The Rolling Stones—50 Years of Rock ‘n’ Roll surveys a half century worth of images taken by LIFE staff photographers Lynn Goldsmith, Bill Eppridge, and others. The band’s early years receive heavy emphasis, with about 120 of the book’s 144 pages dedicated to the Stones in the 1960s. Which means pictures of the group from the last thirty years are crammed into the last twenty or so pages.
“Rock ‘n’ roll bands do not reach the top and stay there for 50 years,” the editors write.
“They do not fill the world’s largest stadiums every time they announce a new super-tour….Unless that band is The Rolling Stones.”
There’s a great deal to appreciate here despite the comparative lack of images from the ‘80s-00s. In fact, the retrospective is a terrific gateway keepsake for casual Stones fans because it focuses as much on the lesser-known musicians who used to be—or would have been—Rolling Stones as it does the familiar faces of Jagger, Richards, Watt, Wyman, and Wood.
The chapter Who Is Andrew Loog Oldham? introduces readers to the entrepreneurial PR man-turned-manager who orchestrated the Stones’ business affairs from 1963-1967. Described as an “energetic teen associate to Brian Epstein’s upstart Liverpool enterprise [The Beatles],” Oldham traveled with the Stones, coproduced their early records, and booked their gigs. The book claims Oldham was an attention-seeker who was every bit as precious about his own image as that of his superstar clients. He was flamboyant like Jagger, as cheeky and bravado-filled as Richards, and quite content to soak in whatever limelight spilled over from the band. Page 47 shows Oldham smoking with Jagger back in the glory days (photo by Terry O’Neill). But on page 49 we see Oldham today (Pete Millson); the young handler was nudged out of the Stones’ affairs by A&R heavyweight Alan Klein in 1967.
In the section Who Was Ian Stewart? we meet the man who cofounded the Stones with Brian Jones but was relegated to roadie after Oldham concluded the lantern-jawed pianist was one musician too many. The big-hearted Stewart accepted his demotion and faithfully transported the band and their equipment for another twenty years. He also contributed boogie-woogie keyboards on such well-known tracks as “Brown Sugar” and “Honky Tonk Women,” often without credit. The large image on pages 22-23 show the humble Stewart watching from behind the curtains as the Stones perform in concert. One can only imagine his thoughts and feelings night after night, watching his companions conquer the world and cleaning up their mess.
The “brilliant, mercurial” Brian Jones also receives a special section, given his short tenure with the band (he was dead by the end of the Sixties). Cited by many as the group’s spiritual centre early on, Jones played several instruments and was something of a fashion icon by mid-decade. Indeed, it was blonde Brian who’d placed the ad in Jazz News calling for likeminded musicians to join him in forming a new R&B group. But Jones—for all his talent—was insecure, and the songwriting partnership of Jagger / Richards assumed control with each day Jones gave himself over to drink and drugs. Jones is seen beaming in better days on page 28, playing sitar on Ready, Steady, Go! Come Summer ’69, he’d be the first of many legendary musicians (Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, etc.) in the “27 Club,” drowning at said age under mysterious circumstances at his Cotchford Farm home.
Jones’ replacement, the fleet-fingered Mick Taylor, is lauded for his work on such now-classic albums as Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main Street. Nominated for the Stones gig by bluesman John Mayall, Taylor performed huge gigs at Hyde Park and Altamont before leaving in the early Seventies; the guitarist felt he “wasn’t getting credit for songs he helped invent.” Taylor’s successor, Faces axe man Ron Wood, is presented as Richards’ perfect foil—as well as a talented painter. Pages 121-122 show Wood at home with canvases of his renderings of Jack Nicholson and John Belushi.
They say there’s no such thing as bad publicity, and Oldham employed this phenomenal to his advantage when poising the Stones as the “bad boy” antithesis to the clean-cut Beatles. If Jagger and Richards caused trouble at a restaurant, Oldham made sure everyone knew about it. “Would you let your daughter go with a Rolling Stone?” queried his liner notes for an early record. The press took the bait, amping the headline by substituting “marry” for “go with,” and called out the band for its Neanderthal haircuts and refusal to wear matching dogtooth check jackets and pants like other pop acts. Page 51 shows the group posed together in like outfits for one of the last times—but even then Jagger and Wyman couldn’t be bothered to snuff their smokes for the formal portrait.
