We Can Make It......
Andrew Loog Oldham was the perfect manager for The Rolling stones. A
sharp-witted young Mod, full of energy and enterprise, he had tried his luck as
a pop singer, calling himself Sandy Beach, and worked briefly as a promotions
man for The Beatles, hired by Brian Epstein to a plug their second single, Please,
He understood youth culture at a time when the record industry was dominated by the old guard of
suit-wearing executives. Andrew and his older, more experienced partner, Eric Easton, both saw The Rolling Stones as raunchy alternatives to The Beatles They also decided that rather than let a record company control the product, they would make the records themselves and lease them.
They formed their own company, impact Records, and signed a deal with Decca's Dick Rowe, the man who had turned down The Beatles.
He was determined that Decca wouldn't be swamped by EMI and agreed to practically anything the Stones wanted.
All Decca insisted was that they record their first single again until 'Come On' achieved
a suitably professional sound.
The Stones found it difficult to recreate the excitement of their live act in the studio and Jagger was unused to singing in a cold, unresponsive atmosphere, They agreed to record the song another three times before they got it right. But the fledgling band weren't' pushovers. they grumbled and complained if things weren't going quickly enough
and had a healthy disrespect, for the pop industry. Right from the start they wanted to now Oldham and Easton's motives - why did they want to manage them and how would their master plan for the group be executed? The pair told the band honestly that they thought they were exciting, had enormous -potential and they would do their best to make them successful.
'Come On' released June 7, 1963, wasn't the huge hit everyone anticipated. It only reached Number 50 in the U.K. singles charts while The Beatles were riding high with 'From Me To You'. Some Stones' fans felt the record didn't fully reflect the hard edge the band displayed live. Nevertheless, it had a restless drive and Mick's vocals sounded suitably frustrated and angry as be sang Berry's lyrics: 'Some stupid guy trying to reach another number! "
Already the management team were pitching the Stones into the pop machine, encouraging Jagger and Jones to be tough on interviewers. Their rebel image was crucial to the campaign. It suited the band to be cynical and sarcastic when confronted with people who obviously knew nothing about them and were only interested in their long hair. Jagger and Richard could perform a demolition job on the unwary with shared in-jokes and giggles, while Charlie Watts would scowl and rebuff questions with a look of disgust. Brian Jones could be either courteous and polite or simply cut people dead. In the right circumstances, they could all charm interviewers with their humour and enthusiasm.
Some of the tension that surfaced around the Stones was due to the rivalry between Jagger and Jones. Explained Keith Richard: "There was a tussle between Brian and Mick. That was mainly Brian's hang-up, because Mick naturally came to the fore as the band grew from a R&B club band to a pop mania, chart thing. Between 1963 and 1964 Brian was very hung up about it. Mick was getting all the attention, yet Brian saw himself as the leader. Brian organized it and used to hold the bread after the gigs and pay everybody. But when Mick took over it caused Brian some upset which be never really quite got over. Jones wanted to sing as well as Mick, although his forte was the harmonica and slide guitar.
"l never really wanted to be the leader," defended Jagger, "but somehow I automatically got all the attention. I bad the most recognizable features, though I didn't really know or care. Brian cared a lot, but it didn't worry me. Brian was desperate for attention. He wanted to be admired and loved...
which he was by a lot of people, but it wasn't enough for him.
Keith was my friend from way back but be was also close to Brian, which was great for the band. However there were terrible periods when everyone was against Brian, which was stupid, but then Brian was a very difficult person to get on with, which didn't help."
Brian would irritate the others with his strange quirks. He pinched money from Keith and there was even a fight over a meat pie, which resulted in Keith giving Brian. a black eye. Jones was often the favourite with many of the girls who now came flocking to Stones gigs but he still felt upstaged by the charismatic Jagger.
One of the band's most important early gigs took place when the band played inside a tent at the third National Jazz & Blues Festival, held at a Richmond sports ground in August 1963.
