||Happy birthday Rock dinosaurs
by Ray Connolly
Sometimes things just seem too amazing for words. Who, for instance, would have believed it possible, back in 1962, that the Rolling Stones would still be rocking 40 years after they first played together, and planning yet another world tour later this year?
Not me, for one. Yet this week that's exactly what fans will be celebrating - four decades of the Rolling Stones.
That such long-distance success is astonishing in a rock band goes without question. But, you have to ask, how on earth have they done it? How have the Stones become so synonymous with the term rock 'n' roll that even now, as grandfathers, they can still fill giant venues all around the world?
What is it exactly about the Rolling Stones that we still love so much? Were they ever, in fact, that good?
Well, yes, I think they probably were - and as a touring band, they still are. But there are lots of good bands in the world. Why, after all this time, should it be the Stones who have survived when just about every other group since then has disappeared from view?
Would anyone have dared predict back in the early Sixties that the Stones would outlive The Beatles by more than 32 years?
To be honest, the notion of such rock 'n' roll longevity didn't just seem unlikely back on July 12, 1962, when the rump of the Rolling Stones played their first gig together during an intermission at the Marquee Club off London's Oxford Street. It was unimaginable! Back then, those in popular music rarely thought more than a few months ahead.
Indeed, it's unlikely that the Stones themselves thought solely about music as the future - the lead singer, and the one who was to become the most famous of all, was still wondering whether or not he should pursue a career in journalism after leaving university.
As it happened, Mick Jagger, then a student at the London School of Economics, didn't even think much of the new group's name, the Rollin' Stones, which had been chosen by fellow founder member Brian Jones from a record by blues giant Muddy Waters.
Nor did Mick's best friend, guitarist Keith Richards - though, no doubt, they both grew to love it.
'I hope they don't think we're a rock 'n' roll outfit,' sniffed Mick in one of his first interviews. And no, he wasn't being ironic. Because in that last pre-Beatles summer, rock 'n' roll in Britain was associated with Marty Wilde, Cliff Richard and Billy Fury - pretty, light, telegenic pop singers.
From the very beginning the Rolling Stones saw themselves more in a classic American blues tradition, a cut above mere British pop stars. And it was this defining difference of ambition and intelligence which was to colour their entire career.
It called for a difference in music, in image - and, most importantly of all, a new way of marketing a rock group.
And there, I believe, we have the secret to the Rolling Stones' longevity. From the very beginning they understood the importance of marketing. Mick Jagger not only appreciated band management, he had a very shrewd idea of brand management, too.
Seeing that The Beatles were regarded as the cuddly toys of pop (much to John Lennon's fury, incidentally), the Rolling Stones deliberately set about selling themselves as rebellious - an image which fitted to perfection their music as a pepped-up blues band.
And while The Beatles and other groups spent the Sixties dabbling in every kind of music they could find, the Stones were far more conservative in their musical output, and purposely very American.
But because they were never, apart from their earliest days, at the height of musical fashion, they've never gone out of fashion either. Choosing an already classic sound and a traditional construction, as practised by the likes of Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters and Chuck Berry, they were never part of some passing fad.
They simply took a 12-bar blues style, hepped it up a little, then a little more, filled it out and served it back. Listen to The Last Time, Satisfaction or Brown Sugar now, and they sound as fresh as the day they were recorded. And, it should be added, slightly brilliant in pop music terms.
But while their music changed only slowly over the decades, the marketing of their image became ever wittier, ever shrewder - always certain to attract headlines and controversy.
Thus, when they released their Sticky Fingers album in 1971, they commissioned the avant garde darling of that time, Andy Warhol, to design a cover showing a pair of jeans and a zip up the front. The result was headlines everywhere.
This was shortly followed by the famous Rolling Stones logo of what looked like Mick Jagger's celebrated lips and a huge cartoon tongue. It was vulgar, but it was always fun. And very stylish, too.
Before one of their tours they added the line 'The greatest rock 'n' roll band in the world' to their adverts, and the self-proclaimed celebration, to what looked increasingly like a group of eccentrically dressed, wandering, middle-aged, gypsy minstrels, stuck.
As their audience grew older with them, their self-advertising was believed. And they always were very good to watch.
Then, in the mid-Seventies, when Ronnie Wood (at that time not a Rolling Stone) came up with the song It's Only Rock And Roll But I Like It, Jagger, seeing its immediate potential as a slogan, wasted no time in gently prising it from him and recording it as a Rolling Stones single.
It was a masterstroke of marketing. Once, he had scoffed at the term rock 'n' roll. Now he was seizing it for the Stones' own.
It worked. Today, the very name Rolling Stones means rock 'n' roll in brand terms, just as Coca-Cola means a soft drink, or Levis means jeans. And, like Coke and Levis, the Stones have a classic appeal across the generations.
That's why Microsoft used their record Start It Up when it launched a new Windows computer platform a few years ago. Their music is universal and timeless.
And through their frequent tours, which bring such merriment to their critics but add such fortunes to their wealth, they have, in effect, become their own tribute band.
