Formed in 1961 in Kent, England by school friends Mick Jagger and Keith Richards The Rolling Stones is widely regarded as the most successful rock band of all time. The original line-up comprised of Jagger in vocals, Richards and Brian Jones on guitars, Ian Stewart on piano, Charlie Watts on drums and Dick Taylor on bass, soon replaced by Bill Wyman. The band originally became famous for their energetic performances of R&B covers in their London gigs and were subsequently signed by Decca Records.
Their debut album “The Rolling Stones” released in 1964 included a number of old R&B classics. In contrast to the most famous band of the time, The Beatles, they opted for a bad-boy gang image that soon made them a teen idol group when they toured relentlessly Europe and America. With 1965’s “Out Of Your Heads”, 1966’s “Aftermath” and 1967’s “Between The Buttons” the rare song-writing qualities of Jagger and Richards were beginning to emerge. By the end of the decade the band became synonymous with the rebellious spirit of the 60’s and drug abuse was common within the band.
After releasing “Their Satanic Majesties’ Request” (1967) and “Beggars Banquet” (1968) Jones was sacked due his drug habits making him increasingly unreliable and as the band prepared to play a free gig in front of hundreds of thousands in London’s Hyde Park with new guitarist Mick Taylor, Jones was found dead in the swimming pool of his house. With their next album “Let It Bleed” (1969) being greatly successful, the band took-off for another US tour. In an attempt to replicate the Hyde Park gig, the band performed a free concert near San Francisco. However, the event was poorly organized and tragically a black member of the audience was stabbed to death from members of Hell’s Angels because he carried a gun and had a white girlfriend!
This murder come very soon after Jones death and Richards in particular was deeply shocked. As a result he became increasingly dependent on heroin and for the next few years he unsuccessfully attempted to cure himself in private clinics. The drugs greatly affected his private and professional life. For the next studio album Jagger worked mainly with Jones as Richards was unreliable. The result was 1971’s “Sticky Fingers” that became another big hit.
At the time The Rolling Stones came under increasing pressure by UK’s Inland Revenue for several years of unpaid taxes and as a result the band decided to move to the South of France in a secluded chateau. In the basement of their new home they recorded “Exile On Main Street” (1972) that is now considered one of their most classic albums. After the album release Jagger became more and more interested in celebrity lifestyle rather than music and as a result 1973’s “Goats Head Soup” was greatly disappointing.
In the meantime Richards was falling in deep trouble with the law because of his drug habits and also the band’s regular producer had to be sacked for increasing unreliability for similar reasons. Against all odds the band still managed to pull-off another great album with 1974’s “It’s Only Rock N’ Roll”. However, more problems were to follow as Taylor left the band due to his frustration for receiving little credit for his hard work to cover Richards’ decreasing songwriting and guitar playing role. The Stones eventually recruited Ron Wood, former guitarist of Rod Stewart’s band The Faces. At that period the band’s live shows became highly complex, theatrical and expensive, much at Jagger’s joy and Richards’ despair who considered these issues distracting from the music.
By the late 70’s Richards finally managed to settle his legal and personal problems with heroin and Jagger continued his rock-star lifestyle by becoming a regular at NY Studio 54 disco club in the company of beautiful models. At a time when punk music was at its peak, The Rolling Stones still managed to achieve considerable success with 1978’s “Some Girls”, 1980’s “Emotional Rescue” and 1981’s “Tattoo You”.