The festival was an annual outdoor shindig, originally inspired by he example of America's Newport Jazz Festival
on Sunday afternoon (August 11), the main stage was dominated by modern and traditional jazz
bands, while the R&B acts were confined to the marquee. Acker Bilk's jazz men dutifully plunked away, while close by The Rolling Stones prepared to create history.
I was in the tent when they came on. It was hot, dangerous and exciting. At the time I was a local newspaper reporter, more used to covering coroner's inquests I ghastly accidents than reporting on rock’n roll. It was a full house, and I was convinced the whole place would either go up in flames or the occupants would be crushed in a stampede, but at the same time, I also knew that inside the marquee, a revolution was on the way.
The compeer was Bill Carey, an excitable Canadian who was secretary of the National jazz Federation. As we waited impatiently for the Stones, he pleaded with the fans not to rush the stage,
while keeping them enthused with shouts of " Shake it up!" The Shake was an early form of head banging sweeping the nations clubs; It was also known as The Twitch, which described the only kind of movement possible among closely packed fans.
A roar went up as soon as the Stones struggled into the back of the tent. There was hardly any space and no proper stage to elevate them above the heads of the crowd. Mick scowled, Brian grinned with delight and the Stones roared into 'Come On' and I’m A Hog For You Baby'. -
Through a gap in the tent walls I could see a stream of people running across the playing field, fleeing Acker Bilk's clarinet warbling to investigate the pounding beat, roaring, riffling guitars and Jagger's aggressive vocals.
Nobody could take their eyes off the band who seemed to spontaneously combust with a raw power that not even the most raucous beat groups of the era had managed. Cheers and yells for more showed that the Stones should have been on the main stage (a year later they were among the major acts headlining the festival). As exhausted dancers and fans stumbled out of the tent into the fresh air, Bill Carey was shouting through his microphone "This has been rhythm & blues, and you have made The Rolling Stones the stars of the festival!" The gig was the kind of close encounter that reflected the true spirit of the rock era, more than any spectacular stadium event.
A few days after the festival the band solved their next pressing problem -how to find a follow up to 'Come On'. They planned to release their version of “Poison Ivy” but this was withdrawn from the schedule after a chance meeting with The Beatles. Andrew Oldham met John Lennon and Paul McCartney as they were leaving a Variety Club lunch (the Variety Club is a showbiz organization) and invited them to the Studio 51 jazz club where the Stones were rehearsing. The band explained they were undecided about their next single. John and Paul played them part of a new song they were writing called 'I Wanna be Your Man', then tater completed the song and offered it to their buddies. It was recorded at Kingsway studios, London and released on November 1, 1963, coupled with a menacing B-side tune written by the band called 'Stoned'.
The Stones excited great curiosity and fanaticism. When they first got together, they had hardly been able to get a booking. They were regarded with deep suspicion by promoters and other bands who didn't share a bill with them.
Almost overnight, as their records roared up the charts, the situation changed and the Stones were in huge demand. As they began a round of ballroom appearances there was a wave of hysteria among fans that approached “Beatlemania” levels.
Police were called to control crowds, and girls screamed so loud the band couldn't themselves Play. It was madness, it was far removed from the serious aims of the R&B Revival, but the band, despite their occasional protestations, loved every minute.
It was fun, it exciting and they were getting paid!
Keith Richard remembered the impact of those early gigs: "It was weird. Being on the road every night you can tell by the way the gigs were going, there's something enormous coming. You can feel this energy building up as you go around the country.
"You feel it winding tighter and tighter until one day you get out there and halfway through the first number and the whole stage is full of chicks screaming. There was a period of six months in England when we couldn't play ballrooms anymore because we never got through more than three of four songs. Chaos. Police and people fainting, gasping, tits hanging out, chicks choking, nurses running around with ambulances. We couldn't hear ourselves for years. Monitors were unheard of. It was impossible to play as a band on stage and we forgot all about it".
