The Rolling Stones

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Performers and composers

The Rolling Stones

Background information
Origin London, England England
Genre(s) Rock and Roll
Years active 1962 — Present
Label(s) Decca, Rolling Stones Records
Mick Jagger
Keith Richards
Ron Wood
Charlie Watts
Former members
Brian Jones (deceased)
Mick Taylor
Bill Wyman
Ian Stewart (deceased)

The Rolling Stones are an English rock band that helped spearhead the British Invasion of the early 1960s. During their 1969 American tour, the Stones were introduced and have often since been referred to as "The Greatest Rock and Roll Band in the World."

Originally an R&B outfit that recorded rock n' roll as well as ballads on their first album, they later took up country blues, country music, psychedelia, and reggae. By 1965 lead singer and harmonica player Mick Jagger (born July 26, 1943) and guitarist Keith Richards (born December 18, 1943) wrote almost all of the band's new material, including a string of number one songs for The Stones that continued until the early eighties.

The Rolling Stones still record and perform and are one of the longest running and most successful acts in show business. They are often the highest grossing concert act the years they tour, and every album of primarily new studio material has placed in the top 5 in the United States.

For more than forty years of The Stones' existence Jagger, Richards, and drummer Charlie Watts, have been constant members.

The Rolling Stones were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989, and they were rated #4 in Rolling Stone Magazine's 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.



The Rolling Stones came into being in 1962 when former schoolmates Mick Jagger and Keith Richards met Brian Jones, who was playing with Alexis Korner's band Blues Incorporated. Brian named their new group after the title of the Muddy Waters song " Rollin' Stone". The original line-up included Mick Jagger ( vocals, harmonica), Brian Jones, (guitar, harmonica, vocals), Keith Richards ( guitarist, vocals), Ian Stewart (piano), Dick Taylor ( bass) and various drummers such as Mick Avory (later of The Kinks), Tony Chapman and Carlo Little. Guitarist Geoff Bradford participated in some rehearsals in June 1962 but left before the band's first official gig. Taylor left shortly after to return to art school, and was later to form Pretty Things. He was replaced by Bill Wyman. Charlie Watts joined the Stones in January 1963 as their new permanent drummer.

United by their shared interest in rhythm and themselves as London's premier live act, the band was even honoured with a visit from The Beatles. At first, Jones (who was ostensibly the band's lead guitarist but could play just about any instrument he could get his hands on), was their creative leader, despite Jagger increasingly becoming the focus during live performances. The band rapidly gained a reputation for their frantic, highly energetic covers of the rhythm and blues songs of their idols and, through their recently appointed manager Andrew Loog Oldham, were signed to Decca Records (who had passed when offered The Beatles, but were now tipped to the Stones by Beatle George Harrison ).

By the time of their first single release - a cover of Chuck Berry's " Come On" (UK #21) - Ian Stewart was, at the insistence of Andrew Oldham, not officially listed as part of the band, though he continued to record and perform with them. Another of Oldham's ideas was to convince Richards to drop the 's' from his last name to become "Keith Richard", matching the surname spelling of British pop star Cliff Richard.

The choice of material on their first, self-titled EP, reflected their live shows. Similarly, the album The Rolling Stones (England's Newest Hitmakers) (UK #1; US #11), which appeared in April 1964 featured versions of such classics as " Route 66" (originally recorded by Nat King Cole), " Mona" ( Bo Diddley) and "Carol" (Chuck Berry). The performances were pivotal in introducing a generation of white British youth to rhythm and blues music, and helped to fuel the British Invasion of America. More importantly perhaps, while The Beatles were still suited, clean-cut boys with mop-top haircuts, The Stones cultivated the opposite image: decidedly unkempt, and posing for publicity photographs like a gang of surly yobs. This made many girls go crazy for their bad boy image, and soon made them a teen idol group. Their follow-up album, The Rolling Stones No. 2 ( The Rolling Stones, Now! in the United States) (UK #1; US #5), was also composed mainly of cover tunes, now augmented by a couple of tracks penned by the emerging Jagger/Richards songwriting partnership, having been locked in a room by their manager, who refused to let them out until they had written something they could release. Encouraged by Oldham, the band toured Europe and America continuously, playing to packed crowds of screaming teenagers in scenes reminiscent of the height of Beatlemania. While on tour, they took time to visit important locations in the history of the music that inspired them, recording the EP Five By Five at the studios of Chess Records in Chicago.


On June 30, 1965, the Stones released the album Out of Our Heads (UK #2; US #1). The US version included the song " Satisfaction". Keith Richards apparently wrote the memorable introductory riff in his sleep. He had been recording riffs on a tape recorder and fell asleep; when he woke up, he almost erased the tape, but decided to listen to it again. He said it was, "two minutes of Satisfaction and forty minutes of me snoring".

Back at home, these early years of success represented a rare period of stability in the personal relationship between the band members. Jagger, Richards and Jones shared a squalid London flat in Edith Grove, Chelsea, throughout much of 1963 along with friend, reprobate, and later biographer James Phelge. The three Stones became so fond of Phelge that they used his name as part of the ' Nanker/Phelge' pseudonym to indicate early band writing compositions. Two years later, Brian Jones began to see Anita Pallenberg, an actress and model who introduced them to the circle of society in which she moved: a group of young artists, musicians and filmmakers. Prompted by Oldham, who possessed sufficient business acumen to see where money was to be made, Jagger and Richards became more prolific songwriters and the US version of 1965's Out of Our Heads contained seven original songs, including the classic " (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" as mentioned above. The UK version, however, contained only four Jagger/Richards compositions with both Satisfaction and The Last Time being omitted. It was common practice at the time (in the UK) not to include hit singles on albums as this was thought to be cheating the public who would already have bought the song once. Many of the Beatles' and Stones' early albums omitted previously released hit singles.

