The Rolling StonesRock's First Bad Boys
The World's Greatest...ish Rock 'n' Roll Band.
During the British Invasion, The Rolling Stones always took second place to The Beatles, even though across the schoolyards of both the US and the UK, most kids felt it necessary to proclaim allegiance to one or the other. But by the time The Beatles were winding down (ironically, due in large part from having hired the Stones' abrasive and underhanded manager Allen Klein), the Stones were already declaring themselves "The Greatest Rock and Roll Band in the World."
At their best, that boast wasn't without merit. With original manager and theorist Andrew Oldham expertly creating a bad-boy mystique for his charges (who were, other than the working-class Bill Wyman, in fact perfectly respectable middle-class lads), The Rolling Stones were controversial, sexy and possibly a little dangerous, as opposed to the clean-cut image the Beatles' late manager Brian Epstein had created for his once-scruffy charges. Once Mick Jagger and Keith Richards finally started writing their own songs (the band's first five UK singles were all covers), they were noisier, bluesier and lyrically considerably darker than most of their Carnaby Street compatriots: their '65-'67 stretch of singles are about as good as anything anyone was doing in pop music at the time.
1967 saw an awkward flirtation with psychedelia -- although both Between the Buttons and Their Satanic Majesties Request are much better than their detractors claim -- but the '68-'72 stretch of albums and tours is where the Rolling Stones' legend lies. Concurrent with deepening drug use in the band and founding guitarist Brian Jones' mental deterioration (when he died in June 1969, he'd already been replaced by Mick Taylor), the Stones' bad boy image became something considerably more sinister by the time of the infamous deadly free concert at the Altamont Speedway.
But after the 1972's Exile On Main Street, what had been edgy and cool and a little scary slowly descended into camp. All but the most diehard Stones fans have their own theory on when the increasingly absurd self-parody should have ended -- 1981's Tattoo You and its enormously profitable world tour would have been an excellent farewell victory lap -- but one great decade is more than most bands get.