They’re a band with a looooong history! So here is part 1:
The Rolling Stones, the band you’ve heard of but are just wearing the band shirt because it looks cool. I KNOW I ALREADY MADE THIS JOKE in the Brian Jones article but I’m going to continue to be angry every time someone wears their logo and doesn’t know who Keith Richards is. ANYWAY… The Stones
The world’s greatest rock n’ roll band was formed in 1962, the first line up consisted of some of the greatest rock stars ever, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ian Stewart, Bill Wyman, Charlie Watts and Brian Jones. Over the years there have been around 14 members – a lot of whom only lasted a couple years. I mean if you can’t handle the heat, or in this case the drugs, get out of the kitchen, or in this case, the rock band. But the consistent ~let’s say, heartbeat ~ of the band has been Jagger- Vocals, Richards- Guitar, Watts- Drums and Ronnie Wood- Drums and Guitar, since ’75.
Even though there have only been 4 consistent members in the band, that doesn’t mean the early members didn’t profoundly influence the direction the band went. They were all big into blues, and still are, but Brian Jones was very keen on keeping the band to their bluesy roots, and you can hear his influence a lot. And in the newer stuff, those blues roots are still alive and thriving.
Their first album, released in 1964, was self titled and fell under the genres of Rock, Rock n Roll, Rhythm and Blues, and Blues-rock. Their albums still usually bounce between Rock and Blues-rock, and they’re even releasing a blues album called “Blue & Lonesome”. Now, I’m not going to go album by album through their discography because they have around 50 albums so that’s going to be a different article.
Keith Richards and Mick Jagger were childhood friends and classmates in Dartford, Kent until the Jaggers’ moved away. Jagger stared a little garage band with a friend named Dick Taylor (who played bass in the Stones in 62’). Then in 1960, Mick and Keith happened to run into each other at the Dartford Railway Station. Two years after that The Rolling Stones were born. Their mutual love of Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters prompted their musical escapades together.
Richards then joined the boys’ garage band. After a while of meeting at Jagger’s house, they started practicing at Taylor’s house (in late ’61) and grew the band a bit. Two guys named Alan Etherington and Bob Beckwith joined and the 5 called themselves ‘The Blue Boys”.
In April of 1962 the boys visited the Ealing Jazz Club, and met Brian Jones. Brian was siting in on slide guitar with Alexis Korner’s rhythm and blues band, “Blues Incorporated”. “Blues Incorporated” also featured future Rolling Stones members Ian Stewart and Charlie Watts. Before visiting the Jazz Club, The Blue Boys sent a tape of their best recordings to Korner and, after hearing what they could do, he wanted to meet them. Shortly after that, Keith and Mick started jammin’ with Blues Incorporated.
Brian Jones was looking to start his own band, so he put an add up in the “Jazz News”. Ian Stewart happily joined Jones and they found a practice space and started a rhythm and blues band. Soon there after Jagger, Richards and Taylor left Blues Incorporated to join the band that would later become The Rolling Stones.
At their first rehearsal, there were a couple of guys on guitar and vocals, (Geoff Bradford was guitar and Brian Knight was vocals) but they decided not to go any further with the band because they didn’t want to play as much Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley that Keith and Mick did.
According to Keith, Brian Jones was the one who spontaneously named the band during a phone call with “Jazz News”. He was asked what the name of the band was and after glancing at the track list of a Muddy Waters LP lying on the floor, said the name was “The Rollin’ Stones” and it stuck pretty well.
The Stones played their first gig at the Marquee Club on July 12, 1962 in Oxford, London. Their material was a lot of Chicago Blues, Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley. Bill Wyman joined that December and Charlie Watts joined in January ’63. Their acting manager Giorgio Gomelsky, happened to get them a Sunday afternoon residency at the Crawdaddy Club. Gomelsky later said that he though that’s what triggered an “international renaissance for the blues.”
The Stones went on to sign with a new agent (who was directed to them by his previous clients… The Beatles) named Andrew Loog Oldham. Oldham made many changes to the band, like changing the name from “The Rollin’ Stones” to “The Rolling Stones” he also removed Stewart from the band for aesthetic purposes. Wyman said that Stewart didn’t fit Oldham’s mold of “pretty, fit, long haired boys” which is pretty shitty, Oldham. But Stewart did stay on as a road manager and played piano on many of the recorded tracks and occasionally on stage until his death in 1985. He also wanted Keith to drop the ‘s’ from Richard(s), saying it “looked more pop”. Yes, because the ‘s’ in Keith Richards’ last name is what was gonna make or break the band… but I guess he did do something right though, the Stones are iconic.
The Stones then signed a pretty cushy recording contract with Decca Records (but these guys passed on signing The Beatles, so…), even though Oldham had no recording experience, he made himself the boys’ producer too. A big part of his advertising for the band was to contrast them with the Beatles as much as possible.
The Beatles were the stand-up kids in the matching costumes and were pretty clean cut, but Oldham wanted the Stones to have a certain rebellious, badass image. He said that the Beatles obligation to EMI records, and how they would only record in the EMI studios made them appear as “mere mortals… sweating in the studio for the man”.
