And The Winner Is…
We recently undertook the task of figuring out who was the greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll of all time. The conclusion? The Rolling Stones.
The four core members of The Rolling Stones: (from left) Charlie Watts, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger and Ron Wood.
Here are five reasons the “lads from London” are the greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll band ever:
July 2012 will mark the 50th anniversary of The Rolling Stones’ first gig (at London’s Marquee Club). In all likelihood, the band will commemorate the occasion with a 2013 tour. Industry analysts are already predicting that a 50th Anniversary Tour will become the most profitable music tour of all time. No other Rock ‘n’ Roll band of this stature has lasted this long. Put in perspective, The Beatles existed for only about 10 years, or just one-fifth the amount of time The Stones have been playing together. The Stones have outlasted the administrations of eight U.S. presidents.
And the band has lived through one technological advance after another; The Stones started out appearing on black-and-white television, then prospered on MTV during the 80s music-video explosion and now have taken up permanent residence online. (The Rolling Stones was also the first big act to broadcast a concert via the Internet, when a 20-minute video was “streamed” in 1994.) Many passing fads have come and gone during this time, yet The Stones remain as steady and unchanging as the Rock of Gibraltar. The group is one of the few musical acts to chart Number One albums in three separate decades—yet more proof of its enduring appeal.
The five-decade writing partnership between Jagger and Richards has created some of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s most durable songs. The pair produces music under the name “The Glimmer Twins.”
2. You Can’t Get Them Out of Your Head
Tune in to any Classic Rock channel and you’ll hear reason after reason why The Stones are our top pick. The group’s signature tunes (and there are many) include “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” “Brown Sugar,” “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” “Honky Tonk Women,” “Start Me Up,” “Paint It, Black,” “Wild Horses,” “Get Off My Cloud,” “Street Fighting Man,” “Tumbling Dice,” “Ruby Tuesday,” “Gimme Shelter,” “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” “19th Nervous Breakdown,” “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” “Angie,” “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It),” “Miss You,” “Shattered” and the list rolls on and on.
Aside from its long string of hit singles (which includes nine Number One smashes), the group has racked up an amazing number of album sales. Among the 24 studio albums, 12 live albums and various compilation albums, The Stones have amassed worldwide sales topping 200 million albums. Beyond that, starting with “Sticky Fingers,” the group had eight straight albums hold the Number One spot on the U.S. charts.
3. The Live Performances
The Stones’ last tour is now considered the highest-grossing tour of all time, earning $558 million. During this tour alone, some 4.6 million fans caught one of the band’s 147 shows. Calculating the total number of people who have seen The Rolling Stones in concert over the decades is probably impossible, but some estimates have claimed the band has played between 2,000 and 2,500 total full-scale concerts, which excludes television appearances and similar gigs. (Another way to think about that total is one show per night, every night…for almost seven straight years.)
In addition, The Stones played the single biggest concert ever, when its February 2006 concert on the Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) was attended by an estimated 1.5 million people. At this point, it’s safe to assume that The Rolling Stones have played Rock ‘n’ Roll music live to more human beings than any other group ever. And each and every audience member has gotten their money’s worth.
The cover of The Stones’ sprawling 1972 epic “Exile on Main Street,” which “The ‘Rolling Stone’ Album Guide” called “the best double album in rock & roll history.”
4. Artistic Achievement
Judging artistic achievement can be tricky, because it’s partly a subjective exercise. Nonetheless, over time a critical consensus is reached about the worth of certain works of art. And among Rock ‘n’ Roll acts, no other outfit can match The Stones for musical masterpieces—not even The Beatles, whose classic works really consist of five albums (“Rubber Soul” (‘65), “Revolver” (‘66), “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” (‘67), “The Beatles” which is usually called “The White Album” (‘68) and “Abbey Road” (‘69)).
Meanwhile, The Rolling Stones have made no fewer than eight albums which are now considered undisputed Rock ‘n’ Roll masterpieces: “The Rolling Stones, Now!” (‘65), “Aftermath” (‘66), “Beggars Banquet” (‘68), “Let it Bleed” (‘69), “Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out!” (‘70), “Sticky Fingers” (‘71), “Exile on Main Street” (’72) and “Some Girls” (‘78). The Stones’ five-year period between 1968 and 1972 is considered one of the greatest creative streaks Rock ‘n’ Roll music has ever seen.
5. Consistent Personnel
No major older band still retains its original line-up, but The Stones come close. Three of the original five members (lead vocalist Mick Jagger, rhythm guitar genius Keith Richards and master drummer Charlie Watts) are still active. Even the band’s replacement members have been around for a long time.
Guitarist Ron Wood, for example, has been playing with the group since the mid-70s—more than 35 years. Even “newcomer” bassist Darryl Jones, who replaced original member Bill Wyman, has been with the band for nearly 20 years. Only two members of the group ever officially quit, and Richards has repeatedly stated that The Rolling Stones is a lifetime gig. (“The only way out of this band is in a box,” he once quipped.)
Secret Weapon: Drummer Charlie Watts, seen here on stage and behind plexiglass screens containing that show’s set list.
Keepers of the Flame
Although The Rolling Stones have assimilated other forms of music into its overall sound, at its core the band has remained faithful to its Blues-steeped influences. (The band was named after a song by Blues legend Muddy Waters, as was Dylan’s classic “Like a Rolling Stone” and the magazine “Rolling Stone.”) Even now, whenever he travels, Keith Richards carries Chuck Berry’s entire body of music with him—so obsessed is he with the great early rocker. And like the great Blues artists, The Rolling Stones have always planned to carry on playing their unique style of music even into their senior years. Back in 1972, an interviewer asked Mick Jagger if he could see imagine himself still belting out “Satisfaction” on stage in his sixties. “Yeah, easily” replied Jagger, without hesitating for a single second. And on they roll.
The Debate Rages On
Music lovers root for their favorite bands like sports fans supporting their preferred team. Emotions can run high, because music is precious to nearly everybody. No wonder so many young people want to learn music production and join the recording industry.
What do you think is the greatest band of all time? Oh yeah? Well maybe you’d like to step outside and settle this thing once and for all…
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