Tuesday, February 9, 2010

#12. Rocking On With The Rolling Stones

It was June, 1962 and six young English men were crowded outside of a phone booth as guitarist Brian Jones was trying to place an advertisement with the local magazine 'Jazz News'. The young man panicked when he was asked the name of their group because it had no name yet at that point. He looked around anxiously and saw a Muddy Waters LP beside him and blurted out the name of the first track he focused on, 'Rollin Stone'. The Rolling Stones were born that day and have been rocking the world ever since.

The original and still considered the classic lineup was Brian Jones (slide guitar, harmonica, harpsichord), Ian Stewart (keyboards), Mick Jagger (Lead vocals), Keith Richards (lead guitar), Bill Wyman (bass guitar) and Charlie Watts Drums) completed the early lineup. Stewart, deemed unsuitable as a teen idol, was removed from the official lineup in 1963 but continued as the band's road manager and occasional keyboardist until his death in 1985. Brian Jones was fired from the band in 1969 due to his increasingly erratic behavior as a result of his heavy substance abuse and that due to his previous drug convictions, he would not receive a permit to tour North America that November. Bill Wyman quit the band in 1992 after years of being dissatisfied by Jagger/Richards monopolizing the songwriting within the group and was quoted as saying that he was 'simply tired from the relentless years of touring'. Jagger, Richards and Watts have remained the core of the group to this day along with Ron Wood (previously from the group 'The Faces') who has been with the band since 1976 (playing rhythm guitar and bass).

In 1967, the Stones were caught up in the 'Sgt. Pilcher conspiracy' when Mick and Keith were arrested for drug possession by narcotics officer Sgt. Norman Pilcher. Over the next two years, Brian Jones would also be arrested along with John Lennon and George Harrison of the Beatles and well known folk singer Donovan. It was eventually proved that Pilcher was planting the drugs his victims were convicted of possessing to satisfy the tabloid newspapers. In 1973 Pilcher was finally arrested and charged for this conspiracy and served four years in prison. Though Jagger, Richards and Jones all escaped any lasting sentencing it was only the beginning of the legendary drug use by the Stones. Keith Richards in particular began drifting away from the softer psychedelics of the sixties moving into harder substances such as cocaine and heroin. His substance abuse is so legendary that comedians often joke "There are no more drugs because Keith already did them all!" (Keith himself has been quoted as saying that he even snorted his own father’s ashes. Richards father died in 2002 and was cremated. Richards apparently mixed some of the ashes of his father with some cocaine). Within the Stones, the only thing more legendary then Keith's drug use over the last 40 years is Micks love affair with women (I saw them in 2003 in Toronto and they announced over the loud speaker "Could all women ages 20-40 with no ovaries please report to Mick's dressing room").

The Stones started out mainly as a Rhythm and Blues band, mostly performing covers of songs by the American Blues greats like Muddy Waters and Chuck Berry. Since 1996, their albums have featured mainly Jagger/Richards songs. Over the years, they gradually moved further away from the classic R&B sounds and moved into Pop music to better ride the wave of the British Invasion of music into the USA. Over the years the Stones have created a unique blend of Rock, Blues, Country, funk and R&B. Planning to tour again in 2010, the Stones will celebrate their 50th anniversary together in 2012. As of today, they are already the longest-lived continuously active rock group in history. They are also, according to many critics and fans, 'the World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band.' Throughout the last five decades of shifting tastes in the arena of popular music, the Stones have kept on rolling, always attempting to adapt to the latest sounds and styles without straying too far from their origins as a blues-loving, guitar-based rock and roll band. Trying to stay with the trends over the years has not always been easy for the group. Many of their albums over the last twenty years have met with less then favorable reviews (they haven't had a number one record in North America since 1981).

A lot of fans have criticized the band for straying so far from its origins and for some of the internal decisions made throughout the years (the firing of Brian Jones in particular alienated a large amount of fans). While the writing behind the music has not been as fantastic in recent years, the live shows are still bringing back the fans again and again. Their live shows are always exciting and full of variety (having over twenty albums to choose from helps). The Stones live shows are in such demand that they have continually gotten bigger and bigger over the last twenty years. In February 2006 the band played a free concert with a claimed 1.5 million attendance at the Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro. The 'Bigger Bang' album has been the first Stones record in almost twenty years to receive generally favorable reviews. The 'Bigger Bang' tour of 2006 was named the highest-grossing tour of all time, earning well over 437 million dollars. Love them or hate them, the Rolling Stones are a force upon music very similar to the Beatles. In the late sixties, it was often said that you were either a Stones fan or a Beatles fan, something which the world media took and turned into the legendary (but false) story that was the Beatles and Stones rivalry. With their 50th anniversary coming up in a few years, it seems their really is no stopping the legendary Rolling Stones.

The Facts:

-The Stones have released over 90 singles, more than two dozen studio albums, and numerous compilation and live albums. Ten of their studio albums are among Rolling Stone magazine's The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

-They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.

-As big as they are, they have only ever won 2 grammy awards.

-Although it was reported that Brian Jones died from misadventure after drowning in his swimming pool, many fans have maintained that it was murder over the last 40 years finally resulting in private investigators actually gathering enough evidence over the years to warrant British police to announce the re-opening of the case after all these years to examine the claims that he was murdered.

My Fave Album:

This was actually a bit harder then I thought it would be. Although I really love the older albums like '12x5' and 'Aftermath' I think if I had to pick a fave album it would be 1968's 'Beggars Banquet'. This was the final album to feature the classic lineup before the departure of Brian Jones and I always felt the group was missing something without him. This album also saw the stones getting more primal as well as returning to their rock roots after departing into the realms of Psychedelia and Pop over their previous few albums. One of the last contributions from Brian Jones was the terrific slide guitar that he played on 'No Expectations' (the slide guitar intro is fantastic) and the intense harmonica playing on 'Parachute Woman' (a great song featuring Mick channeling Muddy Waters in his best sexual boasting). The album also has fan fave 'Sympathy for the Devil' which I think is one of the best rock tracks ever laid down. While this album doesn't hold tons of their famous stuff, I think this is my fave album because of the feel it holds between its covers. It has that raw, murky feel to it that came from being recorded live on a cassette player with open microphones set between the band members and growls out of your speakers in tones that are rich in that old style blues rock atmosphere.

Enjoy this clip of The Rolling Stones live at The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus. held in 1968! this was a momentous show and if you don't know about it check it out!!!

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