The Rolling Stones

Who are the Stones?

The Rolling Stones, alongside the infamous Beatles, stand in history as perhaps one of the greatest bands to ever come out of Europe. Their blues and rock infused songs stem from the members' shared passions of greats like Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters. Their band name, originally "the Rollin' Stones", actually came from the Muddy Waters song Rollin' Stone but was later changed to "the Rolling Stones" by the band's first official manager, Andrew Oldham.
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A Fateful Reunion and Long Journey Onwards

The Birth of the Stones

The seeds for the Rolling Stones were simultaneously planted in two minds the minute former childhood friends and schoolmates Mick Jagger and Keith Richards reunited at a railway station in 1960 after parting ways years prior. They may not have known the name or the goal or even whether or not they wanted to be in a band together at all, but the wheels were already in motion. As the two quickly discovered they were equally passionate about the same types of music and through connections with a mutual friend, Dick Taylor, were soon jamming together.

Not long afterwards, a young Brian Jones joined the group and by 1963 the Stones consisted of Jones, Jagger, Richards, Watts, and a rhythmic bassist name Bill Wyman. An eight month run of entertaining at the local Crawdaddy Club gave them their first boost into the public eye. Andrew Oldham then became their manager and after making a few changes, decided to use the quickly increasing success of the Beatles to the Rolling Stones' advantage by marketing his band as the complete opposite of the Beatles.

Just three years after their first official performance as a band, the Rolling Stones already had two number one singles in the U.K. ["The Last Time" and "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction"] and the following year appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. With each passing year the Rolling Stones' popularity and notoriety as a bad boy pop band grew more and more rapidly. The band was now living the classic rock n' roll dream filled with booze, drugs, and girls.

The group got quite the reality check in 1969 with the death of Brian Jones, who drowned in his home swimming pool less than a month after deciding to quit the band, saying: "I no longer see eye to eye with the others over the discs we are cutting." In honor of his passing, Jagger read a poem and released thousands of butterflies during a free concert at Hyde Park. Brian Jones was later buried in Cheltenham Cemetery in a luxurious coffin sent by Bob Dylan.

In order to find a replacement for Jones, the Rolling Stones held an audition for top musicians, eventually choosing ex-Faces guitarist Ronnie Wood, who officially joined the band in 1976. Now a complete group again, the Stones had just begun to get back in their groove when Richards was arrested the following year for possession of heroin. The future of the band now in jeopardy, Richards was given a suspended sentence and out of necessity, got clean in time to rejoin the band in 1978.

The following decades were a series of ups and a few downs as friendships became strained and the stress of the years before began to catch up to them. Regardless of any feuds, the band has made its mark on countless aspects of history and is widely regarded as one of the greatest bands of all time. In 1989, the Rolling Stones were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and have produced more than 400 songs since their inception.

The Fab... Five?

Brian Jones

Birthday: February 28, 1942,

Main Position: Guitarist

Musical Highlights: Jones was a musical handyman, capable of learning and then passably performing a new instrument within a handful of hours. This helped the band widen their musical horizons as they explored with different sounds and instrumental effects. Throughout his time as a Rolling Stone he is known to have played: guitar (electric, acoustic, and steel-string), harmonica, recorder, piano, organ, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, trombone, tamboura, dulcimer, koto, harp, oboe, flute, marimba, xylophone, glockenspiel, clavinet, mellotron, harpsichord, and banjo.

Mick Jagger

Birthday: July 26, 1943

Main Position: Vocals

Musical Highlights: Often referred to as the brains of the Rolling Stones, Jagger is the perfect candidate for a singer. He takes over the stage when he performs and exudes his power over everyone else in the room. His unique looks and trademark lips as well as charisma draw in audiences and helped make a quick name for himself and the Stones as their notoriety grew beyond local clubs and towns all the way to foreign countries. It is the job of the singer to be entertaining and different, something Jagger certainly did, often wearing outlandish clothing and strutting around the stage while soulfully exclaiming the words to their wide variety of songs.

Keith Richards

Birthday: December 18, 1943

Main Position: Guitarist

Musical Highlights: Andrew Oldham wanted a bad boy Beatles group, and Keith Richards gave him all that and more. Richards' hardcore drugged lifestyle and free spirit set the precedence for rock n' roll legends for years to come. He gave the Rolling Stones the rock side of their blues/jazz/rock/pop infused works with his smooth, boisterous rhythms, preferring to let the rawness of the guitar take over as opposed to tip toeing around the notes with more refined, technical skill.

Charlie Watts

Birthday: June 2, 1941

Main Position: Drummer

Musical Highlights: Long time drummer, Watts never quite cultivated a bad boy image quite like the rest of the band members. On the contrary, he brought a sense of maturity and consistency to the rest of the Stones. He married Shirley Shepard in 1964, with whom he will celebrate 49 years of marriage this October, and four years later had their one and only child, Seraphina. With Miles Davis among his many early musical influences, he kept a jazzy, grounded beat for the rest of the band to play off of and find their own sound without abandoning their gritty, bluesy roots.

Ronnie Wood

Birthday: June 1, 1947

Main Position: Bassist, Guitarist

Musical Highlights: Though a late addition, Wood had plenty of experience in rhythm and blues groups upon first joining the Rolling Stones more than a decade after their inception. After losing Jones and encountering repeated difficulties with the law, a breath of fresh air was exactly what the Stones needed and Wood didn't disappoint. A former member of the Jeff Beck Group and the Birds, he brought a fresh perspective on the same old things to the table, offering more ideas as well as his years of experience to the Stones

Honorable Mentions

Ian Stewart: Stewart was pushed from the lineup of the Rolling Stones when Oldham was first brought on as manager, but stayed on as their road manager and back up pianist, often playing during performances and on records. He continued to be an honorary member of the Stones until passing away due to heart failure in the waiting room of a hospital in 1985. He is often referred to as the "Sixth Stone".

