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The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones - their last major release sold over 5 million albums; not bad for a five decade old band. They have so many albums, that they have their own section in music stores. As the self-consciously dangerous alternative to the Beatles invasion, the Stones pioneered gritty, blues-based Rock And Roll. And how a 60ís band on a steady diet of drugs, sex and rock and roll are still alive and strut their stuff remains rock's grea test mysteries.

A Bigger Bang is their newest release, an ambitious, wide-ranging collection of high-powered rock and blues songs, and their first studio release in eight years. Running a full sixteen tracks, it is the band's longest new album since 1972's Exile On Main Street.

Mick Jagger became the prototypical rock frontman, tempering his macho showmanship with a detached, campy irony, while Keith Richards and Brian Jones exercised sinewy, interlocking rhythm guitars. Backed by the strong, subtly swinging rhythm section of bassist Bill Wyman and drummer Charlie Watts, the Stones became the breakout band of the British blues scene, eclipsing contemporaries as The Animals and Them.

The first line-up of this English 60ís unit was Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Brian Jones and Ian Stewart on drums. Mick and Keith were primary school friends who resumed their camaraderie in their teens due to mutual love for Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters and Bo Diddley. Initially, they teamed with bass player Dick Taylor and then included Jones, Stewart and occasional drummer Tony Chapman. Their patron was the renowned musician Alexis Korner, who arranged their debut gig at London's Marquee club on 21 July, 1962. In their first months, the band met opposition from jazz and blues aficionados for their alleged lack of musical 'purity'.

In late 1962, bass player Bill Wyman replaced Dick Taylor while drummers came and went. In late January, 1963, drummer Charlie Watts reluctantly surrendered his day job. The Stones' live reputation spread rapidly through London. One evening, the flamboyant Andrew Loog Oldham, entranced by commercial prospects of Jagger's unbridled sexuality, became their manager. Within weeks, Oldham had produced their first couple of recordings at IBC Studios. By this time, Decca Records' Dick Rowe successfully signed the band. After re-purchasing the IBC demos, Oldham selected Chuck Berry's Come On as the Rolling Stones debut single.

Unfortunately, pianist Ian Stewart was not deemed sufficiently pop star-like by Oldham and was unceremoniously removed, although he remained road manager and occasional pianist. The Rolling Stones released their second single, a gift from John Lennon and Paul McCartney, I Wanna Be Your Man. The disc fared better than its predecessor climbing into the Top 10 in January 1964.

The Rolling Stones catapult to fame amid outrage over their surly demeanour and the length of their hair. This was still a world in which the older members were barely coming to terms with the Beatles neatly-groomed mop tops. While newspapers asked Would you let your daughter marry a Rolling Stone?, the quintet engaged in a flurry of recording activity, releasing an EP and album, both titled The Rolling Stones. The discs captured the band at their most derivative stage. Already, there were strong signs of an ability to combine different styles. The third single, Not Fade Away, saw them fuse Buddy Holly's quaint original with a hip beat that highlighted Jagger's vocals. Phil Spector and Gene Pitney presence at the sessions underlined how hip the Rolling Stones had already become.

In the Rolling Stones' 25th studio album, A Bigger Bang, Jagger seems to have found his snarl again, and it's a welcome return to the boozy, bluesy and stoned sound they pretty much invented 43 years ago. Featuring all new songs, the album has already made a massive impact on the charts with nearly two million albums sold! Continuing their historic songwriting partnership, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards began the creative process last autumn and were later joined by Charlie Watts and Ron Wood. The band came up with the title reflecting their fascination with the origin of the universe. The Rolling Stones have just embarked on yet another grueling world tour, featuring more than 100 concerts. No other rock band in the history of popular music has been able to grow so old so well, and so gracefully.

You can read the rest of our feature on The Rolling Stones in the September 2005 issue of The Record Music Magazine available at your local newsagent.

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