What a drag it is getting old? 50 reasons why the Rolling Stones are the world’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll band
In April of 1962, five lads from London got together to rehearse as a band for the first time. They called themselves The Rollin’ Stones. Three months later, they played their first gig. Although a few members would come and go over the next five decades, they have defied all the odds. Despite lifestyle choices that were often not exactly conducive to the open communication necessary to be a healthy band (or even stay above the ground) they remained together. In honor of that achievement, here are 50 reasons why we love them.
1) Jagger/Richards: It really all comes down to this. It’s an artistic tug-of-war between words (Mick) and music (Keef), sex (Mick) and drugs (Keef), and every negative/positive charge that this songwriting partnership represents.
2) Brian Jones: By all accounts Jones founded and named the band, and was the original leader (just look at how prominently he was featured on the cover of their debut album! He’s the first person you see) though the role of the second guitarist and multi-instrumentalist diminished progressively as he got more into drugs and less into fame. Jagger and Richards fired him in June of 1969 and a month later he was found dead at the bottom of his swimming pool, only adding to the dark, mysterious aura of the Stones.
3) Charlie Watts: The drummer with the stoic face has not only been keeping the beat for the band for 50 years, but he has reportedly been keeping the faith with his wife of 47 years. Only after seeing the multiple dirty documentaries of the Stones’ 1970s tours, does one realize how amazing this accomplishment is. In fact, the cover of “Get Yer Ya-Yas Out” may be the only instance of him pictured cavorting with a fine piece of ass.
4) Mick Taylor: The guitarist joined the band at age 20 in 1969 and was only a Rolling Stone for five years and six albums, a period which was arguably the band’s best. Think about it: “Let it Bleed,” “Get Yer Ya-Yas Out,” “Sticky Fingers,” “Exile on Main St.,” “Goats Head Soup” and “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll.” Yeah, after you’ve recorded the guitar parts for those albums, history doesn’t really require anything more from you. In the photo below —by J. Wilds/Hulton Archive/Getty Images — Taylor is pictured in the center of the group on the day of the Hyde Park show in July of 1969 that served as a tribute to Brian Jones.
5) Ronnie Wood: After serving as Rod Stewart’s foil in The Faces, he replaced Taylor in 1975. He is the longest-reigning second guitarist, and the guitarist who looks the second-coolest with a cigarette hanging on his bottom lip while he plays (see photo in Reason No. 7).
6) Bill Wyman: No, he was hardly ever smiling when the camera zoomed in on him in the videos, (Check out the :31 and :36 points of this video) but there’s something so weirdly likable about Wyman as the bassist. Dude has reportedly kept a daily journal throughout most of his life.
7) Darryl Jones: Jones came on the scene almost 20 years ago(!) Yes, it’s been that long since Bill Wyman left the band. Here he is with Keef and Ronnie (notice the ciggie on Ronnie’s lips) in this photo from the Paul Natkin Archive (courtesy of WireImage/Getty Images/Life).
8) Anybody else who has ever played with the band: The Stones knew how to bring in guests, from the London Bach Choir on “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” to Merry Clayton’s killer singing on “Gimme Shelter” (see reason No. 31) to sax man Bobby Keys on practically everything they ever recorded with a sax solo to the frequent keyboard guest spots by Billy Preston, Nicky Hopkins and Ian Stewart.
9) The name: No, it didn’t come from Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone,” although the guys did record that song in the ’90s. Instead, it came from Muddy Waters’ 1950 song, “Rollin’ Stone,” watch below.
10) The logo: Whether or not it’s based on Mick’s mouth doesn’t matter. It’s red and juicy and although it has absolutely nothing to do with a stone that’s rolling, it has everything to do with rock ‘n’ roll.
11) Andrew Loog Oldham: If it weren’t for their manager and producer in the early years, the Stones might have stayed a relatively clean-cut wannabe-Beatles act.
12) “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”: Keef historically recorded this guitar figure before passing out, and went back to listen the next day. Amongst the documents of his snoring, he heard this amazing elementary riff.
