Throwing Stones XII: Joltin’ News Flash

(This is Part XII. To read Part XI, click Throwing Stones XI: Out Of Time.)

In Part XI, the Stones ditched manager-producer Andrew Oldham and released a psychedelic album.

KeefIn the wake of the disappointing Their Satanic Majesties Request, longtime scene watchers began dismissing The Rolling Stones as has-beens. With producer Andrew Loog Oldham out of the picture and their artistic stock at an all-time low, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards made two key decisions. The first was to forget about psychedelia and other pop trends and get back to being a rock ’n’ roll band. The second was to hire American Jimmy Miller as their producer.

Miller had produced two huge Brit R&B hits, “I’m A Man” and “Gimme Some Lovin’,” both of which featured a young Steve Winwood. Jimmy Miller knew his way around a studio. More importantly, his experience as a drummer meant he knew how to shape a groove and drive a song.

220px-Jackflash1At the end of May, 1968, The Stones released “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” A bracing blast of guitar-driven rock, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” leapt to the top of the charts, bounding to number one in England and number three in the U.S.

“Jumpin’ Jack Flash” was a slap upside the head of everyone who had written off The Rolling Stones–including rock critics, the mainstream press and the touchy-feely hippie culture. Musically, the Miller-produced single codified what would become the band’s signature sound, and defined the sound of rock ’n’ roll for more than a decade.

Lyrically, the song  marked the beginning of a four-year period in which The Rolling Stones rode the Zeitgeist like no other act in the history of popular music. Far from a flower-power peace poem, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” told the story of a battered survivor emerging triumphant–a street urchin reinvented as a star. As the sixties slid from halcyon to harrowing, the message was clear: Toughen up, or you’ll never make it in this world. It would prove to be timely advice. A year of unprecedented upheaval was less than half over.

In January 1968, the North Vietnamese laid siege to the American base at Khe Sanh. The  battle would rage for more than five months. On January 23, North Korean forces seized the U.S.S. Pueblo. Days later, the North Vietnamese launched the Tet Offensive.

220px-RFK_and_MLK_togetherIn March, a demonstration led by Martin Luther King, Jr. ended in a confrontation that left many injured and an African American teenager dead. The Johnson administration announced yet another troop increase in Vietnam, and war protestors at Columbia University were violently removed from campus buildings. On April 4, King was murdered in Memphis, sparking massive riots and National Guard deployments in major American cities.

In May, student protests in France led to bloody battles with police. French unions joined the students in a massive general strike that pushed the country to the brink of revolution, and an angry President de Gaulle brought the military into play.

Shortly after midnight on June 5, Robert Kennedy was gunned down in the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. In August, the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia, crushing the Prague Spring beneath the treads of their tanks. A week later, protests at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago led to a “police riot” as the Daley machine’s troops ran amuck.

That same month, the Stones released “Street Fighting Man.” A taut tribute to political confrontation, the controversial song was widely banned, and charted poorly. But in America, radio itself was undergoing a revolution. The rise of free-form FM was beginning to make the singles charts seem irrelevant, and heavy airplay on the new (non) format made “Street Fighting Man” an anthem.

Have you ever wondered why baby boomers take rock ’n’ roll so seriously? How the music went from being dismissed as teen fodder to being considered a formidable cultural force? Why so many people still give a rat’s rear-end about a bunch of rich old men who call themselves “The Rolling Stones”? The answer lies beyond “Satisfaction,” The Summer of Love, Some Girls and stadium shows. Because, when “Street Fighting Man” was released, it seemed less a song than a news flash from a source you could trust.


That was no small feat in 1968. Throughout the year, even the mainstream media’s belief in the establishment had been shaken to the core. At the end of February, Walter Cronkite broadcast an unprecedented report. The most trusted newsman in America declared that the U.S. Government’s version of events in Vietnam was a P.R. pipe dream. The nation was mired in a stalemate, and risking “a cosmic disaster.”

A few months later, a young CBS reporter named Dan Rather was roughed up by Mayor Daley’s goons on the floor of the Democratic convention. Knocked to the ground during a live broadcast, Rather struggled to reconcile the reality of his situation with his cherished beliefs about America. The rest of the world watched, and did the same.

220px-Beggar_BanquetIn October, a peaceful protest march in Ireland was set upon by truncheon toting police, injuring over 100 and leading to two days of rioting in Derry. Mexican police and military troops opened fire on student protestors in Mexico City, leaving at least 45 dead and hundreds injured. Later that month in the same city, two U.S. athletes set off a scandal at the Olympic Games by giving the black power salute during a medal ceremony. In November, Richard Nixon won the presidency, narrowly defeating Hubert Humphrey.