In the United States, it took the Rolling Stones longer to catch on - longer than British counterparts such as The Beatles, The Dave Clark Five and others who became famous in 1964. Their first "big" hit came later in 1964 with " Time Is on My Side". They continued, but it wasn't until "Satisfaction" in the summer of 1965 that the group entered its "hit-making" stride.

It was also in this period that, according to the book Rolling With The Stones by Bill Wyman, Tom Wolfe offered his 1965 summary that "The Beatles want to hold your hand, but The Stones want to burn your town". Their burgeoning songwriting talent changed the dynamic of the band, with Jagger and Richards starting to emerge as the perceived leaders of the band. Jones, not unaware of his reduced importance, retreated into drug abuse, alienating both Richards and Pallenberg, who began a relationship that would last more than ten years. During this period, Pallenberg seemed to exert an influence on the music as somebody whose opinions the band trusted, particularly on the dark single " Paint It, Black", and the sexually ambiguous video for " Have You Seen Your Mother Baby (Standing in the Shadows)?" With the main songwriters maintaining their rate of production, Aftermath (UK #1; US #2) ( 1966) continued the progression, consisting entirely of Jagger/Richards compositions including " Mother's Little Helper", about pill abuse, and " Under My Thumb", whereas on Between the Buttons (UK #3; US #2) ( 1967) they displayed the influences of their many contemporaries, including The Who and The Kinks.

1967 also saw one of the most notorious episodes in the Rolling Stones history, the drugs bust at Redlands, Keith Richard's Sussex home. On the weekend of 11/12 February 1967 a party was held at Richard's house near West Wittering in Sussex. Among those present were Richards, Jagger, Marianne Faithful, photographer Michael Cooper, and art dealer Robert Fraser ( George Harrison and Pattie Boyd had been present but left prior to the raid). It is believed that drugs had been circulating over the weekend, including LSD (possibly Jagger's first experience with the drug). Following a tip off from the UK tabloid newspaper, News of the World, the house was raided by 20 police officers from the Drugs Squad. Police found four Amphetamine 'pep pills' in Jagger's possession and also took away ash from bowls which had been used as ash trays. Despite Jagger's protestation that the pills were legally available in Italy he was charged with their possession and Richards was charged with allowing his home to be used for consumption of drugs. During the raid, Marianne Faithfull had apparently been lying naked under a fur rug. When she opened the rug to reveal her naked body, her apparent immodesty was used as evidence in the later trial that she had been under the influence of drugs. Faithfull was also the subject of widespread salacious rumours that Jagger had been performing a sex act on her (with a Mars Bar) when police raided the house. She categorically denies this and it is likely that the story was invented to demonise the couple as depraved and of low morals. Despite all denials the story is still widely believed and can be found on the Urban Legends website.

Lord Havers, later the Attorney General, and father of the actor Nigel Havers was the defence barrister for Jagger and Richards at their trial. However, on June 29 at Chichester Crown Court, both Stones were found guilty, with Richards sentenced to a year in prison and fined £500 with Jagger receiving three months and a £200 fine. A hand-cuffed Jagger was caught on film waving to the crowd as he was driven away from the court. They both spent an uncomfortable night in jail before being granted bail as part of their appeal.

Subsequently there was widespread feeling that Jagger and Richards had been treated unfairly. The draconian sentence was questioned in a famous editorial in a conservative daily newspaper known for its staunch support of the establishment - The Times by the editor William Rees-Mogg (now Lord Rees-Mogg) - under the headline Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel?. The editorial challenged the severity of the sentence, noting that it was "as mild a drug case as can ever have been brought before the courts." The article added: "There must remain a suspicion in this case that Mr Jagger received a more severe sentence than would have been thought proper for any purely anonymous young man." The following week, Richards' conviction was quashed on appeal and Jagger's prison sentence was reduced to a conditional discharge. A few days later Rees-Mogg was among a panel of establishment figures who interviewed Jagger for the Granada Television programme World in Action in a live debate discussing the morals of modern society.

In May 1967, shortly prior to the Jagger/Richards trial, Brian Jones was arrested for the possession of cannabis, cocaine and methamphetamine. He escaped with a fine and probation, but was told he had to seek professional help.

The band quickly set about recording a new single, "We Love You", officially as a thank you for the loyalty shown by their fans during their trial, though privately it was seen as a barbed attack on their perceived persecutors: the News of the World, the Metropolitan Police and members of the British judiciary. The record featured guest appearances on backing vocals from John Lennon and Paul McCartney, and opens with the sounds of footsteps and a cell door banging shut, which it is rumoured was taken from a secret recording from within Wormwood Scrubs, the London prison where Richards was held overnight. The promotional film for the song compared The Stones' persecution and trial to that of Oscar Wilde, portraying Jagger as Wilde receiving sentence from Richards' Marquis of Queensbury.

