Wednesday, April 20, 2011


After the Beatles hit America on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964, the next band that made a huge impact was The Rolling Stones. They had a rawer and tougher look than the Beatles and were influenced by primitive blues typified by Chess Records' artists such as Willie Dixon and Muddy Waters. 

The Rolling Stones consisted of Mick Jagger on vocals and harmonica, Keith Richards on guitar, Brian Jones on various instruments, Bill Wyman on bass, and Charlie Watts on drums.

They developed a sound that was gritty and hard-driving but their early work was mostly covers of songs written by their influences. The Stones first single was a cover of Chuck Berry's Come On that was released in June 1963. Their second single was I Wanna Be Your Man penned by Lennon and McCartney. The third single released was Buddy Holly's Not Fade Away. 

Their early albums The Rolling Stones, The Rolling Stones 2, The Rolling Stones Now!, and 12 x 5 were excellent collections of these covers of dirty blues. Their manager and producer Andrew Oldham felt they needed to write their own songs as well and so Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, along with Brian Jones started to do so. The first single released that was penned by Jagger and Richards was Heart of Stone which was backed by their song What A Shame. Their first number 1 hit that they wrote was The Last Time which came out in February 1965.

The song that really vaulted them into the limelight was the international hit (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction which was recorded in May 1965. It appeared on the album Out of Our Heads which contained six songs written by Jagger and Richards including the excellent ballad Play With Fire. Satisfaction is one of the greatest rock songs ever and is known for Richard's fuzzbox guitar riff that makes it sound like a saxophone. 

Over the next several years the Stones would produce their finest work. The next release in America was the album December's Children. This album contained the hit Get Off of My Cloud and the ballad As Tears Go By.

Aftermath was released in 1966, and was the Stones first album where all of the songs were written by the band and further defined the group as rock & roll's bad boys. The album had some excellent songs that also pushed the boundaries of what the band was doing musically. Brian Jones made some interesting contributions by adding sitar to the Middle Eastern influenced Paint It Black, dulcimer on the ballad Lady Jane, and a wonderful use of the marimbas on Under My Thumb. Aftermath is also notable for the 11 minute extended jam Goin' Home.

1966 was a major year for the Stones with the release of the singles 19th Nervous Breakdown and Mother's Little Helper which addressed the abuse of prescription drugs. Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing In The Shadow? also came out in 1966 and was the first Stones release to feature brass horns.

Between The Buttons came out in 1967 and the US version included the singles Let's Spend The Night Together and Ruby Tuesday. When the band played Let's Spend The Night Together on Ed Sullivan the lyrics had to be changed to Let's Spend Some Time Together.

Jagger, Richards, and Jones started to be hounded by authorities over their drug use in 1967 leading to charges being filed against Jagger and Richards after the raid of a party at Richard's home. Jones' house was also raided and he was charged with possession of cannabis. Also during this period while awaiting trial the three of them took a trip to Morocco accompanied by Marianne Faithful and Jones' girlfriend Anita Pallenberg. Jones and Pallenberg were having trouble and Pallenberg ended up leaving with Richards which led to a long-term relationship between them, but also created a huge divide between Richards and Jones.

Their Satanic Majesties Request came out in December 1967 and was the Stones psychedelic album closely following Sgt. Pepper's by The Beatles. The cover was photographed by the same photographer, Michael Cooper, who did the Beatles groundbreaking work. The album used inventive arrangements which incorporated African rhythms, Mellotrons, and full orchestration. It included the notable songs She's A Rainbow and 2000 Light Years From Home.

In 1968, The Stones started working on their next material and the single Jumpin' Jack Flash was released. Later that year the album Beggar's Banquet came out and included the songs Street Fightin' Man and Sympathy For The Devil. Richards remarked about the dark and angry quality of the album saying he was sick of all the Maharishi guru shit and beads and bells and the music was a reaction with a strong dose of reality. His stint in jail had given him room for thought.

The end of 1968 saw the filming of The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus featuring John Lennon, Yoko Ono, The Who, Jethro Tull, Marianne Faithfull and Taj Mahal. The footage wasn't released until 1996.

Brian Jones had become increasingly troubled and wasn't making much of a contribution to the band. His drug use had become a hindrance and he wasn't able to go on the road, so the band decided to cut him loose - he could say he left but could come back when he was ready. He was replaced by Mick Taylor who was only 20 years old at the time. Less than a month later Jones was found dead in his swimming pool at his home in Sussex.

The Stones were scheduled to play a concert in Hyde Park on the next day and decided to go through with it as a tribute to Jones. It was their first performance with Mick Taylor and was before 250,000 people. It also featured the first live performance of Honky Tonk Women.

Let It Bleed came out in 1969 and is probably my favorite Rolling Stones album. It included the monumental track Gimme Shelter which packs a huge emotional impact. The album also includes You Can't Always Get What You Want and Midnight Rambler as well as a cover of Robert Johnson's  Love In Vain.

Many of the songs from Let It Bleed were performed on the 1969 US tour which culminated with the Altamont concert that had the Hells Angels providing security and resulted in the stabbing and beating death of Meredith Hunter. Part of the tour and the concert were documented by the Maysles Brother's film Gimme Shelter and also lead to a release of the excellent live album Get Yer Ya-Yas Out! in 1970.

Sticky Fingers came out in 1971, and was the first Stones record on their own label. It included many great songs including Brown Sugar, Can't You Hear Me Knocking, and the country influenced Wild Horses and Dead Flowers. The cover of the jeans and zipper was designed by Andy Warhol.

Following the release of Sticky Fingers the Stones left England for financial and tax reasons and moved to the south of France. Richards rented a villa and rented rooms to band members and entourage and they started recording in the basement. These sessions resulted in what I feel is their last great album Exile On Main Street. Exile was a double album and returned to a more blues based raw sound and was littered with killer tunes including Rocks Off, Rip This Joint, Tumbling Dice, and Stop Breaking Down.

Mick Taylor left after a couple more albums and was replaced by Ron Wood. The Stones released several other albums over the years and still play live periodically. While the later work is not as strong as the period from the 60s to the early 70s, they still produced some excellent songs, including Angie, Heartbreaker, Shattered, Start Me Up, and Waiting For a Friend.

The Rolling Stones impact on rock music is impossible to measure. They assimilated various musical genres into their own collective sound. They incorporated blues, r&b, country, folk, reggae, dance, and world music into their work, but mostly they created a hard-driving blues based music that had a great power and influence on all rock and roll music that would follow.

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