The Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones are an English rock institution that was founded in 1962. Formed by graduates of Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated, the band would play a central role in London’s R&B/beat boom. As The Beatles opened the floodgates for UK acts on a global scale, The Rolling Stones swiftly emerged as the Fab Four’s fiercest rivals.

Members: Mick Jagger (vocals, harmonica, percussion, guitar, piano, bass), Keith Richards (guitar, vocals, bass, double bass), Brian Jones (guitar, harmonica, sitar, dulcimer, marimba, recorder, piano, Mellotron, tambura, vocals, 1962-69), Ian “Stu” Stewart (piano, 1962-63), Dick Taylor (bass, 1962), Tony Chapman (drums, 1962), Mick Avory (drums, 1962), Bill Wyman (bass, maracas, vocals, double bass, 1962-92), Charlie Watts (drums, percussion, vocals, 1963-present), Mick Taylor (guitar, bass, 1969-74), Ron Wood (guitar, vocals, bass drum, bass, drums, saxophone, pedal steel, 1974-present)

The Rolling Stones were formed in 1962 by graduates of Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated. Guitarist Brian Jones initiated the band with pianist Ian Stewart, who served during the first year as their sixth member. By May 1963, the Stones settled into their classic lineup of Jones, vocalist Mick Jagger, guitarist Keith Richards, bassist Bill Wyman, and drummer Charlie Watts.

Jagger and Richards first met in 1950 as classmates in Dartford, Kent, where they were childhood friends until the Jagger family moved to neighboring Wilmington in 1954. During the late ’50s, Jagger sang in a rock n’ roll cover band with his guitarist friend Dick Taylor. Jagger met Richards again when the two crossed paths at Dartford railway station in 1960. Richards, now an aspiring rhythm guitarist, joined Jagger and Taylor in Little Boy Blue and the Blue Boys.

In 1962, Jagger sent Blue Boys demos to London bluesman Alexis Korner, who invited the boys to jam with his outfit Blues Incorporated, which included drummer Charlie Watts and pianist Ian Stewart. Meanwhile, ex-Blues Inc. slide guitarist Brian Jones was piecing together a new band rooted in the Chicago blues. He first offered the mic slot to aspiring singer Paul Jones (no relation), who declined the offer. (Paul Jones would emerge the following year as the frontman of Manfred Mann.)

Brian Jones secured Stewart, who found rehearsal space for the tentative project. Jones then invited Jagger, Richards, and Taylor (on bass) into the new band. In June 1962, during a booking call with Jazz News, Jones was asked for the name of his new band. Spotting a Muddy Waters album lying on his floor, he picked one of its song titles, “Rollin’ Stone.” Drummer Tony Chapman completed the initial six-piece lineup.

The Rolling Stones played their first concert on July 12, 1962, at London’s Marquee Club. Chapman was absent that night; his seat was deputized by future-Kinks drummer Mick Avory. They embarked on their first UK tour with a set-list comprised of American blues and rock n’ roll covers.

In November 1962, Taylor left the band to attend art school. The following month, The Rolling Stones hired Bill Wyman (ex-Cliftons) as their permanent bassist. (Taylor switched back to guitar and co-founded The Pretty Things, a band that would rival the Stones, in 1963.) In January, Chapman cleared way for drummer Charlie Watts, who’d played with the members beforehand in Blues Inc. (Chapman surfaced in an early lineup of The Herd.)

In February 1963, music impresario Giorgio Gomelsky secured The Rolling Stones a residency at the Crawdaddy Club in Richmond, south-west London. For the first year of its existence, the Stones served as the club’s house band. Their show on the night of April 14 was attended by The Beatles, whose presence caused a ruckus that extended for blocks. The association and publicity catapulted the Stones to the top of London’s nascent R&B/beat boom.

In May, The Rolling Stones signed a management contract with 19-year-old publicist Andrew Loog Oldham, whose prior client was The Beatles. In his first order of business, he demoted Ian Stewart from full membership status, reasoning that six members were too many for audiences to remember. Stewart would remain in the Stones entourage as their road manager and honorary pianist.

That same month, The Rolling Stones signed to Decca. Their debut single, “Come On” (b/w “I Want to Be Loved”), was released on June 7, 1963. The a-side (UK #21) is a cover of the 1960 minor hit by Chuck Berry; the flipside is a rearranged Willie Dixon number. It was produced by Loog Oldham at London’s Olympic Studios.

In February 1966, The Rolling Stones released “19th Nervous Breakdown” (b/w “Sad Day”), recognized for its Hawaiian slide and trembling bassline. The track is included on their 1966 compilation of non-album material, Big Hits (High Tide and Green Grass), which also features the frenetic brass-rocker “Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadow?”

That April, the Stones released Aftermath, their first album of all-original material. The UK Decca version features a diagonal pink/black cover shot and a 14-song track-list, clocking in at a then record-setting 52+ minutes. Side one contains six songs, including the sitar/slide-intoned “Mother’s Little Helper”, the marimba-laden “Under My Thumb”, and the dark dulcimer ballad “Lady Jane.” The side concludes with the 11+-minute blues jam “Goin’ Home.”

Side two contains eight songs, including “I Am Waiting,” “Think,” “High and Dry,” and the five-minute “Out of Time,” covered that same year by singer Chris Farlow (UK #1). The additional instruments (marimba, sitar, dulcimer, koto) were mostly played by Jones. Richards and Wyman added fuzz bass on several tracks, including “It’s Not Easy” and “Flight 505.” Keyboard duties were split between Stewart and Nitzsche, the latter playing harpsichord on select numbers.

In the US, Aftermath was issued as an 11-song, 42-minute set with a blurred, horizontal cover photo. This version replaces “Mother’s Little Helper” with the similarly dark, sitar-woven “Paint It Black.” The latter was issued as a standalone single in the UK, backed with the non-album “Long, Long While” (the US single is backed with the album track “Stupid Girl”). The tracks “Goin’ Home” and “Think” swap sides on the US Aftermath, which omits “Out of Time,” “Take It or Leave It,” and “What to Do.” Overall, Aftermath is the Stones’ fourth UK and sixth US studio album.

Between the Buttons (1967)

Their Satanic Majesties Request (1967)

Beggars Banquet (1968)

Let It Bleed (1969)

Sticky Fingers (1971)

Exile on Main St. (1972)

Goats Head Soup (1973)

It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll (1974)

Black and Blue (1976)

Some Girls (1978)

Emotional Rescue (1980)

Tattoo You (1981)

Undercover (1983)

Discography (1964–1989):

  • The Rolling Stones (1964, UK) / England’s Newest Hit Makers (1964, US)
  • 12 X 5 (1964, US)
  • The Rolling Stones No. 2 (1965, UK) / The Rolling Stones, Now! (1965, US)
  • Out of Our Heads (1965)
  • December’s Children (And Everybody’s) (1965, US)
  • Aftermath (1966)
  • Between the Buttons (1967)
  • Their Satanic Majesties Request (1967)
  • Beggars Banquet (1968)
  • Let It Bleed (1969)
  • Sticky Fingers (1971)
  • Exile on Main St. (1972)
  • Goats Head Soup (1973)
  • It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll (1974)
  • Black and Blue (1976)
  • Some Girls (1978)
  • Emotional Rescue (1980)
  • Tattoo You (1981)
  • Undercover (1983)
  • Dirty Work (1986)
  • Steel Wheels (1989)

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