The Rolling Stones are considered to be one of the greatest rock bands of all time. With a music career that spans 50 years, the Rolling Stones continue to tour and expose millions of fans to their timeless music. In addition to being actively involved in music and touring as a band for the past 50 years, several members of the band have also made individual forays into solo music performances and film. With their blues driven rock, The Rolling Stones have had a great impact on music and culture.
Brian Jones, a blues enthusiast and an avid harp player, brought the Rolling Stones together in London, England in 1962. While Jones initially set out to create an R&B band, the band soon transformed into the blues-driven rock band that continues to create hits to this day. Given the fact that the British Musicians Union had placed a ban on American musicians up until 1956, it is unlikely that any of the members of the band were given the opportunity to be exposed to blues music before that time. It was only after the ban was lifted that Chris Barber, a well-known jazz musician in England, began to invite American blues artists to England (Szatmary 115). The Rolling Stones' first line-up included Brian Jones, pianist Ian "Stu" Stewart, guitarist Geoff Bradford, vocalist Mick Jagger, guitarist Keith Richards, and bassist Dick Taylor. During this time, the band had not instituted a permanent drummer and Geoff Bradford departed the band soon after Jagger and Richards joined ("The Rolling Stones"). When the band added a drummer to their line-up, they went through a series of drummers, including Mick Avory, Tony Chapman, Carlo Little, and Charlie Watts, who is currently the band's drummer ("The Rolling Stones"). By the mid-1960s, The Rolling Stones were the second most popular rock band, second only to The Beatles.
Giorgio Gomelsky, the Rolling Stones' first manager, claims, "The Stones were the first people into the blues in England, Alexis Korner and Cyril Davies were, but the Stones were the first ones who were young" (Szatmary 116). Moreover, Keith Richards recalls that Mick Jagger "had been singing with some rock and roll bands, doing Buddy Holly…Buddy Holly was in England as solid as Elvis. Everything that came out was a recourd smash number one. By about '58, it was either Elvis or Buddy Holly" (116). On the other hand, Richards was "really listening to what was coming over the Atlantic. The ones that were hitting hard were Little Richard, and Presley, and Jerry Lee Lewis" (116). When the blues began to gain momentum in England after the Musician Union's ban lift, the band was finally able to begin exploring the blues roots of their favorite bands. It was when Brian Jones saw Muddy Waters perform that he "found his mission in life. He got himself electrified and never stopped practicing" (116).
It is evident in the Rolling Stones' first album the extent to which Chicago Blues had on the individual members of the band and on the band itself. For example, the first single they recorded were covers Chuck Berry's "Come On" and Muddy Waters's "I Wanna Be Loved;" furthermore, their first U.S. album, England's Newest Hitmakers, included covers of Slim Harpo's "I'm a Kingbee," Berry's "Carol," Willie Dixon's "I Just Wanna Make Love to You," and Jimmy Reed's "Honest I Do" (117). Subsequent music from the band continued to be influenced by American R&B, rock, and blues artists and helped to further expose teenagers in England to American-influenced music.
Now that The Rolling Stones had begun to establish their sound and musical style, it was time to begin to work on their image. Andrew Logg Oldham, a former publicist for the Beatles, helped to create the "raunchy, crude, offensive image that contrasted sharply with the reputation of the Beatles" (117). Through this image, and their music, the Rolling Stones were able to differentiate themselves from their British rivals, the Beatles, and appeal to a different audience. Oldham argues that the, overall hustle [he] invented for the Stones was to establish them as a raunchy, gamy, unpredictable bunch of undesirables. [He] decided that since the Beatles had already usurped the clean-cut choirboy image with synchronized jackets, [he] should take the Stones down the opposite road. Rejecting matching clothing was one step, emphasizing their long hair and unclean appearance was another, and inciting the press to write about them, using catchy phrases [he] had coined, was yet another…[Oldham] wanted to establish that the Stones were threatening, uncouth and animalistic. (118)
Despite their revamped image, the Rolling Stones had great difficulty establishing a foothold among an American audience. It was only during their second tour of America in 1964 that the Rolling Stones were finally able to play to enthusiastic crowds. By the time that the Rolling Stones recorded their fourth album, they had established themselves as an R&B influenced rock band whose music had hints of pop and rebellion; by 1966, the band had moved away from including cover songs on their albums and were producing albums that contained all original material (120).
The Rolling Stones also had a great and significant impact on American culture. Because of their great success, both in England and in America, prospects of attending a free concert had mass appeal to audiences. One of their most infamous performances occurred in December 1969 at the Altamont Speedway near San Francisco. The Rolling Stones wanted repeat the success of a concert they had at Hyde Park in London (a tribute concert to Jones who had died two days prior to their scheduled performance) ("Rolling Stones in Hyde Park 1969"). Unexpectedly, the concert at Altamont Speedway turned out to be a complete disaster with hundreds of spectators having to be treated for drug overdoses and exacerbated by an incident in which the Hell's Angels, who were hired to provide security in exchange for $500 worth of beer, stabbed an 18-year-old student from Berkeley, which was only one of four deaths that occurred at the concert (Szatmary 187). This performance would mark the end of an era, both in music and in American society.
It was also during this time that the Rolling Stones began to influence and be influenced by the counterculture that was prevalent in California. In addition, the songs that they created during this time were a reflection of American culture and society. For example, the Rolling Stones developed a relationship with little known avant-garde American filmmaker Kenneth Anger over their mutual interest with the occult. The impact that Anger had on the Rolling Stones is evident in the songs that they were creating at the time. It can be argued that the Rolling Stones produced their most Luciferian songs at the height of their relationship with Anger. It has been argued that Anger's influence, as well as the 1930s Russian novel The Master and Margherita by Mikhail Bulgakov, led Jagger to write "that enduring infernal anthem," "Sympathy for the Devil" (Hunter 124). This song, in addition to "Midnight Rambler," "Satisfaction," and "Brown Sugar" offer insight into the controversies and conflicts that were prevalent in American society and were able to offer the Rolling Stones' audience alternative ways of being contrary to the norm (Whitely 102).
Through their music and style, the Rolling Stones influenced other English bands such as Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. Like the Rolling Stones before them, these two heavy metal bands married the blues that the Rolling Stones had helped to develop with psychadelia to create a new sound. In addition, not only did the Rolling Stones heavily influence Led Zeppelin, but Jimmy Page, Zeppelin's guitarist, also had the opportunity to play for the Rolling Stones as a session musician (Szatmary 182).…