Throughout the summer of 1963 the band played a mixture of jazz clubs and ballrooms, then in September they were booked to play on a package tour of movie houses, supporting the Everly Brothers and Bo Diddley, in a show presented by promoter Don Arden.
The rising young British band impressed their American hosts, and it wasn't long before friend- ships and liaisons were formed. Another U.S. visitor to Britain was singer Gene Pitney, who quickly became intrigued by the group. Mick and Keith flexed their song writing muscles and wrote 'That Girl Belongs To Yesterday' for him. The single was produced by Phil Spector and released in December. The unknown, starving musicians who had started the year facing apathy and rejection, were now being feted by the stars of the music business.
Dressed in smart jackets and tight trousers, the Stones were far from being the dirty, scruffy beatniks the press, delighted in calling them. They simply tried to, avoid wearing uniforms and their hair grew perceptibly longer during 1964. On January 6 the band started their second British tour on a package called Group Scene 1964, which included the Ronettes, Marty Wilde, the Swinging Blue Jeans and Dave Berry and the Cruisers. A sour note for the R&B fans came just they started the tour: they heard the news that, Cyril Davies, the brilliant harmonica player with Blues lncorporated and one of the founders of the British R&B revival, had died of leukaemia.
The Stones released their first EP, simply called 'The Rolling Stones', on January 17. It featured 'You Better Move On' 'Poison lvy', 'Bye Bye Johnny', and 'Money', all tunes which reflected the Stones' enthusiasm for contemporary R&B and soul, and moving away from their Chuck Berry roots. It entered the U.K. singles charts at Number 28 and stayed there for 11 weeks, peaking at 15. Its success helped convince Decca that the Stones were ready for their first album.
Recording began at Regent Sound Studios in London, with Phil Spector and Gene Pitney sitting in on the sessions, The same month the Stones sang 'I Wanna Be Your Man' on the first edition of BBC TV's weekly Top Of The Pops. There were few in the country who hadn't heard of the Stones, and retired-colonel-types wrote to national daily The Times demanding to know if the appearance of these young "hooligans" meant the nation was going to the dogs.
Such was the outrage at the Stones' habit of flaunting conventional dress and appearance, they were frequently refused service in restaurants and hotels. It all helped their image immensely.
In February the Stones were hastily added to another package tour which included John Leyton, Mike Berry and Jet Harris, and in March released their most dynamic single so far, 'Not Fade Away'. The Buddy Holly song was given a strong Bo Diddley beat with Phil Spector playing maracas. Spector-,the man who had invented the famous "wall of sound" for such artists as The Ronettes, and also co-wrote the B-side 'Little By Little', with Mick Jagger.
The Stones' third single spent nine weeks in the U.K. charts and peaked at Number 3. Out on the road, the frenzied reaction whenever they appeared showed no signs of abating. On April 18 they caused a near riot at the Mad Mod Ball promoted by TV pop show Ready, Steady Go!, held at London's Empire Pool (later renamed Wembley Arena). In an 8,000-strong crowd, there were some fans who went berserk and 30 were arrested. The Stones returned to the cavernous Arena on April 26 to play at music paper New Musical Express's annual Poll Winner's concert, sharing the bill with their mates The Beatles and The Dave Clark Five.
On April 16 1964, their first album was released. There were 100,000 advance orders for The Rolling Stones and it quickly went to the top of the U.K. album charts, knocking off With The Beatles. Andrew Oldham insisted that the group's name be left off the cover, a daring innovation that only added to the album's appeal.
The album's 12 tracks were recorded at Regent Sound, produced by Andrew Oldham and Eric Easton. Andrew wrote the sleeve notes, summing up the mood when he said 'The Rolling Stones are more than just a group-they are a way of life. A way of life that has captured the imagination of the nation's teenagers, and made them one of the most sought after groups in Beatdom...'