The book also dismisses the notion that the Stones—like friendly rivals The Beatles before them—conquered America on its first trip overseas. On the contrary, it took three or four visits to the States for Jagger and Co. to cause as big a stir as the Fab Four because they were still transitioning from cover band to self-contained writing / recording ensemble. Dean Martin gave them an unenthusiastic introduction on a Hollywood Palace TV show. Ed Sullivan banned the group from his program after mortified parents called in to complain. But the Stones weren’t to be denied, and scenes like those pictured at the Palace Ballroom on the Isle of Man in August 1964 (wherein police officers carry out fainting girls) became commonplace. By the end of that year the band top-lined the multi-act TAMI show, which boasted sets by such not-so-insignificant competitors The Beach Boys, James Brown, The Supremes, and Chuck Berry. Pages 72-73 show the Stones playing the Sullivan show for the fourth time (September 1966).
The “positively chummy” camaraderie between the Stones and Beatles is examined, with the authors noting how the nine musicians were like “mates” who deferred to each other in the marketplace by alternating their record releases. Jagger and Richards were allowed to “crash” fancy black tie Beatles affairs, and Paul McCartney joined Jagger singing backup on a Marianne Faithfull record. In his first non-Beatles performance, John Lennon sang with The Dirty Mac Band (featuring Eric Clapton and Mitch Mitchell) on the Stones’ Rock and Roll Circus film. Pages 84-85 capture a funny moment between Sir Paul and Ron Wood in 1978.
Later chapter “Satisfaction, and Not” chronicles the maturation of the Stones in pictures, with images of the “Glimmer Twins” in studio, on the road, and behind the scenes. Keith poses with his prized “Blue Lena” Bentley Convertible Flying Spur. Drummer Charlie Watts bites his nails behind his kit. Mick lights a cigarette while listening to a playback on headphones. Keith is pictured with long-time girlfriend (and drug partner) Anita Pallenberg. Mick is paired with Faithfull, dubbed “Miss X” in court proceedings over the infamous drug raid at Richards’ Redlands home. Jagger doesn’t appear amused in his mug shot.
Page 101 shows the crowd gathered for Jones’ funeral outside St. Mary’s in Cheltenham on July 10, 1969. At the Hyde Park tribute show mere weeks later, Mick—in a frock—recites poetry for the 300,000-strong audience. On page 14, Jagger views footage of the mayhem at Altamont with the Maysles Brothers, who assembled the film into the concert documentary Gimme Shelter.
“Let It Bleed” has the aging musicians relocating to France for tax purposes. They play a throwback gig at the Marquee Club in London (page 112), but the relentless recording and touring leave them prone to fatigue (page 115). “Stones Alone” provides snippets of the guys’ personal lives: Keith is shown in his Pirates of the Caribbean attire and Mick is jams with Tina Turner at Live Aid in 1985. LIFE shutterbug Ken Regan presents images from his mini-vacation with the band on Long Island in 1975; the coolest shots have Jagger roaming sand dunes along the Atlantic coast and Richards busy cooking in the kitchen. Regan also shot Richards’ 1983 wedding to model Patti Hansen in Mexico (the guitarist threatened to postpone his nuptials until he caught a great white shark). We see Mick lounging on a beach with wife Jerri Hall, chatting with reggae icon Peter Tosh, and smiling with his father and daughters after being knighted in 2003.
The book concludes with a full-page reproduction of a concert flyer for a Stones show that never happened: The band was booked to play New Haven, Connecticut on June 18, 1964—but sluggish ticket sales resulted in cancellation. The Stones made it up to their New Haven fans in 1965, and again in 1989, when they played a surprise gig at Toad’s Place.