The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones were unquestionably a part of the British Invasion, first touring the United States in 1964, but neither their records nor their performances made much of an impact, other than a negative one. The Stones struggled to create an audience in America, though in England their fans exhibited even greater hysteria than those of the Beatles. Their image was deliberately raunchy. They had once been convinced to appear on stage in matching hounds tooth jackets, but the attempt to clean up their image was a failure. The Beatles appeared on stage as a polished act, the Stones appeared as a grubby, loud, and unkempt gang.
Much of the Stones’ image was contrived, deliberately positioning them as the antithesis of the squeaky clean Beatles and other groups like the Searchers and Herman’s Hermits. Their image was intended to attract the rebellious streak in some youths, and the overt sexuality of the band’s performances was directed at the young girls in the audience. The music they played wasn’t the pop of the Liverpool acts, but American blues, with driving beats and sexually charged lyrics. In New York they created the same chaos which followed them wherever they played in Great Britain, but once in the hinterlands they performed before largely empty venues.
They performed a two week stand at the Texas State Fair, where they were received with mostly disdain, and suffered the catcalls regarding their long hair. In Omaha, Nebraska, Keith Richards had his first encounter with a drawn gun pointed at him, when he refused to pour a Coca-Cola down a toilet. The policemen who ordered him to do so thought the beverage included alcohol, illegal at the venue. While the Beatles often complained that their audience couldn’t hear them through the sounds of their own screams, the Stones found little audience at all. But they kept working, gradually building a following in the United States, with their albums selling well.
Not until 1965, after the Stones unleashed Satisfaction, which was written in a Florida motel room, did the Stones generate the excitement in the United States equal to their British following. It was followed with a string of hit records, sold-out crowds at ever larger venues, television appearances, and more controversy. The Rolling Stones never made a movie to exploit their songs, nor did they have cartoon counterparts and a line of merchandise based on their image. They did record a jingle for a Rice Krispies commercial, their only attempt to exploit their name outside of their records and performances.
Following the impact of the British Invasion the Rolling Stones cemented their enduring image as the bad boys of rock and roll, with drug busts, controversial interviews and performances, and other brushes with the authorities. Before the decade ended one of its original members and the man who gave the band its name, Brian Jones, was fired from the group days before drowning in his swimming pool. The last surviving band from the British Invasion, the Stones were initially one of its least successful in the United States. Even in 1965, the year of their first number one hit in America, Satisfaction, the Stones didn’t sell as many records there as Herman’s Hermits.