13) The comma in the title, “Paint It, Black”
14) “Ruby Tuesday”: Try to forget that it’s the name of an American chain restaurant and listen to the song like it’s the first time you’ve ever heard it. Holy amazingness! That buzzing cello, that bassy tuba sound, the beautiful recorder, the deep low notes that Mick hits in the verses!
15) Mick’s crazy voices: Mick pretends he’s a sweaty redneck for the first two minutes of “Let it Bleed,” a fallen southern gentleman in “Dead Flowers” and in “Emotional Rescue” he’s both a falsetto-singing loverman as well as a musky knight in shining ahhhh-mour.
16) Beatle-baiting: Though the Fab four never really fought back, the Stones not only buried images of their Liverpudlian rivals on “Their Satanic Majesties Request” (see below) but they had the more blatant audacity to title their album “Let it Bleed” when they knew The Beatles were working on an album called “Let it Be.”
17) Speaking of “Let it Bleed”: We know we’ve already mentioned it in the Mick Taylor entry, but that album is so classic that it’s like a Best-Of album that came out all at once. It begins with “Gimme Shelter” and closes with “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” Well, with the album with the cake on the cover, sometimes you actually can.
18) Country honk: Ever since Mick and Keith befriended Gram Parsons in the late ’60s, they’ve had an active fascination with country, and they’ve taken an interesting half-kidding/wholly serious approach on tunes like “Far Away Eyes” (see below) and “Country Honk,” which is the country version of “Honky Tonk Women.” But when they go for sincere country on tunes like “Wild Horses,” the results are even more effective.
19) I Got the Blues: “Every waking hour of every day was just sitting in front of the speakers, trying to figure out how these blues were made. … Chicago blues hit us right between the eyes.” That’s from page 103 of “Life” by Keith Richards, which for the sake of a two-for-one listing is also No. 19 on this list.
20) Disco!: What other group could not only decide to try a trendy new style of music 16 years into their career but perfect it? Granted everybody from Kiss to the Grateful Dead was trying disco in the mid ’70s, but no other rock group were such chameleons to make it their own with enduring tunes like “Miss You” and “Emotional Rescue” (see Mick’s crazy voices, at No. 15).
21) Mick’s occasionally semi-racist lyrics: Sure, he makes a few sexual generalizations in “Some Girls,” and presents a historically accurate scenario of coming of age on a slave ship in “Brown Sugar,” but the one that gets us is that “some Puerto Rican girls that just dyyyyyyying to meetchooo” in “Miss You.”
22) “Bomp bomp bomp bomp ba boom boom”: If you don’t know what we’re talking about, you need to revisit 4:54 of “Sympathy for the Devil,” which is so intense of an opening tune on “Beggar’s Banquet” that it’s perhaps tied with “Highway 61 Revisited” and “Born to Run” for best kickoff track ever. Come to think of it, “Rocks Off” from “Exile On Main St.” is a contender for that title as well. The Stones really know how to sequence an album.
23) Mick’s dancing: Granted, this is a weird example to choose, but this scene from the 1987 film, “Running Out of Luck” is amazing.
24) Mick’s costumes: Let’s let these pictures do the talking on this one….
25) The people who choose The Stones in the “Beatles vs. Stones” debate are usually more fun to hang out with.
26) Mick and Keef sharing a mic
27) Anita Pallenberg: She came into the Stones zone as Jones’ girlfriend, but when the group was traveling through Europe and Africa and Jones had to spend a little time in the hospital with pneumonia, she all of a sudden became Richards’ girlfriend. As he writes so eloquently on page 215 of his autobiography, “For a week or so it’s boinky boinky boinky, down in the Kasbah, and we’re randy as rabbits but we’re also wondering how we’re going to deal with it.” Judging from the pics, she definitely looks happier with Keith. (Credit for the Pallenberg/Jones pic goes to J. Wilds/Hulton Archive/Getty Images. Credit for the Pallenberg/Richards pic goes to Michael Webb/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
28) The “Sticky Fingers” zipper: Sure, it ruins some of your other albums if you’re a vinyl collector, but Andy Warhol’s design sure is cool, and if you look closely, sexy. Plus, it goes without saying, the album itself is classic.
