50 Years – The Rolling Stones. Views from the inside, views from the outside
By Stones Tragic, Michael Berry
I GREW UP with the Rolling Stones. Well, not really, but their 50 year career trajectory matches my own path from teenager to adult. In the same month,
June 1964, that the Stones left for their first tour of the US, I emigrated with my family to Australia. When I returned to work in England during the late 70s I went to live around the corner from the Stones. Mind you, they had not lived in Mapesbury Road Kilburn since 1962, but I felt that this was yet one more link with a band which had wound its way in and out of my life.
So, here we are, 50 years after they recorded their first major hit, It’s All Over Now, and it’s hard to believe that it really is all over now for the Rolling Stones. Mick, Keef, Charlie and Ronnie are calling it a day with a few farewell concerts yet to be worked out.
There are on-line and off-line books articles and photographic exhibitions around the world acknowledging this remarkable band that has managed over 50 years to re-create itself and draw the crowds in their thousands right up to last year’s Bigger Bang tour.
Thanks to 60s pop photographer and now Hinterland resident, Colin Beard, I have a life size photo of Mick Jagger above my desk. Jagger was of course my perfect alter ego – encapsulating everything that I wasn’t – a risk taker, a cool but outrageous dresser, enormously attractive to women, a great dancer, a magnetic performer and fantastically rich. Despite the Beatles, the sounds created by the Rolling Stones were truly raw and original, energising and threatening all at the same time. For young people this was total rebellion and physical madness of a kind not seen before. It was a madness that even shocked the Stones. In 1964 Keith Richards recalled, “We’d walk into some of those places (we were playing) and it was like the Battle of Crimea going on, people gasping, tits hanging out, chicks choking, nurses running around with ambulances.” Bill Wyman was equally astounded by the reaction the Stones were creating, “The same thing happened in this beautiful old opera house in the Hague. They just ripped the place to pieces. We were on stage for seven minutes. One number at full volume, and two with no electricity. All the power got switched off by the cops. We tried to carry on with maracas and tambourines but we just had to give up. The police made us leave and then the audience destroyed the place, pulled the tapestries off the walls, ripped the fitted chairs out threw them into the chandeliers. It was really awful.”
The raw violence and stabbing murder at the Californian Altamont Speedway concert in 1969 was the climax of all that was claimed to be evil about the Stones and their music. In reality, the Stones were increasingly alarmed at crowd reactions to their performances but there was little they could do apart from stop performing. Beneath all of Jagger’s provocative posturing and the edgy, start me up ignition of crowd emotions, Jagger was quite the English lad who deep down acknowledged society had rules. He broke them from time to time of course, but he was helpless in trying to stop others. As he shouted lamely from the Altamont stage, “Just be cool down in the front there, don’t push around.”
At times, fey, rude, sexually ambivalent, and always attention-seeking, Mick’s jagged face was scary to many people but I easily saw through my alter ego. He was, as the character in The Life of Brian says, “He’s not the Messiah. He’s a very naughty boy.”
That naughtiness led to countless images in the media over five decades, a media that was once dominated by British tabloid newspapers and is now seeing a digital takeover. Over the Stones’ 50 year history, journalists have
collected a treasure trove of material, but none more prolific than music journalist Hanspeter Kuenzler. Kuenzler has partnered with the recently formed on-line publisher, The eBook People, to publish a 2000 page e-book called, 50 Years: The Rolling Stones – Views from the Inside, Views from the Outside.
It is a massive two-part collection of the best journalistic material spanning the Stones’ career.
The ebook includes 150 images and feature articles from Rolling Stone, The Daily Mail, and Daily Express, with everyone from girlfriends and wives to The Stones themselves. Part 1, available now covers the first 25 years of the band, from their early days in the UK, their arrival in America as part of the “British Invasion,“ and their sell-out tours around the world.
For those of us who consume Stones memorabilia like monarchists collect Windsor coffee mugs, this book is chock full of career details and key moments in the progress of these naughty boys.
Kuensler is a smooth story teller with an eye to what’s significant, like the time Stones’ manager Andrew Oldham found the Stones’ first major hit song:
“Strolling down Jermyn Street – then as now, a bijoux little street filled with stylish shirt, perfume and cigar shops running parallel to Piccadilly – he chanced upon John Lennon and Paul McCartney, who were on their way home from an all too deeply respectable Variety Club lunch. He confessed his problem to the two Beatles, and they were eager to help… As it happened, Lennon and McCartney had that very minute had an idea for a song that would suit the Rolling Stones perfectly. Following Oldham to the band’s rehearsal studio in nearby Soho, they settled in a corner for a short while and then came up with the finished song, I Wanna Be Your Man. The Stones – not to mention Oldham himself – couldn’t believe their luck.”
Such is the long career span of the Stones that this is a book for baby boomers to reminisce endlessly through the golden 60s. Even those of the boring 70s, the MTV generation of the 80s, and the 90s internet generation will find this book a revealing read. Each decade provides Stones memories, particularly as they went from performing in massive outdoor venues with gigantic theatrical sets, to the retro phase of playing in small clubs from London’s Soho to downtown New York.
The 150 pictures in this e-book are fascinating and as the publisher, Matthias Würfl says of this book, “It’s not only a journey through 50 years of the Rolling Stones, but also the history and evolution of music, press and western society of the last half century”.
Wow! What more can you ask of any rolling stone?