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If one needed any more proof that the world is an unjust, cruel place, The Rolling Stones have had half as many number one singles as Westlife.
Formed in 1962, The Rolling Stones were dubbed (by themselves) as ‘The World’s Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band’ and there aren’t many bands (aside from maybe The Who) that would have the front to lay claim to such a moniker.
Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Bill Wyman, Charlie Watts, Brian Jones and Mick Taylor (with 1975 addition Ronnie Wood) were music’s bad boys – an antidote to The Beatles – who started out playing harder and faster versions of Chicago blues but morphed seamlessly into sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, literally and metaphorically.
Their first single, a cover of Chuck Berry’s Come On reached number 21 and they continued to release cover versions until Jagger and Richards got into their song writing stride. From 1964 all but a few Stones hits were penned by them.
In 1965, (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction – arguably their signature track – reigned at number one for four weeks and catapulted them onto a plane of superstardom which they have remained on to this day.
After the 1968 release of Their Satanic Majesties Request, an overly-ambitious mess and an answer to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Brian Jones was found dead in his swimming pool a year later and if the media thought the wheels were coming off, they were sorely mistaken.
Beggars Banquet was followed by Let It Bleed (a sardonic response to The Beatles’ Let It Be), Sticky Fingers and then Exile on Main St. as some of the greatest albums ever recorded and put The Rolling Stones firmly on a par with The Beatles and The Who as the UK finest musical exports.
Another classic, Honky Tonk Woman was released in 1969 but tragedy struck at a free ‘Thank You America’ concert at Altamont Speedway in California. Meredith Hunter, a young black man was stabbed to death by a member of the Hell’s Angels (who the band hired to do security on the advice of The Grateful Dead and who were paid in beer) just in front of the stage.
Jagger married Nicaraguan model Bianca Perez Morena de Macias in 1971 and they became instant media darlings (think Posh & Becks, Brad & Angelina) and some thought the Stones were losing their reputation as hard-edged rockers but Exile on Main St. soon put paid to that.
Soon after the critically panned Goats Head Soup album was released in 1973, Mick Taylor left and was replaced by The Faces and The Jeff Beck Group guitarist Ronnie Wood. BY this time, Keith Richards was doing vast amounts of heroin and was being continually arrested on drugs charges but still, they kept on touring and having transatlantic number one hits including Some Girls and Emotional Rescue.
The played separately at Live Aid (Mick with Hall & Oates and Tina Turner and Ronnie and Keith played with Bob Dylan) and when Mick started to pursue solo projects, fractions started to appear and this time it seemed, the 30-year fairy-tale might be over.
Steel Wheels released in 1989 was backed up by a 50-date US tour dubbed an ‘artistic triumph’ and although their following album, 1991’s Flashpoint heralded a return to their on-stage cohesiveness, the 1990s were a time of solo work. Voodoo Lounge in 1994 brought them a Grammy for Best Rock Album and to cash in on 40 years of success, they signed deals with Snickers, Microsoft and a credit card company as sources of residual income.
In 2012 The Rolling Stones celebrated 50 years in the music industry with a world tour and toured again in 2013 including headlining at Glastonbury.
To a certain extent (and with the help of others), The Rolling Stones effectively wrote the rock ‘n’ roll rulebook. Hedonism, sexual excesses, drugs by the skip-load, police busts, deaths and exquisite talent have somehow combined to make the Stones into the most enduring and hard-working band of all time, rewriting the myths and creating legends.
The Rolling Stones Trivia
Hard rocking, hard drinking rock ‘n’ roll hedonists The Rolling Stones made a cute TV advert for Rice Krispies in 1964!
In 2002 the Stones played a private party for a Texan zillionaire’s birthday. The comedian he hired to do a set? Robin Williams. The bill? $7m.
The Sticky Fingers album cover was designed by pop artist Andy Warhol.
The Rolling Stones played to a mind-blowing 1.5m people on Copacabana Beach in 2006.
When Keith Richards was arrested for possession in 1977, part of his sentence involved him playing two shows to blind children in Toronto!
Charlie Watts has a compulsion to sketch every new hotel room he stays in, immediately upon entering the room. He keeps every sketch.
The world-famous ‘tongue’ logo was said to have been inspired by Hindu goddess Kali the Destroyer.
Martin Scorsese has used Gimme Shelter in Goodfellas, Casino and The Departed and it’s also been used in The Simpsons, the computer game Call of Duty: Black Ops and was the name of a documentary film chronicling the last weeks of the Stones’ 1969 tour.
The Rolling Stones concerts have grossed the best part of £500m!
The cake on the cover of the Let It Bleed album was baked by Delia Smith!
During the mid-80s, a drunk Jagger called Watts’ hotel room in the dead of night asking ‘where’s my fucking drummer?’ Charlie showered, shaved, put on a suit and tie and went downstairs. He promptly punched Jagger in the face and said ‘Don’t ever call me your drummer again. You’re my fucking singer!’
Mick performed backing vocals and Brian Jones the oboe on The Beatles’ Baby You’re a Rich Man. In return, Lennon and McCartney sang backing vocals on the Stones’ ‘We Love You’.
Mick and Keith’s first band was called Little Boy Blue & the Blue Boys!
According to Stones legend, Bill Wyman is widely credited with inventing the term ‘groupie’!
In 1968, Decca rejected the original sleeve artwork for Beggars Banquet because it featured a toilet covered in graffiti. It was later restored.
At the launch of Beggars Banquet, the Stones invited the press to a medieval banquet where trays of custard pies were brought out for the band to throw at the gathered hacks!
The Rolling Stones – Where Are They Now?
Sir Mick Jagger
A grandfather, he remains one of music’s most energetic and prolific frontmen. He has released solo projects, produced films and joined supergroup SuperHeavy in 2009. In 2012 he played at the White House for Barack Obama with fellow legends BB King, Buddy Guy and Jeff Beck and hosted the finale of Saturday Night Live!
One of the world’s greatest guitarists, he still tours with the Stones and he has forged a reputation, warranted or not, for being an habitual substance abuser who by all accounts is lucky to be alive given what he’s done to his body! He is an avid reader and owns an extensive collection of books. An article published in 2010 suggested he ‘yearns to be a librarian!’
In October 2014 he will celebrate 50 years of marriage. He had a turbulent relationship with drugs during the 80s and was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2004, for which he is in full remission and back on the road with the rest of the gang!
He was a member of The Faces, the Jeff Beck Group and from 1975, the Stones. He has released solo projects and he has become in later years a gallery owner as well as a well-known visual artist and his works have been exhibited the world over. He has had the predictable struggles with alcoholism but he’s now sober and a grandfather to eight.
Since 1997 he has toured with Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings and as well as music, he’s a prolific author, art lover and businessmen, amongst other ventures he owns the Sticky Fingers Café. After a high profile and controversial marriage to 18-year old Mandy Smith (he was 52), he married Suzanne Acosta who bore him three children. He’s a keen photographer and a fan of Port Vale.
Mick left the Stones in 1964 and is widely regarded as one of the best guitarists ever (Guns N’ Roses axeman Slash said Taylor had the biggest influence on him). He has also released solo work and in 2013, he joined the rest of The Stones for their headline set at Glastonbury.