Work then commenced on a new psychedelic album, which Jagger envisioned as the group's equivalent of the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The record, which would eventually be released as Their Satanic Majesties Request (UK #3; US #2), was recorded in difficult circumstances with various members of the band living under the threat of imprisonment; so much so that Bill Wyman was able to get one of his songs, "In Another Land", onto the album. The resulting record received lukewarm reviews observing that the songs and arrangements did not lend themselves to the band's natural style, though an increasingly drugged-out Jones continued an impressive display of instrumental experimentation. The front cover of the album bears a remarkable similarity to the montage of the Sgt. Pepper album, which gave ammunition to critics (including John Lennon) who accused the Stones of riding in The Beatles' slipstream. The first 25,000 copies of the record had a 3D sleeve, argued by some as being the best bit of the album. Despite Jagger later denouncing the album as "complete crap", a number of songs showcased the improving songwriting of Jagger and Richards, in particular the spacey "2000 Light Years From Home" (written by Jagger while he was briefly in jail), which showcased Brian Jones' mellotron, and which has been revived for live performances in the 2000s.

Within the band, however, the two principal writers were continuing their wrestling of power (and in Richards' case, the stealing of girlfriend Anita Pallenberg) from their former leader Jones, whose mental stability was steadily deteriorating.

With personal relations between Jones and Richards increasingly frayed, the release in May 1968 of the single " Jumpin' Jack Flash" and, later that year, the album Beggars Banquet (UK #3; US #5), saw the band return to their roots. Despite the tension, and aided by an excellent sound from up-and-coming producer Jimmy Miller, Jagger and Richards produced some of their most memorable work, including the distorted acoustic guitar-driven " Street Fighting Man" and the anthemic " Sympathy for the Devil", and the Stones entered the phase that would see them billed as "The World's Greatest Rock and Roll Band." The songs themselves were firmly rooted in the blues, but tempered by the changes that had occurred in 1960s music and assimilating the imagery of Bob Dylan, the emergent heavy rock of Cream and Jimi Hendrix and the increasingly adventurous aural textures of the Beatles. Two other events contributed to the change in the Stones' sound. Firstly, Richards started using open tunings, most prominently an open-G 5 string tuning that is heard on the 1969 single " Honky Tonk Women", " Brown Sugar" ( Sticky Fingers, 1971), " Tumbling Dice" ( Exile On Main Street, 1972), and " Start Me Up" ( Tattoo You, 1981).

An ever-increasing consumption of drugs, however, was making Brian Jones less and less reliable. The ill-fated Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus was one of his last projects with the band and increasingly he was either absent from recording sessions by choice, or simply not invited to attend. With a reduced contribution to Beggars Banquet and a minimal one to Let It Bleed, he found himself forced out of the band for good after an infamous late-night visit to his rural home from Jagger, Richards and Charlie Watts on June 8, 1969, to be replaced by the young, twenty year-old jazz-influenced guitarist Mick Taylor, drafted in from John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, auditioned on 14th May 1969 and unveiled to the media during a press conference on June 13th in Hyde Park.

Jones retreated to his Cotchford Farm home in Kent, a house formerly owned by Winnie the Pooh author A. A. Milne, drinking heavily in the local pub and planning his comeback with a blues band. However, within a month of his departure, and two days before the Stones were due to play a free concert in Hyde Park, London, he was dead, found at the bottom of his swimming pool surrounded by statues of Christopher Robin and Winnie the Pooh. Although his death was ajudicated as being by misadventure, to this day some regard the cause of the drowning a mystery.


Despite Brian Jones' sudden death, the Hyde Park concert went ahead in front of an audience of 200,000 fans, with Jagger reading from Shelley's Adonais and releasing hundreds of (mostly dead) butterflies by way of tribute to the late guitarist. The band's performance, under-rehearsed and suffering from some of the remaining members' narcotic intake, was somewhat shambolic and was captured by a Granada Television production team, later to be shown on British television as Stones in the Park. The band had just released the first recording with the new line up, a single called "Honky Tonk Women", which was recorded with Jones but had sections of his guitar part edited out and Taylor's part dubbed in at the last minute. It was released on July 3, 1969, coinciding with the death of Jones, and remains the band's last number 1 single in the UK. Let It Bleed (UK #1; US #3) followed in December and was rapidly hailed as another classic, featuring the brooding " Gimme Shelter", " You Can't Always Get What You Want", and a further nod to their roots with a cover of Robert Johnson's " Love in Vain".

The Stones had been described as "past it" by some critics. The emergence of influential guitar-led bands such as Cream, Free and Led Zeppelin (not to mention the arrival of Jimi Hendrix in England) meant that the Stones had to prove that they could still cut it live. In November, the band set off on their 1969 U.S. Tour. American audiences were no longer drowning out the music with their screaming but had become critical listeners (as Charlie Watts described it later, it was the first time they could actually hear what they were playing). The exciting interplay between Keith Richards and Mick Taylor (in 2004 elected by Guitarplayer Magazine as "best guitar duo ever") was heavily featured on this tour.

