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Only a few bands can claim to have the longevity of The Rolling Stones. From their feeble beginnings playing in London clubs to becoming one of the biggest acts in the world, both Mick Jagger and Keith Richards helped build an institution for what rock and roll was going to be, whether it was reinventing the idea of the guitar riff or bringing a seedy element into the music that made every song feel dangerous. Although the band already had a confident swagger starting out, Jagger thought that it wasn’t until one album that everything fell into place.
Before Jagger or Richards had even started putting their first riffs together, the idea for the band began in the mind of Brian Jones. Being able to play nearly any instrument he got his hands on, Jones would be the one who named the band and would ultimately bring Jagger and Richards into the fold when looking for new members.
Once the band started their career around London, though, they were already getting put into a competition with another band out of Liverpool. While The Beatles may have been the face of all things rock and roll after their appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, The Rolling Stones would become the dirty conduit to the Fab Four, sounding more dangerous when pumping out their versions of blues standards like ‘I Just Want to Make Love To You’.
As they started looking for original material, the band eventually got their first hit after getting a token song from The Beatles, turning in a blues-infused version of ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’. Knowing they wouldn’t get anywhere by playing the same blues tunes at every gig, Jagger and Richards quickly became a songwriting duo by default, eventually locking themselves in a room until they wrote their first song.
Although most of the band’s first studio output included covers of other bands’ material, the group’s original material would become their most celebrated work, including Richards’s gift from the guitar gods, ‘Satisfaction’. While the group would go from strength to strength on albums like Out of Our Heads, it wasn’t until Aftermath that Jagger felt that things were moving in the right direction.
Being the first album with all Jagger/Richard originals, the project ran the gamut of what the band could do, from the macabre take on the pop single ‘Mother’s Little Helper’ to the bluesy marathon jam on the song ‘Goin’ Home’. While a handful of cuts may have gotten the band into hot water later, like ‘Under My Thumb’, Jagger would consider the song a turning point in their career.
When talking about the Stones’ catalogue after the fact, Jagger thought Aftermath was one of their finest moments, telling Jann Wenner, “That was a big landmark record for me. It’s the first time we wrote the whole record and finally laid to rest the ghost of having to do these very nice and interesting cover versions of old R&B songs”.
Then again, the band would only get bigger from there, with Jagger and Richards experimenting with even more styles on projects like Between the Buttons before making hardened blues tunes of their own on Sticky Fingers. For all of the history that was made afterwards, Jagger claims that the genesis of The Rolling Stones starts here, explaining, “It had a lot of good songs, it had a lot of different styles, and it was very well recorded. So it was, to my mind, a real marker”.