by Dan Smith
Current Band Members: Mick Jagger (1962-Present), Keith Richards (1962-Present), Charlie Watts (1963-Present), Ronnie Wood (1976-Present).
Past Band Members: Brian Jones (1962-1969), Bill Wyman (1962-1993), Mick Taylor (1969-1974).
Top Tracks: ‘Satisfaction’, ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’, ‘Sympathy for the Devil’, ‘Paint it Black’, ‘Gimme Shelter’.
The self-consciously rebellious ying to The Beatles’ more U-rated yang, the self-proclaimed “Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band in the World”, do have an emphatic claim to that title. And in the five decades since their inception, The Rolling Stones have become the grandest, not to mention most lucrative, musical juggernaut in rock and pop history.
With The Beatles they dominated the top of the UK charts for the duration of the 1960s, and were at the forefront of the so-called ‘British Invasion’ of America during the same decade.
Jagger and Richards were undisputedly the power couple of the group, forming one of the greatest song-writing partnerships ever, with a succession of number one hits such as ‘The Last Time’ and ‘Honky Tonk Women’. Jagger was to become the prototypal, seminal frontman, as the androgynously charismatic complement to Keith Richards’ persona as a 20th Century voodoo pirate-inspired outlaw.
Bassist Bill Wyman and drummer Charlie Watts also formed an often underappreciated swinging rhythm section, which acted as the stoic foundation to the elegant intertwine of two lead guitars, which would become the Stones’ trademark.
After several line-up alterations in the embryonic stages of the Stones (which originally included Dick Taylor of fellow future 1960s group The Pretty Things, and Mick Avory, future drummer for The Kinks), the settled five piece band had established itself as: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Brian Jones, Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman.
The group didn’t have an immediate impact on the chart scene, with their style bred from the blues (unfashionable in the explosion of pop in 1962), and inspired by the likes of Muddy Waters and Chuck Berry.
But their first number one, ‘It’s All Over Now’ came in 1964, which helped set them on the road to rock and roll stardom, and even a brief flirtation with psychedelia, as the hippie movement exploded in the late 60s.
It was the period of 1969-1974, following original founder Brian Jones’ untimely death, that would arguably yield the Stones’ musical zenith, with the much celebrated album ‘Exile on Main Street’ coming in 1972. The introduction of virtuoso lead guitarist Mick Taylor added a new dimension to the sinewing guitars of the baby-faced Taylor and Richards.
However, it wasn’t to last, with Taylor leaving the band in 1974 partly due to his chronic heroin addiction. After deliberation, with names such as Jeff Beck passed over, the band opted for former lead guitarist for the Faces, Ronnie Wood.
Wood’s chemistry with Richards was plain to see, and by the time the 1980s arrived the Stones were already cemented as rock icons, inspiring a generation of groups such as Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith, and had been crucial in spawning the Punk movement.
The Stones gathered no moss two decades after their formation, and in the absence of chart presence, (and a sabbatical due to conflicts between Jagger and Richards) they rolled along stridently, producing mega-million dollar grossing stadium tours which would redefine the concept. The 1989 ‘Steel Wheels’ tour broke box office records galore, grossing a mammoth $140 million.
After Bill Wyman officially left the band in 1993, and with other key members embarking on ill-advised solo careers, it took until 1994 before the Stones would play again. From there, the band produced more record-breaking tours and even a feature film, directed by confirmed fan Martin Scorsese in 2008, entitled ‘Shine a Light’.
With their re-emergence in late 2012, celebrating their 50th anniversary, the group have entered their sixth decade atop the popular music scene, and given the well-received nature of the comeback shows, you wouldn’t bet against the ultimate rock ‘n’ roll pensioners entering an illustrious seventh decade.
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