The Rolling Stones
Synopsis of Pop Music
“I can’t get no satisfaction…”
This is the rock and roll your mother warned you about. Those four moptops in the Beatles may have looked vaguely unwholesome, but in the mid-60’s they were still singing about how keen it was to hold hands. But oh my, the Rolling Stones…those boys only had one thing on their minds, and it was considerably saucier than hand-holding.
Born out of guitarist Keith Richard (born Richards) and lead singer Mick Jagger’s mutual love of Chuck Berry and other r&b greats, the Rolling Stones (known early on as the Rollin’ Stones) took various incarnations in the early 1960’s before settling on a six-man band: Jagger, Richard, Brian Jones on guitar, Bill Wyman on bass, Ian Stewart on piano and Charlie Watts on drums. At the start of 1963, the Stones began an eight-month residency at the Crawdaddy Club in Richmond, U.K. (just outside London). While there, the band gained not only a strong London following, but also new official managers in Eric Easton and 19-year-old Andrew Oldham.
It was under Oldham’s direction that the band took on its rough-hewn, anti-pretty-boy image (the boys in the band had no objections). Stewart was removed from the band (though he continued to record and tour with the Stones for over 20 years), and the rest of the group eschewed Beatles-esque moptops and suits in favor of shaggy ‘dos and naughty behavior. None of this bad-boy marketing would have mattered, of course, if the band didn’t know how to play. On that end, the Stones excelled, turning out covers of r&b classics like Chuck Berry’s “Come On” (their first U.K. hit) and Muddy Waters’ “I Just Want to Make Love to You,” all infused with the Stones’ distinctive dirty blues sound.
While deciding on a 1963 follow-up to “Come On,” the Stones were visited by the Beatles’ John Lennon and Paul McCartney, who presented the band with a song of their own, titled “I Wanna Be Your Man.” The tune became a U.K. Top-20 hit for the Stones, and by the beginning of 1964, Stones-mania was already beginning to compete with Beatle-mania in Britain. Taking a cue from their idols’ rough-and-tumble image, fans went mad at Stones concerts, earning the band a very nasty reputation in respectable British circles. Kids being kids, the anti-Stones forces only made young fans crazier for Rolling Stones records, and a workover of Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away” gave the group a #3 single in the U.K., as well as a modest U.S. charter.
The band’s debut album, The Rolling Stones, displaced With the Beatles at the top of the British charts on its May 1964 release, kindling the first flames of the eternal 'Beatles or Stones?' debate. Kids and teens all over Britain (and soon, all over the world) copped the styles of both bands, earning further harrumphs from the establishment. But no matter. The Rolling Stones were here to stay, earning their first U.K. #1, “It’s All Over Now,” after a return from a brief U.S. tour in the summer of ’64. Their live shows were wilder than ever, leading to a score of riots and prompting an early curtain at several shows. A second American tour later in 1964 proved that the Stones were finally catching on in the U.S.
As the Stones’ reputation grew, their music expanded beyond cover tunes to original Jagger/Richard compositions. The two bandmates had been writing together at least since late 1963, providing Jagger’s girlfriend Marianne Faithfull with the #9 U.K. hit “As Tears Go By,” but it wasn’t until mid-‘64 that the band scored a hit with an original, “Tell Me (You’re Coming Back).” In 1965, the songwriting partnership flourished, leading to three U.K. #1 singles: “The Last Time,” “Get Off of My Cloud” and the worldwide breakout #1 “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” The latter tune, with its signature fuzz guitar riff, became the blueprint for many a blues rock band, as well as an anthem for an entire generation.
The Stones had been releasing hit albums throughout the mid-60’s—12 X 5, Out of Our Heads, December’s Children (And Everybody’s), etc.—but 1966 brought the first LP of nothing but Jagger/Richard tunes, Aftermath. Defining the Rolling Stones’ rebellious, often misogynist attitude in tracks like “Stupid Girl,” “Under My Thumb” and “Doncha Bother Me,” Aftermath also took the band into new psychedelic frontiers with the bleak, sitar-driven “Paint It Black.”
