by Meg Sklut ’18
Oh, the hair! The makeup! The bodysuits!
In my opinion, no band in the history of music has ever exuded so much sex appeal and “coolness” as The Rolling Stones. Unlike a lot of kids, I was raised listening to The Stones instead of to The Beatles. Of course, The Beatles are fantastic and the whole rivalry between The Stones and The Beatles is trivial; both bands were and are groundbreaking in their own, very unique ways. However, The Rolling Stones have been ingrained in my blood since birth and I am oh so grateful for this. (Also, thanks Dad for bringing me up to believe Keith Richards is actually to coolest person to ever live.)
The 1960s marked a pivotal period in American social change, with the Civil Rights and the Women’s Rights movements, and the government’s involvement in Vietnam. What emerged from this time of change were different kinds of movies, fashions, and of course, music. Americans became drawn to The Rolling Stones and The Beatles, who led what is known as the “British Invasion,” which also included The Kinks, The Who, and The Animals. Whereas The Beatles appealed to a younger mainstream audience, The Rolling Stones made waves with a more rowdy and more controversial crowd. Their music was influenced by the rhythm and blues sound predominant in African American culture. Their iconic guitar riffs, lyrics criticizing society, and wild performances led the free love and drug movement and helped people gain the confidence to finally ask for change.
Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Brian Jones were the original founders of The Stones. However, Jones’s life began to spiral down due to drugs, and he died while swimming at age 27 in 1969. In one of the most iconic concerts of all time, The Rolling Stones performed at Hyde Park in Jones’s memory, two days after his death. This was the first concert featuring Mick Taylor, who stayed with the band until 1974. After 1974, Ronnie Wood joined and has stayed with The Stones ever since.
(This video also features one of Mick Jagger’s most iconic outfits of all time.)
The Stones have produced a multitude of critically acclaimed albums, including Aftermath (1966), Let it Bleed (1969), Beggar’s Banquet (1968), Sticky Fingers (1971), and Exile on Main Street (1972). A majority of the group’s songs, especially a majority of the most famous ones, are written by Jagger and Richards (who are sometimes called “The Glimmer Twins,” which is the best description I’ve EVER heard). Their songs’ intelligent and deep lyrics and melodies are what makes The Stones so unique.
Here are some of my favorite songs:
“Moonlight Mile” (1971)
Considered one of the most underrated Rolling Stones ballads, “Moonlight Mile” has always stood out to me. It has a gentler ambiance compared to most Stones songs. Jagger sings of “the sound of strangers sending nothing to my mind, just another mad mad day on the road.” The addition of Paul Buckmaster’s string arrangement makes “Moonlight Mile” a dramatic exposure of the Stones’ soft side.
“Paint It, Black” (1967)
This song, which I first listened to in fifth grade, began my love for The Rolling Stones. The comma in the title makes the whole song THAT much more dramatic. “Paint It, Black” was the first number one single in both the U.K. and the U.S. to feature a sitar. The sitar adds an even creepier vibe that complements the darkness of the song.
“Sympathy for the Devil” (1968)
When discussing Paradise Lost by John Milton in my AP English class, my teacher began our discussion by turning off all the lights and playing “Sympathy for the Devil.” We went on to analyze the lyrics, and my entire interpretation of both the song and The Rolling Stones changed. Not only is this song masterfully arranged, featuring a samba rhythm, but it is also an intelligent criticism of society’s fear.
“Mother’s Little Helper” (1966)
“Shine a Light”
Here are more songs you should listen to:
“Tumbling Dice,” “Rocks Off,” “Ruby Tuesday,” “Play with Fire,” and “Undercover of the Night.”