411 Music Hall Of Fame Class of 2008: The Rolling Stones
THE ROLLING STONES’ MAJOR ACCOMPLISHMENTS:
• Sold more than 200 million albums worldwide
• Eight consecutive #1 albums (1971-1981), nine overall
• 43 Top 40 singles, including 8 #1’s
• With an audience of more than 300,000, their July ’69 free concert in Hyde Park was England’s largest public gathering since V-E Day.
• Inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame (1989)
• Their “Bigger Bang” tour (2005-2007) was the highest grossing tour in history.
• After 40 years of recording and touring, still giving satisfaction.
Arguably the greatest of all time, The Rolling Stones longevity in the music business is unparalleled in the genre of rock ‘n’ roll. Today, The Rolling Stones join 411’s Music Hall Of Fame.
In 1964 a band of wealth and taste broke onto the swinging scene in England’s capital. Dubbed the “Badboy Beatles”, The Rolling Stones were the antithesis of everything the Fab Four represented. They were brash, rebellious Londoners who lived the sex and drugs aspect of the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. The Rolling Stones constantly proved that they could adapt to the times and showed an incredible flexibility by spanning genres over the years. Despite line-up changes, drug addictions and coconut trees, The Rolling Stones are still going strong to this day.
It all began in the mind of Brian Jones – the enigmatic multi-instrumentalist. Jones had moved to London in the early sixties and had earned a reputation amongst the underground scene for his blues style. He began the formation of a band by recruiting pianist Ian Stewart and local singer Mick Jagger. Jagger suggested inviting his longtime friend and bandmate Keith Richards to the first rehearsals (they were in a band called Little Boy Blue and the Blue Boys). These four would become The Rolling Stones after Jones was on the phone with a venue owner trying to secure a gig:
“The voice on the other end of the line obviously said, ‘What are you called?’ Panic. The Best Of Muddy Waters album was lying on the floor — and track one was ‘Rollin’ Stone Blues’.”
Between 1962 and 1963, the band performed with various drummers and bass players including future Kinks drummer Mick Avory, and Dick Taylor – a bass player who would later appear as part of The Pretty Things. It was during this time that Jones and Richards mastered their dual guitar technique known as “guitar weaving”. This idea would become the backbone of the The Rolling Stones long after Jones’ untimely departure from the group. The technique was basically combining various guitar patterns together in order to give the impression that there were more than two guitar lines at any one time – a completely original idea.
Of course The Rolling Stones needed a permanent rhythm section. The band quickly recruited Bill Wyman because he had an amp and a pack of cigarettes. Wyman was also an accomplished bassist (which was handy) and the alleged inventor of the fretless electric bass. Auditions were held to find a drummer and Charlie Watts was selected. Watts was a jazz player who had a fantastic reputation around London. The Rolling Stones were now complete, and they continued their rise in the local Rhythm and Blues scene. Jones was adamant that they were billed as an R&B band; despite Jagger and Richards rock ‘n’ roll influence.
Jones was the leader of the band – he promoted them, wrote most of their songs and even acted as their manager; booking gigs and negotiating pay for The Stones. Jones also became known for making himself the bands biggest earner, ensuring he took home £5 more than the other members. Jones was also the focus of attention at live events – moving around the stage while the rest of the band were fairly still. The Rolling Stones were gaining a good fan base and quickly became the biggest thing in the London scene.
The dynamic of the band would change very soon when The Rolling Stones were introduced to Andrew Loog Oldham. Oldham was an unscrupulous businessman whose name was heavily associated with the London fashion and music scenes. Like Richards and Jagger, Oldham was a huge rock ‘n’ roll fan and begun to re-brand The Rolling Stones. His aim was to market them as the rebellious antithesis to The Beatles who were exploding across the world at this time. This vision for the band would include massive changes across the board.
