The Rolling Stones at Marcus Amphitheater in Milwaukee, USA, performing at Summerfest festival on June 23, 2015. Source: Jim Pietryga, Wikimedia Commons.

One of the longest running rock bands: The Rolling Stones

What are they famous for?

The Rolling Stones are famous for being an English rock band which was first started in London in 1962. The band’s original line-up included Brian Jones who performed on guitar, harmonica and the keyboard, Mick Jagger who was the band’s lead vocalist, Keith Richards on guitar and vocals, Bill Wyman as the bassist, Charlie Watts as the drummer and Ian Stewart as the bands pianist.

The Rolling Stones was one of the leading bands of the ‘British Invasion’ of the United States in 1964. The band achieved and retained their commercial success throughout the 1960s and 1970s and they have gone on to become one of the most enduring and influential rock bands in history. The band received their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989 and has sold more than 200 million records around the world.

The Rolling Stones early career
Mick Taylor with the Rolling Stones. Source: Dina Regine, Wikimedia Commons.

Early Career

Keith Richards and Mick Jagger were childhood friends and classmates during the 1950s. Jagger and a friend Dick Taylor formed a garage band in the 1950s and began a partnership with Richards after Jagger met him on a platform at Dartford station. In 1961 Alan Etherington and Bob Beckwith joined the band and they began calling themselves the Blues Boys. In 1962 the band sent a tape of their best recordings to Alexis Korner from Blues Incorporated and later met the band whom they began to jam with afterwards. The band began to perform together and the line-up was completed in 1962 when Tony Chapman joined as a drummer. When they were asked by a journalist what they were called, Jones said ‘Rollin’ Stone’ after seeing a Muddy Waters LP lying on the floor.

The band played a show billed as ‘the Rollin’ tones’ at the Marquee Club in London and embarked on their first tour throughout the UK. By 1963 the band was beginning to gain popularity and in 1964 they officially became ‘The Rolling Stones’.

The Rolling Stones early tour
The Rolling Stones getting off an airplane at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol on August 8, 1964. Source: gahetNA, Wikimedia Commons.

The band got a recording contract with favourable terms with Decca Records, the contract include the band getting three times the usual royalty rate, full artistic control and ownership of their own master tapes.

The bands cover of Chuck Berry’s ‘Come On’ was their first single. Released in 1963 the band will not play the song at live performances. The bands second single ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’ was a song that John Lennon and Paul McCartney gifted the band when they visited the band in the studio. The song reached number twelve on the charts. Their next song ‘Not Fade Away’ reached number three.

The songs on the band’s first album released in 1964 were mostly covers, save for three songs. The band went on a tour that they described as disastrous and began recording in Chicago, where they recorded their first number one hit ‘It’s All Over Now’.

The band appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show and due to the hype around the band they were subsequently banned from the show, although they were hired the following year. The band released the LP ’12 X 5’ during their North American tour. Their single ‘Little Red Rooster’ became a number one hit in the UK.

The Rolling Stones career breakthrough
Trade ad for 1965 Rolling Stones’ North American tour. Source: London Records, Wikimedia Commons.

Career Breakthrough

The bands next UK album ‘The Rolling Stones No.2’ was released in 1965 and went to number one on the charts in the UK. It reached number 5 in the US. The bands single ‘The Last Time’ released in Feburary 1965 was the first Jagger and Richards written song to reach number one on the UK charts. The band’s first US number one hit, ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ was recorded in 1965. The song was commercially successful worldwide and spent four weeks on top of the charts in the US.

The bands next album ‘Aftermath’ was released in 1966 and was the first to contain songs entirely composed by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. The album reached number one in the UK and number two in the US.

At the beginning of 1967 the band released ‘Between the Buttons’ which went to number three in the UK and number two in the US. Around the same time Jagger and Richard’s got into hot water over their recreational drug use after a News publication ran a story about pop stars and drug use in which a reporter claimed he had overheard Jagger using and offering drugs although it turned out to be a case of mistaken identity. The following week police raised a party at Richard’s home and made a number of arrests. Despite their legal issues and tensions between the band members the band toured throughout Europe in March and April of 1967.

The Rolling Stones Mick Jagger
Rolling Stones concert in Zuiderpark, 1976. Source: Bert Verhoeff, Wikimedia Commons.

As a result of the raid, Jagger was handed a three month prison sentence whilst Richards was sentences to a year in prison. Both Jagger and Richards were sent to prison but release on bail the next day to wait their appeal. While they waited for their appeal the band recorded the single ‘We Love You’ to express their gratitude for their fans loyalty. Richards conviction was overturned by the appeals court and Jagger was conditionally discharged.

The bands next album ‘Their Satanic Majesties Request’ reached number two in the US although it received criticism. In 1968 the band released the album ‘Beggars Banquet’ which featured the leas single ‘Street Fighting Man’ and the single ‘Sympathy for the Devil’.

By the end of 1968 Jones admitted that he was struggling with the pressure of touring and the bands success and admitted that he could not go on the road again. In 1969 he drowned in his homes swimming pool and the band replaced him with Mick Taylor.

The bands final album of the 1960s was ‘Let It Bleed’ which reach number one in the UK and number three in the US.

At the beginning of the seventies the band formed their own record company called Rolling Stones Records and released their album ‘Sticky Fingers’ in 1971 which featured cover art by Andy Warhol. The album was also the first to feature the Rolling Stones Records logo which became the band’s logo.

The band released their next album ‘Exile on Main St’ in 1972, it reached the top spot in both the US and the UK. Throughout the seventies the band released the album ‘Goats Head Soup’ which went to number one in the US and the UK, ‘It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll’ which went to number two in the UK and number one in the US, ‘Black and Blue’ in 1976 which also charted well and ‘Some Girls’ in 1978 which reached the top spot in the US.

In 1981 the band reconvened and developed the album ‘Tattoo You’ which went to number one in the US. Their subsequent tour was the band’s biggest and most elaborate in their history and concluded in Chicago.

The band released the album ‘Undercover’ in 1983. The album was well received and peaked at number four in the US. The band’s 1986 album ‘Dirty Work’ reached number four in the US.

The Rolling Stones continuing career
Keith Richards (right) with Mick Taylor at British Summer Time Festival in Hyde Park during a Rolling Stone concert, July 6, 2013. Source: Miss-Sophie, Wikimedia Commons.

Continuing Career

In 1989 the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and released a new album ‘Steel Wheels’ which reached number two in the UK and number three in the US. The bands subsequrnt tour was their biggest production to date and was following up by the band going on break to focus on solo projects.

In 1994 the band released the album ‘Voodoo Lounge’ which earned them a Grammy Award for the Best Rock album. The band finished of the 1990s with their album ‘Bridges to Babylon’ which received mixed responses from fans.

After an extended break the band released the album ‘A Bigger Bang’, it went to number three in the US. The band celebrated their 50th anniversary in 2012 with the release of a book and went on tour. The band continued to tour through 2014 and toured through Latin America in 2016. The band released the album ‘On Air’ in 2017 and went on tour in May 2017. The tour continued throughout 2018 and 2019 but was halted whilst Jagger underwent surgery.