The Beatles changed everything. Without them, the whole story would be different. In all probability without The Beatles, a band like The Rolling Stones would never have happened. It is certainly true that the Stones second single was a Lennon/McCartney song, at a time when any Beatles cast offs almost guaranteed a hit.
The Stones though, were different. Their musical roots had a lot in common with The Beatles, but it also true that the Stones were different. Both bands revered black music, but the Stones wore those influences much more clearly on their musical sleeves. In part that was due to timing. Famously, Mick Jagger, by then a student at the LSE, met art student Keith Richards, who he had been at primary school with, on Dartford railway station. Jagger was carrying records by Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters. They had a shared loved of music.
The began to play together, and came to the notice of Alexis Korner, the leader of Blues Incorporated. In the London of 1962, there was a thriving jazz scene, which incorporated within it musicians playing related American music; in this case, rhythm and blues. It was in jamming with Korner that they met Brian Jones and Charlie Watts. In many ways they were typical of their generation: in particular, art school became something of a forcing house for the first great generation of Britsh pop stars: John Lennon was an art student too.
The band they formed was far more deeply rooted in black Americana and, indeed, country music. The starting point was, like The Beatles, a love of Chuck Berry. When The Stones did Chuck, they rocked.
The Stones were never just rockers though. From the same show, here’s their version of The Womack’s Its All Over Now, turning it into a rocked up shit-kicking country song.
More radically, their fifth single was a Jimmy Reed country blues song, replete with slide and the slow, snaky feel.
At this point, the Stones were still a covers band. it was their manager, Andrew Oldham, who forced them to write, in part to match Lennon and McCartney, in part to get his hands on the royalties. In doing so, he forged a great songwriting partnership. This was the Stones of 1965, but the three great building blocks were there: a great band, the songs and the use of American recording studios.
Something else. The Beatles played the role of the nice boys from Liverpool. The Stones? No. The bad boys were in town. Your mother really didn’t like them….
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