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The Rolling Stones

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To paraphrase one of their seminal rock classics, perhaps The Rolling Stones never can quite get enough satisfaction. How else can we explain the legendary Jagger-Richards songwriting partnership's nearly four decades of explosive work, and the band's continuing desire to tour the world every few years in defiance of the normal human aging process? Keith Richards, the band's enduring rhythm guitarist, has been recently quoted as saying, when asked when he would stop playing rock, "When the hearse pulls up."

No doubt, the ongoing legend and global adoration has its root in the Stones' identity as the quintessential bad boy rebels of rock.  

The legend has Jagger and Keith Richards meeting while bumping into each other on the platform at Dartford railway station, where Richard notices a blues album under Mick's arm. A bond is struck immediately and the two form a band with boogie-woogie pianist Ian Stewart (later becoming a perennial member of their management crew) and blues guitarist Brian Jones from Cheltenham. 

They make their live debut in 1962 at London's Marquee Club and soon are playing pubs around the city. Bassist Bill Wyman joins late in the year, followed quickly by drummer Charlie Watts. After hooking up with wunderkind rock manager Andrew Loog-Oldham, and a month after signing to Decca Records (famous for passing on the Beatles), The Stones release their first single, "Come On," an obscure Chuck Berry cover which hits #21 on the UK charts. The second single, "I Wanna Be Your Man," is given to the group by John Lennon and Paul McCartney after they run into the Stones on the street.

The group begins 1964 on their first major package tour supporting The Ronettes, and the Buddy Holly-penned "Not Fade Away" becomes the Stones' first Top Ten hit. In June, the band's cover of the Valentinos' "It's All Over Now," recorded at Chicago's legendary Chess Studios, becomes their first #1 and gold record. In August of 1965, "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" sweeps  the world on its way to becoming one of the biggest Stones anthems ever. It also marks the beginning of the songwriting powerhouse of Jagger-Richards.

The following year's Aftermath is the first to be entirely written by Jagger-Richards, while 1967's Between The Buttons album sees a further flowering of the psychedelically-inclined studio experimentation.  An ongoing flurry of drug busts, court cases, appeals and constant media attention has a marked effect on the Stones' recording career, which is severely curtailed. Matters reach a crisis point in June 1969 when Jones, overwhelmed by drug abuse and emotional exhaustion, officially leaves the group, only to be found dead the following month in the swimming pool of his Sussex house, which had once belonged to writer A.A. Milne. Former John Mayall guitarist Mick Taylor is hired in 1969 and departs at the end of 1974 replaced, after a lengthy search, by former Faces guitarist Ron Wood.  

By the second half of the 70s, the gaps in the Stones' recording and touring schedules are becoming wider. By 1977, the British music press has taken punk to its heart and some feel the Stones are old news. They respond to the challenge of their younger critics with a powerful comeback album, Some Girls, featuring the disco-friendly #1 hit "Miss You." The Stones reconvene in 1980 for Emotional Rescue, their first UK #1 since 1973.  1981's Tattoo You is essentially a crop of old outtakes but the material is anything but stale; its single, the irrepressible "Start Me Up" a reminder of the Stones at their 60's best.

By the mid 80s, the Stones are concentrating more and more on individual projects. When Richards releases the first solo work of his career in 1988, the Stones' obituary seems imminent. As if to confound the obituarists, however, the Stones regroup and release Steel Wheels in 1989, which launches a major world tour.

After nearly 30 years together, the Rolling Stones began the 90s with the biggest-grossing international tour of all time, and ending speculation about their future by reiterating their intention of playing on indefinitely. Wyman officially resigns in 1993, however.

A few years later, Voodoo Lounge wins the Stones their first Grammy for Best Rock Album. After 1997's Bridges to Babylon, the group issued another live set, No Security.

Mick Jagger recently received a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth for his services to music. Keith, who did not, was suitably sarcastic about Mick being so honored. The Stones 2003 tour was the third largest grossing behind Bruce Springsteen, and Celine Dion's stand in Vegas.

© 2004