His first action was to drop Ian Stewart from the line-up. Although Stewart was a talented pianist he didn’t exactly fit in with the fashionable Modernist image Oldham was creating, as “Stu” was a rough-cut Scotsman. Stewart would continue to record, tour and even work in an administrative role with the band until his death in 1985. In order to promote the band’s new image Oldham released a press statement asking the question “Would you let your daughter marry a Rolling Stone?”, a strap line that became infamous, despite him being misquoted.
Oldham’s biggest victim was perhaps Brian Jones. He decided to push Jones into the background and handed over songwriting duties to Jagger and Richards. Oldham believed Jones’ preference for performing cover-versions would hinder the band’s longevity, and wanted to create a songwriting partnership to rival that of Lennon and McCartney. Jones would continue to write for the band, but was not acknowledged for his work. He was also pushed back on stage, as Oldham shifted the attention to Mick Jagger who he felt had better stage presence and a sexual energy that would appeal to the female demographic.
The new and improved Rolling Stones were quickly signed to Decca, after a recommendation from George Harrison. In 1964 they released their first album entitled England’s Newest Hitmakers. This record was made up of their live covers with a few Jagger and Richards originals thrown in. Late 1964 saw the band tour the United States for the first time. Although the tour was not hugely successful The Rolling Stones did create a stir in the States, and managed a few note-worthy performances, including an appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show”.
This initial tour laid the groundwork for The Rolling Stones, and in 1965 the band achieved their first #1 single in the United States with “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”. This song was notable for being amongst the first to feature a distorted fuzz-box guitar line. The Rolling Stones also hit the top of the charts in the UK with “The Last Time”. The band followed this up with the chart-topping Aftermath, which was the first album to contain almost entirely original tracks. This record took off, and launched the band to international stardom.
1967 would be a difficult year for The Rolling Stones though. Their new found fame brought the band’s antics to the attention of the British tabloids, as The Rolling Stones were constantly involved with drugs scandals. Richards and Jagger were busted at the guitarist’s Redlands home for their use of cannabis, and Brian Jones was arrested soon after for possession of the same drug. Jones escaped with a slap on the wrists, but Richards and Jagger faced jailtime. After a lot of controversy and protest, the two were released and capitalized on the publicity with the release of the single “We Love You” – a thank you to the fans and protestors. All of this trouble delayed their fifth studio album, Their Satanic Majesties Request, which was eventually released in December. Somewhere amongst this mess, the band had been struck by another major blow as Andrew Oldham quit after various disagreements and his poor financial situation.
The beginning of 1968 would bring about more changes as the ruthless Allen Klein took over the reigns. Musically the band would change again, moving away from the psychedelic Their Satanic Majesties Request, and back to a more bluesy-rock driven style. This coincided with the release of Beggars Banquet – which was a huge success for the band. However, Brian Jones slow exile from The Rolling Stones was taking a new turn. He had become unreliable, rarely showing up for rehearsals or recording sessions. He had also fallen out with Richards in 1967 after Keif had stolen Jones’ girlfriend Anita Pallenburg away from him. His dependence on drugs had taken its toll on him and he was not mentally stable. By mid-1969 The Rolling Stones agreed to let Brian Jones go and in a show of respect to Jones, they let him release the statement: “I no longer see eye-to-eye with the others over the discs we are cutting”. Young Mick Taylor was drafted in as his replacement.
Less than a month later Jones was found dead in his swimming pool, in one of the greatest conspiracies in the rock ‘n’ roll world. At only 27, Jones would join the infamous club of musicians to pass at this age. The Rolling Stones would respond by dedicating their gig at Hyde Park to Jones, with Jagger reading a poem and releasing thousands of butterflies for Brian.
The band plodded on regardless and released their next studio record Let It Bleed, which led to the band touring America for the first time in three years (due in part to Jones being unable to gain a visa previously). The tour became shrouded in controversy after a fan was killed by the Hell’s Angels who were the hired security for the gig. This really marked the end of the carefree sixties mentality for many people at the time.