In early December, the Stones released Beggars Banquet. Their seventh studio album, Banquet had been delayed due to a spat over its cover. The first version featured a graffiti-riddled public restroom. Sir Edward Lewis, President of Decca Records, was not amused. Potty-free artwork was eventually approved. The album was a huge critical and commercial success. Rolling Stone magazine declared it the “comeback of the year.”

260px-NASA-Apollo8-Dec24-EarthriseAt the height of the holiday season, astronauts aboard Apollo 8 orbited the moon. For the first time in history, human beings saw images of the earth as a whole planet. As one of the most turbulent years in modern history drew to a close, dread and disaster, riots and rock bands, wars and wishes for a better world were suddenly seen from an unprecedented perspective. Perhaps there was hope for us all after all.

(This concludes Part XII. Click now to read Throwing Stones XIII: The Devil And Mr. Jones!)



Throwing Stones XI: Out Of Time

(For Part X, click Throwing Stones X: Hear Me Knocking.)

In Part X, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards avoided prison on drug charges, while producer and co-manager Andrew Loog Oldham left England, seeking help for drug and mental health issues.

Sgt._Pepper's_Lonely_Hearts_Club_BandOn June 1, 1967, the Beatles released Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The iconic audio achievement of  The Summer of Love, Pepper  was the ultimate pop cultural game-changer. Brilliantly conceived, enthusiastically performed, technically innovative and wildly creative, the album was the product of extraordinarily high standards and a demanding schedule. Its arrival could not have been more perfectly timed.

The Fab Four had upped the ante yet again, delivering a critically lauded masterwork and a runaway bestseller.  Anyone who thought the Stones would soon do the same was unaware of the many forces buffeting the band.

Like Mick Jagger and Keith Richards before him, Brian Jones was busted for drugs.  Jones was already in the midst of a harrowing personal disintegration, and routinely missed recording sessions.  The stress of his arrest and trial accelerated his decline. When he did make it to the studio, Jones was typically immersed in a chemical fog so thick he couldn’t stay awake, much less play an instrument.  Thin-skinned, paranoid and subject to terrifying mood swings, Jones became increasingly violent with girlfriends, driving his great love, the actress and model Anita Pallenberg, into the arms of fellow guitarist Keith Richards.

BJESLike Brian Jones, producer and co-manager Andrew Loog Oldham was struggling with mental health and addiction issues. Oldham’s talent for making money was exceeded only by his ability to spend it, and despite all of his success, he found himself in a constant financial pinch. Desperate for ready cash, Oldham slowly sold more and more of his stake in the Stones to co-manager Allen Klein.

Oldham’s vanishing act during the Jagger-Richards’ drug debacle cost him his last, best chance to return to the team’s good graces. His failure to ride shotgun on a brief, fan-mayhem-filled European tour was yet another strike against him. Mick and Keith decided it was time for Andrew to go. They proceeded to push him out in a ruthless psychological war of attrition.

MickMoonThe Stones were contracted to Decca records through Oldham’s production company. Because that company would eventually own the masters, Oldham was responsible for all recording costs. During Oldham’s absences, Mick Jagger had become more involved in the band’s day-to-day operations.  Jagger knew that studio time came out of Oldham’s pocket, and was well aware of Andrew’s iffy finances.

When it came time to record The Rolling Stones next album, Oldham was stunned to learn that the Jagger-Richards songwriting team had failed to generate any new material.  Jagger and Richards blamed the dry spell on their legal troubles. Oldham knew he was in no position to call them out on that excuse.

Suddenly, Brian Jones wasn’t the only Rolling Stone failing to report for work. Throughout the summer of ’67, Oldham found himself in the studio with the meter running, and only bassist Bill Wyman, drummer Charlie Watts and sometime pianist Ian Stewart to keep him company. When Jagger and Richards did turn up, they brought plenty of friends along, reducing a leading London studio to a pricey party rental.

their-satanic-majesties-request-600x537Jagger and Richards snickered at Oldham’s motivational efforts, and often refused to acknowledge his presence at all. Progress was slow, painful and expensive. Mick Jagger seemed more interested in coming up with an elaborate graphics package for the new LP than recording it. Of course, the cost of the artwork would be coming out of Oldham’s cash flow.