The Rolling Stones kicked in with a driving version of the old standard ,Route 66' and an even more exciting thrash on Willie Dixon's' I Just Want To Make Love To You' - Jagger's vocals were sultry and sexy on the bluesy I’m A King Bee', and full of anguished, soulful protestation on “You Can Make It If You Try”.
Although, the guitars of Keith and Brian chattered and howled nervous energy, curiously enough it was Bill Wyman,s sturdy bass lines that added most it was strength to the tracks, notably on the driving “ Can I Get A Witness”.
By now word bad spread to America and 'Not Fade Away' entered the U.S. charts at Number 98.
Eric Easton flew to the States to set up dates for the band, then on June 1, The Rolling Stones arrived in America, at JFK Airport, New York, for their first US- tour.
The pop world has waiting with bated breath to see the Stones could emulate The Beatles, transatlantic success. The single stayed in the U.S. charts for 13 weeks but its highest position was only number 48. The Stones still had a lot of hard work to do in the U.S. but for the boys it was a thrill to visit America - In the days before package holidays and - cheaper fares, few British people could afford to visit to USA and the impressionable young musicians were thrilled by the vibrant culture shock of hitting New York.
They were less than thrilled at the reception they were given by movie actor and singing star Dean Martin, when they shared a billing with him on the Hollywood Palace TV show.
"Their hair isn't long, it's just smaller foreheads and higher eyebrows!' quipped Martin. But it wasn't a personal attack so mush as a reflection of astonishment of mid-die-aged America when confronted by the Stones' appearance. When a trampoline artist appeared on the show, Dean added- "That's the Rolling Stones' father, He's been trying to kill himself ever since."
Was teenage America ready to give the band an ecstatic welcome? Encouragement came with the first date of the tour at San Bernardino in California, on June 5. 1964, when they went down well. It was a different story in San Antonio on June 7, at a show called The Teen Fair of Texas. The Stones were reportedly booed by a small crowd of 3,000 who had turned up to the 20,000- seat auditorium. The Stones were obviously in the wrong venue at the wrong time. But both management and band weren't about to give up without a fight.
A new single, 'Tell Me', written by Jagger and Richard, was only released in the States, coupled with “I Just Wanna Make love To You”. It reached number 24 and stayed in the charts for ten weeks, helping to raise the band's profile. During June, the band trudged across the States playing in Minneapolis, Minnesota (June 12), Omaha, Nebraska (13), Detroit, Michigan (14), Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (17), Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (19), and then on June 20 they played two concerts at Carnegie Hall, New York.
It was back to familiar adulation when they flew into London on June 23. They were greeted by screaming fans at Heathrow Airport, and the news that they bad won yet more newspaper pop polis. if their first trip to America had been only a qualified success, there was no mistaking the build-up of Stones fever in the U. K.
The band's next single, 'It's All Over Now” an irresistible, rolling, tumbling piece of pure Stones- tore into the U.K. charts at Number 7, staying for 13 weeks before reaching number 1 in the charts of U.K. weekly Melody Maker.
By now the exhaustion and strain of making their name was beginning to show, and the Stones were becoming guarded and surly in interviews.
Asked about their chart success Jagger retorted 'I don't care a damn if our record has reached Number One... what's it matter anyway?"
'It's All Over Now' (written by Bobby Womack) bad been recorded at the famous Chess studios in Chicago during their U.S. tour, and gave the Stones an opportunity to meet their R&B idols like Chuck Berry. It wasn't what the band expected. A shocked Keith Richard found Muddy Waters employed at the studio as a decorator, while Berry was initially hostile to the young English kids who bad been using his material -hardly surprising in some ways, but it wasn't true that the Stones were just ripping off other artists' material.
Their efforts reawakened interest in authentic R&B and blues musicians who would otherwise have been doomed to oblivion. The Stones' early enthusiasm for R&B was genuine and their fame unquestionably revived careers. There were many who had cause to be grateful for the Stones' success, and as summer 1964 rolled on, that success was fast establishing The Rolling Stones as legends in their own right.
Back to Stones History