In an attempt to recreate the success of the free concert at Hyde Park, and offer the Stones' own one-day equivalent of the widely publicized Woodstock festival, the tour culminated with the staging of the Altamont Free Concert, at the then-disused Altamont Speedway located about 40 miles east of San Francisco. The concert was a disaster. The Rolling Stones had hired the local chapter of the Hell's Angels to undertake of security, as The Grateful Dead had had a long and successful history of using the Angels for security. However, the Angels at Altamont were intoxicated by the copious amounts of free beer given to them in partial payment for their services and did not share the "mellow vibe" of the 300,000 concert-goers. The running battles between fans and security reached a head when Meredith Hunter, a young black man, was stabbed and beaten to death by the Angels after drawing a firearm in response to the Angels manhandling him during the band's performance of " Under My Thumb". The Altamont concert - and the murder itself, were memorably documented in Albert and David Maysles' film Gimme Shelter.

Although the 1969 tour was forever besmirched by the chaos at Altamont, it in fact saw the Stones playing at the top of their game. Unencumbered by Jones and strengthened with the fluent blues playing of Taylor, the rhythm section could put its foot down. Their producer, Jimmy Miller, called them "the greatest white rhythm section I've ever seen." The live recording Get Yer Ya-Yas Out! (UK #1; US #6) (1970) documented this tour. Considered by famed critic Lester Bangs the best live record ever, the Stones paid their dues to Chuck Berry with renditions of "Little Queenie" and "Carol", staples from their pub days in south London.

1969 saw the end of the band's 1963 contract with Decca Records. The intervening years since they had signed with the record company had seen them become global superstars, and despite overtures they refused to sign a new contract. They recorded one final single to fulfill their contractual obligation, the bawdy, intentionally unreleaseable ballad "Cocksucker Blues", and left to form their own record company under the financially astute eye of merchant banker Prince Rupert Loewenstein (who had been hired by Mick Jagger to oversee the band's business affairs). Sticky Fingers (UK #1; US #1), released in March 1971 as the band's first album on their own Rolling Stones Records label, continued where Let It Bleed had left off, featuring one of their best known hits, " Brown Sugar", the country-influenced " Wild Horses", the moody "Moonlight Mile" (featuring Paul Buckmaster's evocative string arrangement and one of Jagger's finest vocal performances), and a version of Marianne Faithfull's "Sister Morphine" about her own ambiguous relationship with heroin. Mick Taylor collaborated on several songs with Jagger, partially due to Richards' escalating drug addictions and Jagger's growing irritation with Richards' unreliability. However, all the songs were credited as usual to "Jagger/Richards", which frustrated Taylor and perhaps contributed to his eventual exit from the group.


As Keith Richards' problems with drugs deepened, Mick Jagger began to move in more elevated social circles. He married the Nicaraguan model Bianca Perez Moreno de Macias, and the couple's jet-set lifestyle put further distance between himself and Richards. Pressured by the UK Inland Revenue service for several years of unpaid income tax, their recently appointed business manager Prince Rupert Lowenstein, a "society" friend of Jagger's and descendant of the Rothschild family, advised the band to move abroad to avoid bankruptcy caused by the high rates of taxation of the Labour government of Harold Wilson. They eventually decided to quit Britain for the South of France, the band members taking to this enforced change of lifestyle with varying degrees of success. Bill Wyman, in particular, soon felt at home in his new mountainside house and became friendly with French painter Claude Chagall. Richards, however, adopted a more 'head-in-the-sand' approach, ensconced in his London Cheyne Walk home in a state of insurrection until the very last minute.

Once in France, Richards rented a gothic chateau, Villa Nellecote, which had been used as the headquarters for the local Nazi SS during the Second World War, and sublet rooms to the band members and a multitude of assorted hangers-on. Using The Rolling Stones Mobile Studio (now owned by the Cantos Music Foundation), they began recording the double album Exile on Main St. (UK #1; US #1) ( 1972) in the basement of their new home, reputedly using electricity purloined from nearby railway lines. Dismissed by some on its release as sprawling and self-indulgent, the record is now considered among the band's greatest. The film Cocksucker Blues, never officially released, documents the subsequent, highly publicised 1972 North American ("STP") Tour.

By the time Exile on Main St. had been completed, Jagger had made the other band members aware that he was more interested in the celebrity lifestyle than working on its follow-up, and increasingly their records were made piecemeal, with tracks and parts laid down as and when the band, Jagger and Richards in particular, could get together and remain amicable long enough to do so. When it finally arrived, Goats Head Soup (UK #1; US #1) ( 1973) featured strong tracks such as "Winter," "Heartbreaker" and the Keith Richards-sung "Coming Down Again," and was memorable largely for the hit single "Angie", popularly believed to be about David Bowie's new wife, but in reality was another of Richards' odes to Anita Pallenberg.

Interestingly, the popular ballad "Waiting on a Friend" was recorded during the Goats Head Soup sessions, but not released until Tattoo You, nearly ten years later. The making of the record was not helped by another legal battle over drugs, this one dating back to their stay in France. But the fall 1973 European Tour showed The Rolling Stones in top form, particularly Taylor, who played extensive solos on songs like "Midnight Rambler" and "You Can't Always Get What You Want" in an exciting interplay with Richards on rhythm guitar.

