The Rockin' Origins of The Rolling Stones

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Sure,we could make the obligatory Keith Richards gag here, but dinosaur jokes are so Mesozoic Era. Why don't we just fast forward to the stories and deliver some Satisfaction instead?

"Some children sing in choirs,"Mick Jagger has said, "[and] others like to show off in front of the mirror." Believe it or not, Jagger was in the former group "“ he
started out as a choir boy. Growing up on the outskirts of London, he was also a fan of great musicians like Muddy Waters, Leadbelly, and Chuck Berry (whose "Come On" would much later turn into the Stones' first single). Young Keith Richards was equally a fan of classic blues, jazz, and R&B. He and Jagger went to the same elementary school, but they didn't really hook up until much later in their teens, when Mick was a student at the London School of Economics. Keith recognized him on a train and, interested in listening to his old schoolmate's record collection, quickly befriended him.

Why Richards changed his name,  who was on the Stone's first bill, and  the true stories behind Wild Horses, Sympathy for the Devil and Brown Sugar, all after the break.

Picture 33.pngEventually Keith learned that Mick was singing in a little band, "doing Buddy Holly numbers at school hops and stuff like that." More crucially,Mick had a friend whose parents happened to be out of town for a couple of weeks, and another friend, Alexis Korner, who owned both an amplifier and a Grundig tape recorder, on which "you could hear how bad you were and still think you were fantastic." The new band started playing small gigs as "Little Boy Blue and the Blue Boys" at a hole-in-the-wall called the Ealing Club, where Korner introduced them to a buddy of his named Brian Jones, as well as a number of other musicians who would come and go, jamming with the band. By 1962 they'd changed their name to The Rollin' Stones and winnowed down their members to Jagger, Richards, Jones, Ian Stewart on piano, Dick Taylor on bass, and Tony Chapman on drums. They'd also started to get some attention.

A guy named George Harrison, who'd had some success singing back-up with the band that would become The Beatles, introduced them to Decca Records executives. The Stones also hooked up with manager Andrew Oldham, who promptly canned poor Taylor, saying he wasn't teen-idol material. Then Oldham asked Richards to drop the "S" from his name, hoping to evoke Cliff Richard, the British pop star. Richards, in a spat with his father, was all too happy to comply. It was only in the 1980s that he took his original name back after reconciling with his dad, who he hadn't spoken to in two decades.

Having made themselves media-ready, the Stones embarked on a tour of Europe and the States. On their first tour of England, they were packaged with Ike and Tina Turner, Bo Diddley, the Ronettes, the Everly Brothers, and Little Richard. If we ever invent
a time machine, the first thing we're doing is getting tickets to that tour.
As for the stories behind their songs, though:

"Satisfaction"

You'd think this one was spawned during a long, restless night of yearning (or something like that, anyway), but the truth is far more boring: One night in 1965, on a tour stop in Clearwater, Florida, Keith Richards woke up in his hotel room with a guitar riff and the words "can't get no satisfaction" stuck in his head. He recorded the riff on a portable tape deck and promptly went back to sleep "“ but since he'd accidentally left the tape on, the tape ended up containing a good bit of his snoring, too.

"Sympathy for the Devil"

The lyrics were inspired by Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita, one of the greatest Russian novels of the last hundred years "“ but they also throw out all sorts of later historical references, including WorldWar II and the Kennedy assassinations. It's not, by the way, a song about devil-worshipping, although the Stones thrived on the controversy and didn't do much to discourage speculation.

"Ruby Tuesday"

Another Richards gem, this one's about a groupie, although if you're hoping to learn who, you're out of luck. Richards is often quoted as saying he doesn't remember her name: "It certainly wasn't Ruby. That's one of those things— some chick you've
broken up with. And all you've got left is the piano and the guitar and a pair of panties. And it's goodbye, you know."

"Angie"

The Stones had at least two Angies in their lives — David Bowie's ex-wife,Angela, who was a friend of Jagger's, and Angela "Dandelion" Richards, daughter of Keith and Anita Pallenberg. Jagger himself has said that "the truth is that Keith wrote the title. He said, "˜Angie.' And I think it was to do with his daughter. She's called Angela. And then I just wrote the rest of it." The "rest of it," however, is far more interesting. It appears, like many other Stones songs, to have been about Jagger's tumultuous relationship with the singer Marianne Faithfull.

"Wild Horses"

Faithfull again. She has said that "wild horses couldn't drag me away" were her first words to Jagger after she pulled out of a drug-induced coma in 1969.

"Before They Make Me Run"

By the time the Stones wrote this one, Richards was already running "“ the song was recorded while he was out on bail after getting caught with heroin in 1977.

"Brown Sugar"

Once you actually listen to the lyrics, it's pretty hard to rock out to this one: They're about slavery and rape. But a few people continue to argue that maybe
"Brown Sugar" is an allegory for something else, like, well, heroin.

"Sister Morphine"

Unbelievably, this one isn't about heroin: It's about a car crash and the completely legitimate painkilling medicine given in hospitals.

If you like this post, make our editors happy and pick up a copy of In The Beginning today.  

March 31, 2008 - 3:59am
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