The increasing references to drugs in songs like “Mother’s Little Helper” proved that the Stones had covered all three bases of the 'sex, drugs and rock and roll' mantra, but their mind-altering experiences didn’t sit well with the law. In early 1967, while the band was still riding high (no pun intended) on songs like the double-A-side “Let’s Spend the Night Together/Ruby Tuesday,” Jagger, Richard and Jones were all arrested on drug charges. Fairly harsh fines and jail terms were levied on each, but the public outcry was tremendous. After many protests and editorials claiming that the punishment didn’t fit the crime, Jagger’s and Richard’s charges were effectively eliminated on appeal, and Jones’ sentence was downgraded to a fine and probation later that year. In gratitude to those who stood by them, the band released “We Love You” in September 1967.
Debuting at the end of 1967, Their Satanic Majesties Request was seen as the Stones’ psychedelic, conceptual response to the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Based on the band’s reputation, the album was a success before it even reached stores, but before long, the Rolling Stones decided it was time to return to what they did best: hard-charging, sexual rock and roll. The #1 single “Jumping Jack Flash” showed they still had plenty of angry blues left in them, and the follow-up album Beggars Banquet erased any remaining doubts. Regarded by many as one of the Stones’ finest, rawest albums, Beggars Banquet was kicked off with another of the Stones’ grand achievements, the pulsating, almost unbearably dark epic “Sympathy for the Devil.”
As a group, the Rolling Stones had clearly come all the way back from the troubles of the past few years, but Brian Jones wasn’t able to keep up with the recovery. Plagued by scores of problems, Jones quit in June of 1969, drowning in his own swimming pool the following month. In tribute to their fallen bandmate, the Stones played a free concert in London’s Hyde Park on July 5th, with Mick Taylor as the new second guitarist. The free concert went over smashingly in London, but an attempt to repeat the magic in the U.S. later that year brought on one of the darkest moments in 60’s rock. Closing out their hugely successful U.S. tour with a free concert at Altamont Speedway in California, the Stones hired a group of Hell’s Angels as security for the show, and the scene quickly got ugly. At the height of the alcohol- and drug-induced mayhem, 18-year-old Meredith Hunter was stabbed to death after brandishing a gun near the front of the stage. The Stones (who didn’t see the stabbing until watching concert film that would later become the documentary Gimme Shelter) eventually escaped in a helicopter, but in the minds of critics and historians then and now, the tragic Altamont concert spelled the end of the 'Peace and Love' era.
The Rolling Stones continued to turn out brilliantly strung-out material throughout the coming years, from 1969’s Let It Bleed to 1970’s concert album Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out to 1971’s Sticky Fingers, which produced singles as diverse as the interracial coupling ode “Brown Sugar” and the sweet, country-flavored “Wild Horses.” 1972’s double album Exile on Main Street (another candidate for the best of the 70’s Stones) closed out this era, as Jagger and Richard began to be publicized more for their celebrity marriages (Jagger’s, to model Bianca Rose Perez Moreno de Macias) and drug arrests (Richard’s) than for their music.
The ballad “Angie,” from 1973’s Goat’s Head Soup, gave the band another U.S. #1, and the albums kept coming with It’s Only Rock and Roll (1974), Black and Blue (1976) and another concert album, Love You Live, but the doubters were once again coming out of the woodwork. Taylor had left the band, replaced by former Faces guitarist Ron Wood, and Wyman had begun releasing solo albums. Once more, Richard and Jagger took it upon themselves to silence the critics, releasing their own response to punk and disco, Some Girls, in 1978. Scoring another U.S. #1 with the surprisingly danceable “Miss You,” the Stones proved they could still rock and still shock, offending many with one of their most decadently misogynist albums yet (and coming from the Stones, that’s saying something).