Bill Wyman: Though he was with the group since their Crawdaddy Club days up until 1993, he has said he felt like the "lone stone" because he was several years older than the rest of the group and already married. He began several side projects throughout the years when he became fed up with Jagger and Richards' periodical dictatorships and has since found relative success in his solo musical career.

The Beatles: Friend or Foe?

"It was a match made in heaven, rampant youth colliding."

As written in his 1998 memoir, former Rolling Stones manager Andrew Oldham sums up the relationship between his beloved Stones and the infamous Beatles with the above quote. The Rolling Stones and the Beatles are regarded as the two greatest bands to ever come out of the London music scene. With no solid data to prove the statement completely true, there are few that would venture argue against it. Hardly anyone has not heard of at least one of the two in the civilized world; indeed, with the influence both bands have over today's society, it would be hard not to.

At the very beginning of the Rolling Stones' musical career, their biggest opposition was, of course, the Beatles. Even Oldham marketed the Stones to be the Beatles' rebellious opposites in hopes of attracting more attention to his boys. However, though the two bands would constantly be fighting each other for dominance over the musical world, the members of each remained quite good friends.

The Beatles and Rolling Stones and first met at the Crawdaddy Club when the Beatles attended a performance of the latter and were impressed by the mobs of screaming girls scrambling to find the best spot in order to prove to the boys that they were, in fact, their biggest fan. The members of both bands stayed until about four that morning and ended the night with George Harrison persuading Decca, still smarting from passing up the Beatles years prior, to sign the Stones to their label.

The Beatles actually gave the Stones the song "I Wanna Be Your Man" to get them started, which hit number 12 on UK charts after its release. Paul McCartney and Mick Jagger actually met regularly to compare release dates for new singles in attempt to reduce competition. This friendship, though generally harmless, did have negative effects on both parties. McCartney soon introduced Jagger to pot while Richards and Jones both tripped acid for the first time in the company of Harrison and Lennon, both big time LSD users.

Several members actually featured in other's songs, for instance:

- Jagger and Jones sang back up on "Yellow Submarine"

- Jones played saxophone on "You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)"

- Lennon and McCartney sang vocals in the Stones' "We Love You"

The two bands honored each other on some of their albums covers as well, as seen below.

Album Tributes

Sgt. Pepper Lonely Hearts Club Band

If you look closely at the doll in the right hand portion of the cover, the shirt says "Welcome the Rolling Stones."
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Their Satanic Majesties Quest

In response to the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper album cover, the Rolling Stones released this several months later in which the Beatles' faces were hidden in the picture. This photograph highlights the places each Beatles' face can be found.
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Some Girls

The Rolling Stones used several celebrities' faces without permission, and many were outraged, threatening to sue to have it removed. George Harrison, on the other hand, found their anger ridiculous and upon discovering his face was among them actually threatened to sue if it was removed. Here Harrison can be seen in the bottom row, second picture from the right in photos 1 and 2.

Farrah Fawcett, Lucille Bell, Liza Minnelli, Judy Garland,Raquel Welch, and Marilyn Monroe were all removed and replaced with, "Pardon our appearance cover under construction" in the censored versions.

Photo 1: Original Front; Photo 2: Censored Front; Photo 3: Original Back ;Photo 4: Censored Back

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An All Time Greatest Hit?

The Rolling Stones produced more than four hundred songs over their more than five decade long run as a band. To pick a single song and say it is their one greatest work would be simply impossible. However, in 2004, the widely popular Rolling Stone magazine complied a list of the 500 greatest songs of all time and listed "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" as the second greatest song of all time, just missing out on number one to Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone". (I'm sensing a theme here with the use of the name Rolling Stone).

Composed by Jagger and Richards and produced by Oldham, "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" was famously brought into life by Richards in a mid-dream epiphany. The story goes that he dreamed the main riff, woke up, grabbed his guitar and cassette machine, and recorded the rift before dropping the pick and falling back to sleep without turning the machine back off. Richards later said, "On the tape you can hear me drop the pick, and the rest is snoring."

Jagger then took the reins and wrote most of the words the next day in about ten minutes next to a little motel pool. Though the song is widely assumed to be yet another result of the Rolling Stones' lovely little habit of producing dirty songs outlined by sexual undertones, Jagger later admitted most of it was just "[his] view of the world, [his] frustration with everything."

Rolling Stones Satisfaction HQ STEREO!

What's a favorite song anyways?

When deciding on my all time favorite Rolling Stones songs, I went through about five different songs before finally settling on "Start Me Up". After listening to the song during my struggle to choose, in the end it was the casual, effortlessness that the band seemed to exude through each note that sold me. This is not to say it lacks passion, quite the contrary as Mick Jagger still shouts all the words with confidence, to which Richards and Jones reply by delivering their rowdy rhythms with an attitude, but its simplicity is refreshing and of course, generally all around catchy.

The music video captures Jagger's absurdly entrancing trademark spasms around the stage so perfectly that all in all, it is the perfect summer song to lift your spirits and make you feel free. It is also the perfect example for why Jagger makes such a great singer, because it's like a train wreck: pretty horrible, but you can't help but look. Even Richards and Wood get into it, while Wyman just stands struming along amid the chaos and Watts looks like he is just enjoying the ridiculousness of the situation while happily tapping along on his drum set.

The Rolling Stones - Start Me Up - Official Promo
Danielle Heebner, British Cultural Studies, The Rolling Stones 2013