29) “Who’s fighting and what for?”: Mick, wearing a orange and black satin shirt that looks like a cross between a jester’s costume and a frilly tux shirt desperately asks the crowd at Altamont Speedway this question. Soon afterwards one of the Hells Angels that the Stones hired as security at this free concert would stab a concert-goer to death and effectively end the idealism of the ’60s. See below for Oric1′s audio/video pastiche of the event.
30) “Let’s spend some time together”: Even the Rolling Stones have to clean up a little, as Mick altered the lyrics to their “Between the Buttons” hit on television for Ed Sullivan. Mick’s eye rolling at what he is forced to do is precious.
31) The Merry Clayton miscarriage: Legend has it that after singing the amazing, “Rape! Murder!” portion of “Gimme Shelter,” the singer went home and had a miscarriage. While this is not cool in any way, its indicative of the dedication to the recorded song.
32) Keef’s tuning
33) THREE-WAY TIE: The cowbell in “Honky Tonk Women”/the marimba in “Under My Thumb”/The sitar in “Paint It, Black”
34) “Patience please … a drug-free America comes first”: Ethan Russell photographed Keef, leaning on a water fountain in front of a sign with this insignia, and an iconic photo was born.
35) “Who the f— is Mick Jagger?”: Another iconic Keith photo. We’re a family newspaper, so click here to see it.
36) Brian Jones reportedly fathered six children with six different women: Yes, you read that correctly. The guy who introduced the Baby Boomer generation to the “27 Club” fathered six children in his very brief life.
37) In 1983, Bill Wyman began dating 13-year-old Mandy Smith. He was 47. The two married in 1989, and divorced three years later. To make family holidays even weirder, Wyman’s son Stephen became engaged to Smith’s mother! He was 30 at the time, in 1993, she was 46. Click here to see what a tangled mess the family tree would have become if any of the couples had produced children.
38) It’s allllright now
39) “Their Satanic Majesty’s Request”: Even when the Stones made a misstep, with their darkly psychedelic answer to “Sergeant Pepper,” it sounded amazing.
40) “We decided that we would have a soda, my favorite flavor, cherry red”
41) Remember, a few numbers back when we said that it was alright now? We’d like to retract that statement and make a minor clarification. It is — in fact — a gas.
42) Mick in makeup: Despite appealing to the macho masses, the Stones have always excelled at gender bending. Need convincing? Check out Mick as Turner in “Performance.”
43) Covering The Temptations: No, the Stones versions of “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” or “Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)” are nowhere as good as the originals, but c’mon Temptations, why couldn’t you get the message and cover the Stones back?
44) Otis Redding’s cover of “Satisfaction”: Was the Temptations memo accidentally addressed to Otis? Who cares? At least somebody with soul got the memo.
45) “You make a dead man come”: Yup, it’s a gross line that sounds ad-libbed as “Start Me Up” fades out, but it’s there, and it’s 45th on the list of why we love the Stones.
46) Watching John Lennon rock out while the Stones perform “Sympathy for the Devil” on the “Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus”: Check him out at the 4:54 mark. It truly is a Lennon-approval-worthy performance, and it’s a wonder why the Stones, for decades didn’t think it was good enough for commercial release. This is also the last filmed performance of Brian Jones.
47) “The sunshine bores the daylights out of me”: What bastards, you may think as they reach the high point of “Rocks Off,” they don’t even appreciate the wonders of nature and a sunny day? Remember who we’re dealing with though. They see a red door and they want to paint it black. Or, rather, they want to paint it, black.
48) Scorsese: Has the director made a single film without a Stones song in it? Maybe, but the director was not only reportedly one of the cameramen filming the Altamont event (see reason No. 29) that ended up becoming the movie, “Gimme Shelter,” but he has used that title song in many of his films, including “Goodfellas,” “Casino” and “The Departed.”
49) “The World’s Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band”: What other band is badass enough to call themselves that?
50) “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It)”: Enough said.
John Brookhouse and Heidi Patalano contributed to this report.