Another disco-flavored rock record, Emotional Rescue, followed in 1980, complete with the U.K./U.S. Top-10 title track. The following year’s album, Tattoo You, gave the Stones yet another band-defining anthem and concert favorite in “Start Me Up,” and the group continued to draw large and raucous crowds on their massive tours. Unfortunately, as will happen with nearly any partnership that lasts more than two decades, Jagger and Richards (who had retaken the ‘s’ at the end of his surname in 1978) had different ideas about where the band was headed. Both 1983’s Undercover and 1986’s Dirty Work were commercial successes, but Jagger had begun pursuing more side projects, joining with David Bowie on a cover of “Dancing in the Street” and releasing the solo album She’s the Boss in 1985. Rumors flew of a Stones breakup, and devotees of the self-proclaimed “Greatest Rock and Roll Band in the World” were distraught.
But to the relief of Stones fans everywhere, the band once more squelched the rumor-mongers with 1989’s Steel Wheels, a popular and praised album that led to the group’s most successful world tour yet. That tour was captured in a 1991 live album, Flashpoint, which set the pattern the Stones would follow for the rest of the 90’s: album, tour, live album, repeat. 1994’s Voodoo Lounge led to the acoustic, small-club live album Stripped, while the highly-praised 1997 rocker Bridges to Babylon spawned 1998’s No Security concert album. Each tour seemed to top the last, always announced with a big publicity stunt and always a phenomenal draw at stadiums around the world.
The Rolling Stones may have aged in the nearly forty years since their first recording, but they remain defiantly cheeky, still offering the same unwholesomely bluesy rock they always have. For many, they will always be the definitive rock and roll band, epitomizing rock at its most dangerously rebellious. 'Sex, drugs and rock and roll' wasn’t just a catchphrase for the Stones—it was a way of life, one that shows through every tune, every performance. Your mother may have been right to warn you away, but those irrepressible shag-haired boys with the bluesy licks and the lusty vocals were just too cool to resist.
“Pleased to meet you,
Hope you guessed my name…”
Artist Release History1964 - The Rolling Stones (U.K.)
1964 - The Rolling Stones (England's Newest Hit Makers) (U.S.)
1964 - 12 X 5
1965 - The Rolling Stones No. 2 (U.K.)
1965 - The Rolling Stones, Now! (U.S.)
1965 - Out of Our Heads
1965 - December's Children (And Everybody's)
1966 - Big Hits (High Tide and Green Grass)
1966 - Aftermath
1966 - Got LIVE if You Want It!
1967 - Between the Buttons
1967 - Flowers
1967 - Their Satanic Majesties Request
1968 - Beggars Banquet
1969 - Through the Past, Darkly (Big Hits Vol. 2)
1969 - Let It Bleed
1970 - Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out!
1971 - Sticky Fingers
1972 - Hot Rocks 1964-1971
1972 - Exile on Main Street
1972 - Jamming With Edward
1972 - More Hot Rocks (Big Hits and Fazed Cookies)
1973 - Goats Head Soup
1974 - It's Only Rock and Roll
1975 - Metamorphosis
1976 - Black and Blue
1977 - Love You Live
1978 - Some Girls
1980 - Emotional Rescue
1981 - Tatoo You
1981 - Sucking in the 70's
1982 - Still Life
1983 - Undercover
1984 - Rewind (1971-1984)
1986 - Dirty Work
1989 - Steel Wheels
1989 - Singles Collection: The London Years
1991 - Flashpoint
1994 - Voodoo Lounge
1995 - Stripped
1996 - Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus
1997 - Bridges to Babylon
1998 - No Security
Pop Sub Categoriesrock
Essential Music AlbumsBeggars Banquet
Exile on Main Street
Hot Rocks 1964-1971
Band MembersMick Jagger vocals
Keith Richards guitar
Brian Jones guitar
Bill Wyman bass
Charlie Watts drums
Mick Taylor guitar
Ron Wood guitar
Darryl Jones bass