A live recording made in Brussels on 17 October was intended for an official release, but owing to legal problems it appeared only on bootlegs (Nasty Music, The Bedspring Symphony and Brussels Affair) and many fans and critics regard these as the best Rolling Stones concert recordings. By the time they came to the Musicland studios in Munich to record 1974's It's Only Rock'n Roll (UK #2; US #1), there were even more problems, and regular producer Jimmy Miller was not asked to participate because of his increasing unreliability and drug abuse. The new record was generally written off as being an uninspiring piece of work from a band seen as stagnating, but both album and the single of the same name were hits, even without the customary tour to promote them. Although perhaps not in the same exalted company as 'Beggars Banquet', 'Let It Bleed', 'Sticky Fingers' and 'Exile on Main Street', 'It's Only Rock 'n' Roll' still stands as one of the better albums the band produced during the '70s showing plenty of vim and vigour with tracks such as "Time Waits For No One" and "Short And Curlies."

Taylor had begun to get impatient because there had been no tours between October of '73 and December of '74. The band found itself in stalemate, with bandmembers opting to spend their time abroad between recording sessions while Jagger was getting increasingly exasperated with Richards, whose behaviour was becoming more and more unpredictable. The other members of the band ended up paying for the fines and legal bills resulting from Richards' convictions, which also led to the entire band being denied entry to certain countries and meant missed out income for all. Taylor spent his time helping Jagger composing and recording songs in the studio while Richards was often "a.w.o.l.". Jagger promised Taylor he would get recognition for his contributions in the form of official credits on tracks from Goats Head Soup and It's Only Rock'n Roll. When this did not happen and it transpired there were still no tours in sight by the end of '74, with the next album's recording session already booked, Taylor shocked the music world by announcing he was quitting The Rolling Stones.


The rest of the band started sessions for the next album, Black and Blue (UK #2; US #1) ( 1976). The band used the album's recording sessions (again in Munich) to audition possible replacements. Guitarists as stylistically far-flung as Humble Pie lead Peter Frampton and ex- Yardbirds virtuoso Jeff Beck were auditioned. American session players Wayne Perkins and Harvey Mandel appeared on much of the album, but the band settled on Ron Wood. Wood had asked Mick Taylor for his help when he wanted to put his first solo album together. Taylor started hanging out at The Wick (Ronnie's house) and one day brought Keith Richards along who then also befriended Wood. Taylor and Wood had known each other since they were teenagers, playing the same clubs in London with their respective bands, The Gods and The Birds. In 1974 Wood was still the guitarist with The Faces, whose singer Rod Stewart had recently gone solo full-time.

Wood had already contributed to It's Only Rock 'N' Roll, but his first public act with the band would be the 1975 Tour of the Americas. The shows featured a new format for The Stones with their usual act being aided by theatrical stage props and gimmicks, including a giant inflatable phallus and a cherry picker on which Jagger would soar out over the audience. This represented a further breakdown in Jagger and Richards' relationship; the pragmatic Richards considering the theatrics entirely superfluous and distracting from the music, but once again, Jagger was, if nothing else, shrewdly interpreting market trends - the mid-1970s were the era of extravagant stage shows from the likes of Queen and Elton John, and the band's tours were to become even more expensive and elaborate in years to come.

Although The Rolling Stones remained hugely popular through the 1970s, music critics had grown increasingly dismissive of the band's output (that is, until the seminal late-1970s album Some Girls). Keith Richards would have more serious concerns in 1977: Despite having spent much of the previous year undergoing a series of drug therapies to help withdraw from heroin, including (allegedly) having his blood filtered, after a tip-off to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police from Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, Richards and Pallenberg were arrested in a Toronto hotel room and charged with possession of heroin. The case would drag on for a year, with Richards eventually receiving a suspended sentence and ordered to play two free concerts for a local charity. This sparked one of Richards's first musical projects outside of the Stones (with more to come as Jagger's own solo interests dawned in the 80's), as he and Wood formed a band, The New Barbarians, to perform at the shows. This motivated a final, concerted attempt to end his drug habit, which proved largely successful. It also coincided with the end of his relationship with Anita Pallenberg, which had become increasingly strained since the tragic death of their third child (an infant son named Tara) and her own inability to curb her heroin addiction while Keith struggled to finally get clean.

While Richards was settling his legal and personal problems, Jagger continued his jet-set lifestyle. He was a regular at New York's Studio 54 disco club, often in the company of model Jerry Hall. His marriage to Bianca would end in 1977. By this time punk rock had become highly influential, and The Stones were increasingly criticized as being decadent, aging millionaires and their music considered by many to be either stagnant or irrelevant. The Clash vocalist Joe Strummer even went so far as to declare "no Elvis, Beatles or Rolling Stones" in their song "1977". What people did not realise at the time was that many punk bands idolised The Stones, Keith Richards in particular, and this does not seem surprising given the band's earlier rebellious image.

In 1978, the band recorded Some Girls (UK #2; US #1), their most focused and successful album in years, despite the perceived misogyny of the title track. Jagger and Richards seemed to channel much of the personal turmoil surrounding them into renewed creative vitality. With the notable exception of the disco-influenced "Miss You" (a hit single and a live staple) and the country ballad "Far Away Eyes", the songs in this album were fast, basic guitar-driven rock 'n' roll (motivated by the punk rock music scene) or impeccable ballads like "Beast of Burden" (which prominently features the Richards-Wood guitar-playing style, the ancient art of weaving), and the album was widely praised as both a Stones classic and a summation of late 1970s music trends. The group's subsequent US Tour 1978, dogged by frequently sloppy drunken performances, was nevertheless a massive success. However the group did not tour Europe the following year, breaking the every-3-year touring routine of Europe in place since 1967.