While sound-alikes go around as the Bootleg Beatles or Elvis impersonators, the Stones do it themselves in their vast and expensive concerts, with their circuses of fireworks, explosions and effects.
But they always stick to the old musical routines. While other bands might try to go electronic to keep up with the times, the Stones know what their audience want to hear - Rolling Stones records. With perhaps only the addition of a new brass section or girl gospel choir, the sound remains immediately identifiable.
But what is interesting is how relatively unsuccessful the individual members of the Stones have been when not performing under the Rolling Stones banner. At this very moment, former Stones bassist Bill Wyman is touring - but you're forgiven if you weren't aware of that.
And despite the money spent on making his last album then promoting it with an hour's television film, Mick Jagger's last solo album was met with the same lack of interest as most of his other non-Stones ventures.
It's interesting to note, too, that although Rolling Stones tours are major events, not many of their albums have sold particularly well in the past 20 years.
The message from this seems clear. The fans want the Rolling Stones, not just Mick Jagger. But, most of all, they want the Stones on stage playing their hits.
And, beginning this autumn, that's exactly what they're likely to get. The new Rolling Stones tour begins in America, and, for the first time, they will be promoting a new CD collection of hits covering their entire career.
For the best part of 40 years, Rolling Stones records have brought people to their feet at parties. I can't see that changing yet, can you?
||Stones Still Getting Satisfaction - 40 Years On
Tue Jul 9, 6:28 AM ET
By Paul Majendie
LONDON (Reuters) - They get mocked as the Strolling Bones but the Rolling Stones don't give a damn -- they are still rocking just as hard as they did 40 years ago on Day One.
That was July 12, 1962 when the founder members launched into a chorus of "Kansas City" at London's Marquee Club. Their fee for the night was 25 pounds.
Now, four decades on, the elder statesmen of rock are ready to "Start Me Up" all over again with a round-the-world tour that will put yet more millions in their coffers.
The Dinosaurs of Rock are in no danger of extinction and disc-jockey Tommy Vance, who accompanied them on their first U.S. tour in the Sixties, puts it all down to Mick Jagger, the workaholic frontman with rubber lips and swinging hips.
"They are driven by a man who knows how to make a pound or two. On the road he has always had the ability to put on a damn good rock 'n' roll circus. They may not have sold many records recently but they can put on spectacular shows," he said.
So why did they last 32 years longer than The Beatles?
"They had one leader whereas the Beatles developed two leaders. They had a very good sergeant-major instead of two squabbling sergeants," Vance told Reuters.
But not all memories are rosy. Recalling his first trip with the Stones, Vance said: "They were incredibly surly, unpleasant and unco-operative except for Brian Jones who was a gentleman."
Jones, one of the group's founders, was found dead in his swimming pool in 1969.
Pop biographer Ray Connolly said "From the very beginning, they understood the importance of marketing. Mick Jagger not only appreciated band management but brand management too.
"The Rolling Stones deliberately set about selling themselves as rebellious -- an image which fitted to perfection their music as a pepped-up blues band."
At 58, the singer for rock's "Satanic Majesties" has even signed on for The Establishment. Jagger, famed as much for his love life as he is for his outrageous stage antics, is to be knighted by Queen Elizabeth.
On tour, Jumping Jack Flash still loves the adrenaline buzz -- and the cash, cash, cash. For him the attractions never fade. Recalling their 1972 tour, he said: "It was pretty wild. Girls, drink, you name it. Rock 'n' roll even."
The craggy-faced Keith Richards, one of rock's kings of excess, was asked what on earth still motivated him to hit the road at 58. "Fun," was his simple answer.
Drummer Charlie Watts, now 61, is astonished by their longevity: "When I started, it was going to be a three-month thing, then a three-year thing. I always said it wouldn't last."
Bernard Doherty, the group's spokesman since 1988, said: "What they did was create a template for successive generations of rock bands. They were the original bad boys, the ultimate bar band that kept on going."
He said tickets for the tour, which kicks off in Boston in September, sold out within 30 minutes across the United States. But not everyone is a fan lost in the mists of Sixties nostalgia.
Andy Gill, writing in the Independent Review, said: "The sight of the wrinkled fop Jagger wiggling his bottom and clapping his hands like a fey flamenco dancer has become one of rock's greatest embarrassments."
||I give the first guy credit for not rehashing all the negative crap. The statement that Brown Sugar sounds just as fresh today as 1971 is exactly right.
||yes, the first one was objective...the second one is crap, but let 's get ready for this, it won t be the last papers from those jealous and f****ing journalists...
||WellI will add some constructive criticism, Fuck Andy Gill.
||It's always said the Stones don't sell records anymore. The recent non live releases have sold well, and sometimes more than some of the older " classic " releases. The Stones singles don't do well because people buy the CD, not just the single. I buy singles if there are different B- Sides not on the studio release. I think I read somewhere that Voodoo Lounge is the 3rd best selling Stones release of new material ( Behind Some Girls and Tatoo You ). I think Hot Rocks is there best seller over all, not sure though.