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The Rolling Stones

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Sure, Liverpool 1963 was Beatles territory. But in London, same year, one of the most rough-and-ready acts on the R&B scene was the Rollin’ (the ”g” was added later) Stones, a six-piece outfit then in residence at the Crawdaddy Club.

The lads — Brian Jones, Mick Jagger, Keith Richard (the ”s” was added later), Bill Wyman, pianist Ian Stewart, and new drummer Charlie Watts — were hot on stage, but they also wanted to make a record. So on March 11, 1963, they set up shop at IBC Studios on Portland Place for their first recording session ever. Like good purists, they stuck to their R&B roots: Bo Diddley, Willie Dixon, and Jimmy Reed. Then, with five minutes remaining in the three-hour session, they added Reed’s ”Bright Lights, Big City.”

Record execs were less than thrilled with the results. (They thought the Stones’ R&B sounded too raw to be commercial; indeed, these versions were never released.) But the boys were undaunted. On May 1, they signed a management contract with 19-year-old Andrew Loog Oldham, who had been an assistant to Beatles manager Brian Epstein. Oldham moved quickly: He demoted Stewart to road manager and studio-only pianist, and he arranged a recording deal with Dick Rowe, the head of A&R for Decca Records.

On the evening of May 10, the Stones did their first session for Decca, recording Chuck Berry’s ”Come On” and Dixon’s ”I Want to Be Loved.” Mick Jagger later recalled the night as ”a bunch of bloody amateurs, ignorant as hell, making a hit single,” while Oldham remembered howling: ”This is the first session I’ve ever handled! I don’t know a damned thing about recording — or music, for that matter.”

What he did know, however, was how to market his clients, stressing their untidy appearance and sullen demeanor. ”By the time I got through planting all that negative publicity,” he later said, ”there wasn’t a parent in Britain that wasn’t repulsed by the very sound of their name.” They stayed raw. They stayed sullen. They stayed Stones.


TIME CAPSULE
March 11, 1963

J.D. Salinger’s Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters hit the ceiling on the fiction best-seller list. The Beverly Hillbillies struck it rich on TV. And the Four Seasons urged listeners to ”Walk Like a Man.”

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