all the British bands that purloined American music and sold it back to the States,
none have matched the Rolling Stones' ingenious, energized redesigns of roots
influences. The Stones didn't so much pay homage to their roots as create revelatory,
enduring rock 'n' roll extensions of black Chicago and Delta blues, R&B, gospel
and hardcore country, playing up the sexually rhythmic charge of the music by
pushing it in new directions.
Before they were the "world's
greatest rock 'n' roll band," the Stones were one of England's best cover
bands. Singer Mick Jagger, guitarists Keith Richards and Brian Jones, drummer
Charlie Watts and bassist Bill Wyman were passionate blues fans, and unlike other
British R&B bands of the day, they put their own nasty edge on the material.
An outgrowth of Blues Incorporated, the Rolling Stones made their first single,
a cover of Chuck Berry 's "Come On," in 1963 and recorded their 1964
album debut, The Rolling Stones (England's Newest Hitmakers), in just 10 days.
It's a crackling explosion of bluesy beat that runs from the lead-off "Not
Fade Away" through the buzz of "Route 66," "King Bee"
"Carol" and "Walking The Dog." The group's ability to infuse
rhythm & blues tunes with their own fertile energy jump beats carried through
12 X 5 and The Rolling Stones Now!, a toughened blues-rock jewel.
next five U.S. albums, which saw Jagger-Richards blossom as songwriters, are vibrant
pastiches of various studio sessions that didn't match the U.K. releases and orphaned
a couple hit singles. Out Of Our Heads provided the breakthroughs of "The
Last Time" and "Satisfaction." The raucous December's Children
artfully mixed bad-boy blues slink ("Look What You've Done") with zooming
rock 'n' roll ("Get Off My Cloud") and convincing balladry ("As
Tears Go By"). It was the all-original Aftermath (1966) that most effectively
reworked blues roots into exciting new hybrids, like Jones's gypsy hook on "Paint
It Black." Jones's harmonica also powered "Going Home" from its
origins as a two-minute, 30-second song into a trend-setting 11-minute jam.
The Buttons, with "Let's Spend The Night Together" and "Ruby Tuesday"
spliced in, and the leftovers of Flowers were entertaining, almost vaudeville
detours with newfound melodic flair that showed some Beatles influence and sometimes
strained Jagger's rogue vocals. Their Satanic Majesties Request blatantly knocked-off
Sgt. Pepper's while yielding a few psychedelic highs.