Entering the 1980's on a renewed commercial high due to the success of Some Girls, the next album Emotional Rescue (UK #1; US #1), released in the summer of 1980, was of a similar vein in musical style of its predecessor but severely lacked its redeeming features. The recording of the album was reportedly plagued in turmoil, with Jagger and Richards' relationship reaching a new low. Richards, more sober than ever in the previous 10 years, had began to assert more control in the studio again, more than Jagger had become used to, and a power stuggle had ensued and clashes were rife. Though Emotional Rescue hit the top of the charts on both sides of the Altantic it was panned by critics as a lackluster and inconsistent effort. Following a bogged press conference, due to an extremely drunken Richards, announcing the release of the album, the group decided not to tour in support of the album and went on hiatus.

In early 1981 the group reconvened and decided they would tour the US that year, however that wouldn't leave much time to write and record a new album to promote the tour as well as rehearse for it... that year's resulting album, Tattoo You (UK #2; US #1), was composed of patched-up tracks unused or unfinished from earlier recording sessions (the ballad " Waiting On A Friend" dated back to the 1972 Goats Head Soup sessions) as well as 2 new songs ("Neighbours" and "Heaven"). It also featured the hugely popular single " Start Me Up", (first recorded in 1977 as a reggae number but never released) showing that Richards was still capable of writing monster guitar parts of the same calibre as ten or fifteen years earlier. Several songs on the album ("Waiting on a Friend" and "Tops") featured Mick Taylor's guitar playing, while jazz saxophonist Sonny Rollins played on "Slave" and did an overdub on "Waiting on a Friend". Upon its release Tattoo You was praised by critics as a solid effort, ironically, and a true return to form for the group. It is now considered one of their most classic albums, and the last classic album they ever made.

In the summer of 1981, the band rehearsed for its upcoming US tour at Studio Instrument Rentals (SIR) at West 52nd Street and 8th Avenue in Manhattan's Hell's Kitchen, the site of the former Cheetah Club. During this time at SIR, The Stones recorded the music video "Start Me Up" in rehearsal studio #1. They also recorded the "Waiting On a Friend" video in the streets of Manhattan's East Village around the same time. The Stones' American Tour 1981 was their biggest, longest and most colorful stage production to date, playing indoor arenas and outdoor stadiums for over 2 months, and became the highest grossing tour of that year. Some shows were recorded and filmed, resulting in the 1982 live-album Still Life (American Concert 1981), and in the 1982 Hal Ashby concert film The Rolling Stones: Let's Spend The Night Together.

In the summer of 1982, to commemorate their 20th Anniversary as a band, the Stones' took their successful American stage show to Europe; European Tour 1982 was their first European tour in 6 years, and was joined by former Allman Brothers Band piano player Chuck Leavell who continues to play with the Stones to this day. By the end of the year they had signed a new multi-million dollar recording deal with a new label, CBS Records - it seemed the Rolling Stones were on top of the world once again.


Throughout the early and mid 1980s the Jagger/Richards partnership continued to falter, and their records would suffer because of it. 1983's Undercover (UK #3; US #4) was widely seen as Jagger's attempt to make The Rolling Stones' sound more compatible with current musical trends. Despite initial critical enthusiasm ( Rolling Stone gave the album four and a half stars), its slick production and violent political and sexual content were coolly received by fans, and it ultimately sold below expectations. The decision to not tour behind it surely didn't help matters, and the band's accompanying videos, which were filmed in Mexico solely to save money, were not without controversy (the video for "Undercover of the Night" was said to include real assassination footage from Latin America and the guilty-pleasure "Too Much Blood" was criticized for being inspired too closely by slasher films and imagery). To make matters worse, Ron Wood was now suffering from his own growing drug habit.

When the Stones had signed their recording contract with CBS Records in 1982, Jagger had also signed a major solo record deal with them. This angered Richards who saw it as a lack of commitment to the band but despite this Jagger commenced to record his first solo album in 1984. Before the end of the year Bill Wyman put together a video compilation called Rewind that Jagger helped out with. CBS released a hits compilation from 1971-1984 called Rewind as well. To add to the band's woes, in 1985 pianist, road manager and long-time friend Ian Stewart died of a heart attack. It cannot be overstated how important the gentle, cool-headed pianist's contribution to The Rolling Stones had been, from driving the tour van in the early days to keeping the warring band members from each other's throats during some of their darker moments. Without his presence, the band could well have imploded countless times. The band took his death very hard, and they performed a tribute concert for Stewart, which was their only live appearance during this time.

Indeed, Jagger was spending more time on his solo recordings than on the Stones, and much of the material on 1986's turgid Dirty Work (UK #4; US #4) was authored solely by Keith Richards, with more contributions by Ron Wood than was ever aloud on previous Stones albums. The album sold poorly and Jagger's decision not to tour in support of it surely did not help boost sales. Though the Stones were awarded a Grammy Award for Lifetime Achievement, it was by this point that Jagger and Richards had begun to openly criticizing each other in the press. The Glimmer Twins' relationship had hit rock bottom, and many observers assumed the band was near the brink of destruction or had already broken up.

By 1988, neither the quality nor the sales of Jagger's solo records, She's the Boss (UK #6; US #13) ( 1985) and Primitive Cool (UK #26; US #41) ( 1987)), lived up to expectations. Ironically, it was Keith Richards' first solo record, Talk is Cheap (UK #37; US #24) ( 1988), which he had been reluctant to make because of his loyalty to The Stones but had nothing else to do otherwise, that was the most well received by fans and critics.