He had The Stones pose without smiling on their first album and would use headlines like, “Would you let your daughter marry a Rolling Stone?” However he did try to get the boys to wear matching uniforms but that didn’t last long. Quickly they all gravitated back to everyday clothes for public appearances. Wyman said, “Our reputation and image as the Bad Boys came later, completely there, accidentally. Andrew never did engineer it. He simply exploited it exhaustively”.
Their first single was a cover of Chuck Berry’s “Come On” which they released June 7th 1963, though they refused to play it live. Even with minimal advertising, it reached No. 21 on the UK charts. Having a single on the charts was a ticket to the big time. They started playing shows outside of London. On July 13th they played at the Outlook Club in Middleborough, then within the year they were touring. They toured the UK, opening for stars like Bo Diddley, Little Richard and The Everly Brothers. That tour helped them hone their performance skills and stagecraft that we know and love today.
Their next single was a McCartney-Lennon song called “I Wanna Be Your Man” which reached No. 12 and their 3rd single was the Buddy Holly song “Not Fade Away” which was done in a Bo Diddley style. It was released in February of 1964 and reached No. 3 on the UK charts.
Even though they were touring and had a couple hits in ’64, Oldham saw very little future for the band. They had to pay a small fortune in royalties because almost all the songs they preformed were covers. Oldham knew that the music they played wouldn’t appeal to teenagers. He wanted them to write their own music, but you can’t rush creative genius and their first couple shots at songwriting were described as “sloppy and imitative”. On their first album only one song was a Jagger/Richards original it was “Tell Me (You’re Coming Back)” but there were 2 songs that gave credit to Nanker Phelge which was a pen name for songs written by the entire band.
Their first US tour was in June of ’64. Bill Wyman described it as “a disaster.” He continued saying that, “When we arrived, we didn’t have a hit record [there] or anything going for us.”
During an appearance on the variety show “Hollywood Palace” Dean Martin was hosting, Dean mocked their hair and performances. But the Stones pushed on. During the tour they recorded some material for a couple days in Chicago. In those couple of days they met some musical legends, like Muddy Waters.
But that wasn’t the only good thing to come out of their time in Chicago. They recorded a cover of Bobby and Shirley Womack’s “It’s All Over Now” which became their first No. 1 hit in the UK.
The Stones 5th UK single was a cover of the Willie Dixon song “Little Red Rooster” This song also hit No. 1 on the charts – an amazing achievement especially for a blues number… that was practically unheard of for the genre.
In December of ’64 the bands first single with original tracks by Keith and Mick was released. “Heart of Stone” was side one and “What a Shame” was side 2. “Heart of Stone” reached No. 19 in the US and was their first big hit on that side of the pond.
The Stones were pretty busy in ’65, they toured Australia and New Zealand playing 34 shows for around 100,000 people and released another album, “The Rolling Stones No. 2” One of the hits from ’65 was “The Last Time” It was another Jagger/Richards original. This one topped the UK charts and soared to No.9 in the US.
In May ’65, they released their first international number 1 hit; I bet you can guess the one… “(I Cant Get No) Satisfaction” and it backed their third North American tour. It spent four weeks at the top of Billboards Hot 100 chart, which made the world see them as a worldwide ~premiere~ act.
In 1966, they released their first album composed of mainly Jagger/Richards songs, the album was called “Aftermath” it was a No.1 hit in the UK and No. 2 in the states.
By 1967 they were known far and wide and the album they released that year, “Between the Buttons” was the last creative venture Andrew Oldham made with the band as their manager, Allen Klien took over as the manager.
That album featured a song called, “Let’s Spend the Night Together” which was a No. 1 hit in the states. When they went to New York to preform it on the “Ed Sullivan Show” they were ordered to change the lyrics to “Lets spend some time together”. Because implying sex in a song was ~scandalous~ LOL, how the times have changed.
By 1967, Jagger, Richards and Jones were regularly hounded by the authorities for recreational drug use. Reporters often accused the Stones of drug use but no real leads ever panned out, until February 12th ’67. The Sussex police were tipped off by “News of the World” who was tipped off by Richards’s chauffer of Richards drug use at a party he was hosting.
No arrests were made at the time, but Richards and Jagger were later charged with drug offences. In 2003, Richards spoke about getting arrested saying, “When we got busted at Redlands, it suddenly made us realize that this was a whole different ball game and that was when the fun stopped. Up until then it had been as though London existed in a beautiful space where you could do anything you wanted.”
While awaiting the outfall of the drug charges, Jagger, Richards and Jones took a short trip to Morocco, they brought along some friends and Jones brought his girlfriend Anita Pallenberg. However Jones and Pallenberg had a falling out and Anita left Morocco with Keith. Richards later said: “That was the final nail in the coffin with me and Brian. He’d never forgive me for that and I don’t blame him, but hell, shit happens.”
Anita and Keith were a couple for 12 years. Even though there was tension between Jones and Richards, the band went on a 2 month tour through Europe. Anyway back to the drug charges… Brian Jones house happened to be raided by police and he was arrested under the charge of cannabis possession.
