear live at Toronto's SARS Relief Concert - a massive outdoor concert to both re-kindle morale and raise funds for that city's recovery from the highly infectious disease that rumbled through the city twice.
The band reconvened in 1978 to record Some Girls, an energetic response to punk, new wave and disco. The record and its first single, the thumping disco-rocker Miss You, both reached number one, and the album restored the group's image. However, the group squandered that goodwill with the follow-up Emotional Rescue (1980) a number one record that nevertheless received lukewarm reviews. Tattoo You, released the following year, fared better both critically and commercially, as the singles Start Me Up (later used by Microsoft to promote the release of their latest operating system) and Waiting on a Friend helped the album spend nine weeks at number one. The 'Stones supported Tattoo You with an extensive stadium tour captured in Hal Ashby's movie Let's Spend the Night Together and the 1982 live album Still Life.
But Tattoo You proved to be the last time the 'Stones could completely dominate the charts and stadiums for many years. Although the group continued to sell out concerts in the '80s and '90s, their records didn't sell as well as previous efforts, partially because the albums suffered due to Jagger and Richards' notorious mid-'80s feud. Starting with 1983's Undercover, the pair argued over which way the band should go, with Jagger wanting the 'Stones to follow contemporary trends and Richards wanting them to stay true to their rock roots. As a result, the album proved to be a mean, unfocused record that received relatively weak sales and mixed reviews. The follow-up, Dirty Work (1986), suffered a worse fate with Jagger now fully engrossed in his fledgling solo career, and when Jagger decided that they would not support Dirty Work with a tour, Richards decided to make his own solo record in the form of 1988's Talk Is Cheap. Appearing a year after Jagger's failed second solo album, Talk is Cheap received good reviews and went gold, prompting Jagger and Richards to reunite late in 1988.
The following year, Steel Wheels arrived and was received with good reviews, but the record was overshadowed by its now famous same titled supporting tour, which grossed over $140 million dollars and broke box office records. In 1991, the live album Flashpoint was released, culled from the Steel Wheels shows. Following the release of Flashback, Bill Wyman left the band and a few years later published a memoir titled Stone Alone. Wyman was not immediately replaced, however, since they were all working on solo projects; this time, there was none of the animosity previously seen on their mid-'80s projects. The group reconvened in 1994 with bassist Darryl Jones (ex-Miles Davis/ex-Sting), to record and release the Don Was-produced Voodoo Lounge. The album received the band's strongest reviews in years, and its accompanying tour was even more successful than the Steel Wheels tour. On top of being more successful than its predecessor, the album got them their first Grammy for Best Rock Album. Upon the completion of the accompanying tour, they proceeded to release their live, "unplugged" album Stripped in the fall of 1995 in an attempt to cash in on the "unplugged" fad that was sweeping the world. This album was followed by Bridges To Babylon (1997) and another live set, No Security (1998). Blue & Lonesome, consisting of 12 blues covers of artists such as Howlin' Wolf, Jimmy Reed and Little Walter, would follow in 2016 and, although it received a 1 chart position on both sides of the Atlantic, it failed to win a RIAA award.
Also in 2016, on 25 March, the band played a free open air concert in Havana, Cuba. In June of that same year, The Rolling Stones released, Totally Stripped, an expanded and re-conceived edition of Stripped.
By the time the Rolling Stones began calling themselves the "World's Greatest Rock & Roll Band" in the late 1960s, they had already established themselves as a force to reckon with. Designed as a deliberate attempt to be the opposite of the Mersey-beat style of the Beatles in the British Invasion; the 'Stones chose instead to be a pioneer of the gritty, hard-driving blues-based Rock & Roll that came to define Hard Rock afterward. With his preening machismo and latent maliciousness, Mick Jagger became the perfect Rock frontman, tempering his showmanship with irony, while Keith Richards and Brian Jones wrote the blueprint for interlocking rhythm guitars. Backed by the strong, swinging rhythm section of bassist Bill Wyman and drummer Charlie Watts, the 'Stones became the quintessential band of the British Rock and Blues scene in the same realm, and eventually eclipsing, such contemporaries as The Animals.
Over the course of their career, the 'Stones never really abandoned blues, but as soon as they reached popularity in the UK, they began experimenting musically, incorporating the British Pop of the Beatles, Kinks and Who into their sound. After a brief dance with Psychedelia, they re-emerged in the late 1960s as a jaded, blues Hard Rock quintet. As the hippie sub-culture faded into history, they exposed then promoted the new Rock culture. Nonetheless there were membership issues, as well as controversy but while most of their British peers faded into history the Rolling Stones continued to prosper and gain a broad fan base and far-reaching popularity.
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The Rolling Stones at Marcus Amphitheater in Milwaukee, USA, performing at Summerfest festival on June 23, 2015. (L-R: Charlie Watts, Ronie Wood, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards). Photo by: Jim Pietryga.
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