In early- 1989, The Rolling Stones, including Mick Taylor and Ronnie Wood along with Ian Stewart (posthumously), were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And after much time to cool off, Jagger and Richards appeared to bury the hatchet, and, with a new understanding and appreciation for each other, re-focused on the recording of a new album as the Rolling Stones, which would eventually become Steel Wheels (UK #2; US #3). Widely heralded at the time as a return to form, the slick conventional-rock album included the hit singles "Mixed Emotions", "Rock In A Hard Place" and "Almost Hear You Sigh" and well as a song called "Continental Drift" which featured the musicians of the Moroccan mountain village of Joujouka, previously recorded by Brian Jones during the ill-fated 1967 trip to North Africa with Keith Richards and Anita Pallenberg.

The subsequent US Steel Wheels Tour saw the Stones finally touring for the first time in 7 years (since Europe 1982), and was their biggest stage production to date. By the time the massive tour reached Europe in 1990, it had changed its name to the Urban Jungle Tour. Recordings made from the tour produced the 1991 live-album Flashpoint.

This tour would be the last for Bill Wyman who, after years of deliberation and unwillingness to tour any longer, finally left the band for good in 1993. He then published Stone Alone, a frank autobiography.


After Bill Wyman's departure the band continued as a foursome and in 1991 signed a new recording contract with Virgin Records. Virgin remastered and repackaged the Rolling Stones Records back catalog (Sticky Fingers through Steel Wheels sans the three live albums) and issued a new hits compilation in 1993 Jump Back, which basically replaced the 1984 classic hits comp Rewind. Along with long time Stones piano player Chuck Leavell they set upon recording their next studio album in 1993. Charlie Watts was asked to choose a bass player, and he selected the respected session musician and Miles Davis and Sting sideman Darryl Jones, who appeared on the subsequent studio album Voodoo Lounge (UK #1; US #2) ( 1994) and played on the worldwide 1994-1995 Voodoo Lounge Tour, another massive stage production. Voodoo Lounge received praise from fans and critics, though it failed to achieve the acclaim or popularity of The Stones' 1970s and 1980s records.

During the world tour they recorded various shows and rehearsals and the result was the 1995 album Stripped which featured a cover of Bob Dylan's "Like A Rolling Stone" as well as other classic underplayed Stones songs like "Shine A Light", "Sweet Virginia" and "The Spider And The Fly".

The Stones' song "Start Me Up" was used by Microsoft to launch their Windows 95 operating system. Some critics noted that the group who epitomised the way that rock 'n' roll commercialised earlier rhythm and blues by delivering it to a global audience provided the soundtrack for the corporation, which did the same with software. The Rolling Stones had previously never licensed their music for commercial use. According to legend, Microsoft founder Bill Gates asked Jagger how much the rights to the song would cost; rather than refuse outright, Jagger replied with $14 million, a sum that he thought would be outrageously high, but Gates immediately agreed to the amount. In reality, the Stones were in negotiations with Microsoft for three months and accepted a far lower amount than was made known, promulgating the $14 million figure for their own publicity purposes. In addition, the band initially submitted a version of the song without the departed Wyman, in an attempt to avoid paying him royalties; Microsoft demanded, and received, the original recording. Several years later, in 1999, the song "She's a Rainbow" was used by Apple Computer to advertise the introduction of the multicoloured iMacs.

The Verve's 1997 hit “ Bitter Sweet Symphony” uses a small five-note sample from an orchestral version of The Rolling Stones’ “The Last Time.” After “Bittersweet Symphony” became a hit single, The Verve was sued by Allen Klein, who owns the copyrights to The Rolling Stones' pre-1970 songs. Klein claimed The Verve broke their licence agreement when they used a larger portion than was covered in the license. The band handed over 100 percent of their songwriting royalties. They were then sued by Andrew Loog Oldham, who claimed to possess the copyright on the sampled sound recording. “Bittersweet Symphony” was nominated for a Grammy in the Best Song category, which honours songwriters. Because the unfavorable settlement transferred the Verve’s copyright and songwriting credit to Klein and the Rolling Stones, the Grammy nomination went to “Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.”

The Rolling Stones ended the nineties with their album Bridges To Babylon (UK #6; US #3) released in 1997 to mixed reviews. The album featured another prolific bassist, Doug Wimbish, a journeyman session player and solo artist. Wimbish was offered the permanent position of bass player by the band, but declined to focus on his own material, and so did not play on the ensuing tour. Darryl Jones was brought back and has remained with the band since. Despite its failed singles, Babylon sales were reasonably the same as previous records. However, the huge success was the Bridges To Babylon Tour which crossed Europe, North America and various other destinations. Once again a live album was culled from the tour, No Security, only this time all but two songs ("Live With Me" and "The Last Time") were never released on any previous live albums. The album hardly sold. In 1999 they toured the live album in the U.S. as well as continued and finished the Babylon tour in Europe.