Now three out of the five Stones were facing drug charges. On June 29 of that year, Richards and Jagger were charged. Jagger was sentenced with three months in prison for the possession of four amphetamine tablets. Then Richard was given a year imprisonment for allowing cannabis to be smoked on his property. The next day they were released on bail pending appeal.
“The Times” then ran an editorial featuring the now-famous line “Who Breaks A Butterfly On a Wheel?” The conservative editor, William Rees-Mogg wrote about the sentencing pointing out that the boys had been treated far more harshly for a minor first offence then “any pure anonymous young man”.
While awaiting an appeal the band recorded a single called “We Love You”, it was a thank you to the fans for all their loyalty. The track began with the sounds of prison doors closing and the music video that went along with it featured allusions of Oscar Wilde’s trail.
On July 31, the court overturned Richards’ conviction and Jagger’s sentence was reduced to conditional discharge. That November, Brian Jones’s trial took place, they appealed the original sentence and that December his sentence was reduced, he was fined 1000 euros, put on three-year probation and ordered to seek professional help. But I’m pretty sure the only reason why is because the judge had a psychiatrist friend who really, really wanted to meet Brian Jones.
In December of that year they released, “Their Satanic Majesties Request” Oldham helped produce it but during the sessions left for good. In 2003, Jagger said that, “The reason Andrew left was because he thought that we weren’t concentrating and that we were being childish. It was not a great moment really – and I would have thought it wasn’t a great moment for Andrew either. There were a lot of distractions and you always need someone to focus you at that point, that was Andrew’s job.”
“Satanic Majesties” was the first album the Stones helped produce on their own. It had a psychedelic sound that was complimented by the matching cover art, It featured a 3D picture by Michael Cooper, the same guy who photographed the cover art for The Beatles “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Heart Club Band” which came out around the same time.
During the first couple of months of 1968 that band was working on their next album, “Beggars Banquet”. This album produced songs like, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” “Street Fighting Man” and “Sympathy For The Devil”. At this point they were writing almost all their own music. There was a lot of honesty, anger and emotion during this period of their songwriting. When talking about the change in the music Keith said, “There is a change between material on Satanic Majesties and Beggars Banquet. I’d grown sick to death of the whole Maharishi guru shit and the beads and bells. Who knows where these things come from, but I guess [the music] was a reaction to what we’d done in our time off and also that severe dose of reality. A spell in prison … will certainly give you room for thought … I was fucking pissed with being busted. So it was, ‘Right we’ll go and strip this thing down.’ There’s a lot of anger in the music from that period.”
Around the end of ’68, The Stones filmed their concert film/ documentary, The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus. This film featured John Lennon, Yoko Ono, The Who, Jethro Tull and many more. Unfortunately this footage was shelved for 28 years. However it was finally officially released in 1996.
Brian Jones was becoming more and more troubled. He was dealing with drug problems and had only been sporadically contributing to the band he helped make so successful. Jagger said that Brian was “not psychologically suited to this way of life”. Because of the drugs and the other problems Brian was facing, he was denied a US visa.
Richards said that during a meeting at Jones’ house in June of ‘69, Jagger, Watts, himself and Jones were talking about the future of the band. Jones admitted that he couldn’t “go on the road again”. Richards said that they all agreed to let Jones, “… say ‘I’ve left, and if I want to I can come back”.
Tragically, less than a month later on July 3, 1969, Brian Jones died. He was only 27.
His death was fairly mysterious and spawned a lot of conspiracy theories. However, in the end he drowned in his swimming pool at his home in East Sussex.
(You can read about the conspiracies surrounding his death here: http://nevermindpress.com/was-brian-jones-murdered/ )
The Rolling Stones were already scheduled to play a free show at Hyde Park in London two days after Brian’s death. Originally it was to introduce their newest member, Mick Taylor. They briefly reconsidered the show- their friend had just died, but they decided that the show must go on. They turned the show into a memorial for Brian Jones; they released thousands of butterflies in his honor. They also played for the first time, “Midnight Rambler” and “Love In Vain” from their not yet released album “Let It Bleed”. This was the last album Brian had a hand in creating.
When they were introduced at Hyde Park, the stage manager for Blackhill Enterprise, Sam Cutler introduced them by calling them “The greatest rock and roll band in the world!” After that concert, he left Blackhill and became the Stones’ road manager.
That December, “Let It Bleed” was released. It featured the instant classic, “Gimme Shelter”. This was their last album of the 60’s and their first song to feature lead female vocals. The opportunity fell to Merry Clayton, and that solo is iconic. The album also featured “You Cant Always Get What You Want” which included the London Bach Choir. They initially asked for their name to be removed from the credits because, and get this: they were “horrified” by some of the albums other content. LOL. However they eventually withdrew this request.
“Let It Bleed” was the first album Mick Taylor was featured on. There are two tracks that are credited to him, and two tracks that are credited to Brian. “Country Honk” and “Honky Tonk Woman” were Mick’s first tracks with the band. “Midnight Rambler” and “You Got The Silver” were Brian’s last.
Thats about it for the 60’s, stay tuned for their next couple of years!