The Rolling Stones – Trend-Setters For More Than Half A Century
No rock band has lasted as long, nor had quite the effect as The Rolling Stones. Beginning their rise to stardom in the 1960s alongside fellow Brits The Beatles as part of the British Invasion, they had dominated the musical world over by the turn of the millennium.
Of course, it was the music that was the heart, soul and backbone of the Stones’ success. Raw, blues-inspired rock and roll, through decades of pop music turbulence. The Rolling Stones had success with their first few albums, but it was 1965’s “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” that was their first number 1 hit. Spending four weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100, “Satisfaction” proved the Stones were a world-class premiere act.
1966 was another huge year for the Stones. “19th Nervous Breakdown”, “Paint It, Black” and “Mother’s Little Helper” all hit the charts hard, with the latter being one of the first pop songs to address the issue of prescription drug abuse.
However, while the ’60s were undoubtedly a time of success for the Rolling Stones, the 1970s produced some of the most timeless albums of all time. “Sticky Fingers” hit shelves in 1971 and was the first album to feature the logo of Rolling Stones Records, the band’s own record company. The album’s first track, “Brown Sugar” became one of their best known hits, and the country-inspired “Dead Flowers” also rated highly. The next year brought another top-tier Rolling Stones LP – “Exile on Main St.” It was immediately loved by critics and is now regarded as one of the best Stones albums ever.
After the 1970s and extending through the rest of the 20th century, the Rolling Stones released a string of commercially successful yet lukewarm albums. Drug use and internal conflict threatened to tear the band apart on multiple occasions but nothing was permanent. As the new millennium rolled in, the Stones saw a revitalisation. Successful tours and well-received albums ensured the band’s continued life and ever-expanding fanbase.
2012 marked the band’s half-century. 50 years of impacting and influencing the world, with no signs of slowing down. Tours were still being booked and songs were still being written. The Rolling Stones weren’t done rolling yet.
In 2016 The Rolling Stones released their most recent album – Blue & Lonesome, the first since 2005’s A Bigger Bang. The album has been a success, receiving great reviews from all major critics. As of February 2017 the album has sold over 2 million copies globally.
Part of their success was undoubtedly tied to their look. The Beatles had the ‘matching choir boy’ look nailed, so the Stones needed something to set themselves apart. Manager Andrew Oldham crafted the Stones in the early ’60s as a contrast to The Beatles’ clean look – a “raunchy, gamy, unpredictable bunch of undesirables.”
From then, The Rolling Stones built upon their image of “the undesirables”. The September 1966 single “Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing In The Shadow?” had the now-famous back image of the group dressed satirically in drag. Mick Jagger in particular exploded with his flamboyancy – it being a common sight to see him leaping around the stage in a tasseled jumpsuit. Jagger’s antics have been referenced in pop culture so many times it’s nearly impossible to count – he’s even had a song written directly about him.
It wouldn’t be a far cry to say Jagger’s antics and look shaped the Rolling Stones in a great deal of minds. The Rolling Stones were about that 60s rock and roll life. Jagger embodied that – the man oozed sex appeal. British novelist Philip Norman wrote that “[Elvis] “Presley, while he made girls scream, did not have Jagger’s ability to make men feel uncomfortable.” He has also been studied academically, analysed in papers concerning gender, image and sexuality. Biographer Laura Jackson summed it up nicely: “It is impossible to imagine current culture without the unique influence of Mick Jagger.”