In 2002, The Rolling Stones released Forty Licks (UK #2; US #2), a greatest hits album that spanned their career, that contained four new songs recorded with the latter day core band of Jagger, Richards, Watts, Wood, Leavell and Jones. The same year, Q magazine named The Rolling Stones as one of the "50 Bands To See Before You Die", and the 2002-2003 Licks Tour gave people that chance. On July 30, 2003, the band headlined the Molson Canadian Rocks for Toronto concert in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, to help the city - which they had frequently used for pre-tour rehearsals - recover financially and psychologically from the effects of the 2003 SARS epidemic. It was attended by an estimated 490,000 people. On November 9, 2003, the band played its first ever concert in Hong Kong as part of the Harbour Fest celebration, also for revival from SARS. In November of 2003 the band exclusively licensed the right to sell their new 4-DVD boxed set, Four Flicks, recorded on their most recent world tour, to the U.S. Best Buy chain of stores. In response, other music retail chains (including Tower Records, Virgin Megastore and HMV) pulled all Rolling Stones CDs and related merchandise from their shelves and replaced them with signs explaining the situation.

On July 26, 2005, coinciding with Jagger's birthday, the band announced the name of their new album, A Bigger Bang (UK #2; US #3), which was released September 6 to typically strong reviews, including a glowing write up in Rolling Stone magazine (often noted for its consistent support of the group). The album included perhaps the most controversial song from The Stones in years, "Sweet Neo Con", a criticism of American Neoconservatism from Jagger. The song was reportedly almost dropped from the album due to objections from Richards, who prefers to avoid music that's overtly political or topical, because he believes that such songs rarely stand the test of time.

The subsequent A Bigger Bang Tour began in August 2005, and visited North America, South America, East Asia in a mixture of venues. In February 2006 the group played the high-profile slot of half-time of Super Bowl XL. By the end of 2005, the tour had set a record of $162 million gross receipts, breaking the previous North American mark also set by the Stones in 1994. Later that month the band played to a massive crowd on the beach in Rio de Janeiro. After performances Down Under, Keith Richards went in hospital in May 2006 for brain surgery after an apparent fall from a coconut tree on the island of Fiji, causing a six week postponement in the European leg of the tour. The following month, it was reported that Ron Wood was entering rehab for a couple of weeks following increased recent alcohol abuse. The Stones returned to North America for another round of concerts in September 2006, and are expected to return to Europe in the summer of 2007. By November 2006, A Bigger Bang Tour had been declared the highest-grossing tour of all time, earning the band $437 million in receipts.


1962 - 1963
  • Mick Jagger - lead vocals, harmonica, percussion
  • Keith Richards - guitar, vocals
  • Brian Jones - guitar, vocals, harmonica, percussion
  • Dick Taylor - bass (1962 only)
  • Bill Wyman - bass, vocals (from December 1962)
  • Ian Stewart - piano, keyboard, percussion
  • Carlo Little, Tony Chapman, Mick Avory - drums (the Stones did not have a permament drummer until Charlie Watts joined in early 1963
1963 - 1969
  • Mick Jagger - lead vocals, harmonica, percussion, guitar
  • Keith Richards - guitar, vocals, bass, keyboards
  • Brian Jones - guitar, vocals, harmonica, keyboard, sitar, reeds, marimbas, percussion, dulcimer, woodwind, accordion, tamboura
  • Bill Wyman - bass, vocals, percussion, keyboards
  • Charlie Watts - drums, percussion
1969 - 1974
  • Mick Jagger - lead vocals, guitar, harmonica, keyboards, percussion
  • Keith Richards - guitar, vocals, bass, keyboards
  • Mick Taylor - guitar, bass, synthesiser, percussion, vocals
  • Bill Wyman - bass, synthesiser
  • Charlie Watts - drums, percussion
1975 - 1992
  • Mick Jagger - lead vocals, guitar, keyboards
  • Keith Richards - guitar, vocals, bass
  • Ron Wood - guitar, bass, vocals, percussion
  • Bill Wyman - bass, synthesiser
  • Charlie Watts - drums, percussion
1993 - present
  • Mick Jagger - lead vocals, guitar, harmonica, percussion, bass, keyboards
  • Keith Richards - guitar, vocals, bass, keyboards
  • Ron Wood - guitar, pedal steel, lap steel, bass
  • Charlie Watts - drums, percussion


  • 2005/2006 - A Bigger Bang Tour
  • 2002/2003 - Licks Tour
  • 1999 - No Security Tour/ Bridges To Babylon Tour
  • 1997/1998 - Bridges To Babylon Tour
  • 1994/1995 - Voodoo Lounge Tour
  • 1989/1990 - Steel Wheels/Urban Jungle Tour
  • 1982 - European Tour 1982
  • 1981 - American Tour 1981
  • 1978 - US Tour 1978
  • 1976 - Tour of Europe '76
  • 1975 - Tour of the Americas '75
  • 1973 - 1973 European Tour
  • 1973 - Winter Tour '73 (Hawaii/New Zealand/Australia)
  • 1972 - American Tour 1972 (also known as S.T.P. Tour)
  • 1971 - UK Tour 1971
  • 1970 - European Tour 1970
  • 1969 - American Tour 1969 (famous but didn't seem to have a name)
  • 1967 - European Tour
  • 1966 - Australia and New Zealand Tour, European Tour, North American Tour, British Tour
  • 1965 - 1 Far East tour, 4 European tours, 3 British tours, 2 North American tours
  • 1964 - 4 British tours, 2 US tours
  • 1963 - British Tour (as an opening act)

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