As the decade changed so did The Rolling Stones. The band had begun to distrust their manager Allen Klein, who was renowned for his dodgy dealings. He was removed from his position and the band created their own management company. On top of this, their contract with Decca was up, so the band continued the entrepreneurial idea by setting up Rolling Stones Records. Of course, Jagger was a graduate from the London School of Economics so he was no slouch as a businessman. By this point, The Rolling Stones was a brand name and The Stones decided to capitalize on this. Sticky Fingers would be the first release on the new label, and proved to be a critical and financial success.
By 1972 the band were huge earners, and were forced into exile from the UK due to high taxes imposed on them by the government. They relocated to the south of France and while there began work on a new record using The Rolling Stones Mobile studio. Their time in France would be fruitful, but often frustrating. Bill Wyman and Mick Taylor were becoming tired with Keith Richards’s unreliability and his increasing drug use. Eventually they would release their album under the name ‘Exile on Main Street’. The record is quite experimental for the Stones as they dabble in various styles and genres. It is widely considered to be amongst their best work.
The next two records Goats Head Soup and It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll failed to reach the heights of previous works and were widely criticized. The band was in turmoil as Richards’ drug addictions were slowing them down. In 1974, Taylor quit The Rolling Stones, citing his annoyance at the lack of motivation and activity within the band. His replacement would be Ronnie Wood, who became a part-time member until 1980 when his commitment to The Faces ended. With this news the band began touring again, but were stopped in their tracks when Richards was arrested in Canada for possession of “a burnt spoon”. He, along with his girlfriend Anita, were charged with possession of heroin.
After a year of legal battles The Rolling Stones reentered the studio. By this time fans and critics were sick of The Stones’ antics. They were considered washed-p and stale. Punk was breaking onto the scene, and people wanted something different. In typical Stones style, the band adapted once again, releasing the hard rock classic Some Girls that put them back on top of the business.
They headed into the 80’s with their heads held high and continued this success with a record-grossing tour of the States. During this period they hastily released Tattoo You to mixed reactions. The record was mostly made up of outtakes from previous sessions, as behind the scenes there was tension between Jagger and Richards. Despite this, the band committed to a $20 million contract with CBS Records.
The mid-eighties saw tension between Jagger and Richards hit new levels, as the two would rarely be in the same room together. Jagger had signed a solo deal and was working on his own material, meanwhile new Stones songs were being written by Richards and Wood. It was during this time that the band lost Ian Stewart to heart problems, which left the band directionless. The Stones took an extended leave from the music scene, with Jagger, Richards and Wood releasing solo work during this time. By 1989, most of the problems seemed to have disappeared and The Rolling Stones announced their return with the new record Steel Wheels which was another success story for the band. However this record would be the last for Bill Wyman, as he finally left The Rolling Stones in 1991 after years of frustration and tension. (Rumor has it that Wyman and Richards didn’t actually speak to each other once throughout the entire 80’s).
1994 saw the release of Voodoo Lounge – the bands first studio record in five years. Wyman had been replaced with Darryl Jones, a reputable session player whose talents had been heard accompanying Miles Jones, amongst others. This album was a huge success for the band going multiplatinum in the U.S. The Rolling Stones would release one more record in the 90’s – Bridges to Babylon, which was less successful than its predecessor.
The Rolling Stones marked the new millennium with the compilation album Forty Licks, before they hit the road with a new tour in 2003. The band begun work on their twenty-second studio record in 2005, and it was eventually released to a great response. Many felt it was their best work of the last twenty years and the records success spawned a long and record-breaking world tour, which saw the band play over ninety dates in the States alone.
Why The Rolling Stones were selected:
The Rolling Stones are quite simply legends. They have managed to maintain a forty-five year career in an industry that demands constant change. Their ability to adapt and incorporate different styles into their music has made The Rolling Stones the benchmark to which any act in the industry will be measured.