Being humiliated by his former friends in front of entourages and recording engineers took a brutal toll on Andrew Loog Oldham. Bullied to the brink of a breakdown, he came to view escape as his only option.

One particularly unproductive evening, Oldham slipped out of a session and into his chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce. He eventually asked his driver to stop at a phone booth. Oldham called the studio, got Jagger on the line and resigned. He and Jagger agreed to let Klein handle the business side of the separation.

Four years and a few months after he signed on as the manager of an obscure cover band, Andrew Loog Oldham leapt off the rocket ride known as The Rolling Stones. Oldham sold his remaining interest to Allen Klein. Klein insisted that Oldham continue to receive royalties from records he had produced. Decades later, Klein explained his uncharacteristic generosity. He had made sure his former business partner had a source of income to prevent Oldham from hitting him up for money for the rest of his life.

KeefAtMick Jagger and Keith Richards won their war with Oldham, but suffered heavy artistic casualties. The many months of chaotic sessions eventually birthed Their Satanic Majesties Request.  Already dated when it hit the stores in December of 1967, the album was widely dismissed as a patchy  Sgt. Pepper  rip-off. The expensive 3-D lenticular cover only added to the absurdity. Dressed in cheesy medieval outfits and posed in front of a pint-sized plastic castle, the sheepish Stones appeared to be trapped in a photo booth at the world’s tackiest renaissance festival.

A shapeless psychedelic hodgepodge that has aged with all the grace of polyester bellbottoms and orange shag carpet, Majesties sold well at the time. Released during the holiday season, it was the perfect gift for that hard-to-shop-for hippie on everyone’s list.

Mick Jagger would eventually blame the entire erratic enterprise on drugs. Today, the bad vibes bubbling under the album’s creation seem eerily appropriate. The Summer of Love marked the shimmering high tide of the Aquarian dream. Their Satanic Majesties Request  was the last, gurgling echo of a grand delusion going down the drain. Events would take on an increasingly nightmarish quality as the sixties sank into a long, dark winter of discontent.

 (This concludes Part XI of Throwing Stones. Click now to read Part XII: Joltin’ News Flash.)


Throwing Stones X: Hear Me Knocking

(For Part IX, click Throwing Stones IX: Offstage Lines.)

In Part IX, Allen Klein renegotiated the Rolling Stones record deal. The band followed up an American TV misfire by refusing to wave to fans on an English broadcast, angering Manager Andrew Loog Oldham.

Manager Andrew Loog Oldham’s fears of an official backlash against the Rolling Stones proved prescient. It arrived on February 12, 1967, courtesy of the Chichester constabulary and the infamous British tabloid News of the World.


News of the World had become the bestselling newspaper on the planet by focusing on grisly crimes and salacious celebrity scandals—the more lurid, the better. The paper operated a vast network of dirt diggers and secret informants that penetrated all levels of show business and law enforcement. As if that wasn’t enough, NOTW reporters routinely added extra spice to their stories by throwing in juicy details that were completely made up. Promoting outrage over accuracy was standard operating procedure.

Britain’s new rock royalty would provide a beggar’s banquet for the perpetually scandal-hungry rag. When headlines howling that long hair and loud guitars would be the ruin of the nation’s youth grew stale, News of the World grew hungry for fresh meat. England’s rockers served it up on a silver platter.

Puzzle 4As word got around that the new generation of stars was experimenting with an array of illegal substances, a News of the World mole cozied up to the perpetually drug-dazed Brian Jones. When Jones prattled on about his favorite chemicals, his words turned up in the tabloid in no time. Demonstrating its usual high regard for getting the facts straight, the paper attributed Brian’s bleary-eyed blather  to Mick Jagger.  Jagger hired an attorney and filed a lawsuit against Britain’s top gossip rag.

In addition to the publication’s spy network, News of the World staffers were illegally tapping stars’ phones and keeping watch on their homes. After they got wind of a weekend get-together at Keith Richards’ newly purchased Redlands estate in rural Sussex, they saw a way to nullify Jagger’s lawsuit and grab a scandalous scoop.

Puzzle 3

News of the World approached Scotland Yard, offering up a surefire celebrity drug bust. The London force turned the paper down flat, explaining that the raid would draw unwanted attention to the Yard’s anti-drug efforts, which included undercover operations targeting major suppliers. Besides, they had no interest in bolstering the Stones’ outlaw image or the scandal sheet’s circulation. And so, News of the World demanded that police in the sleepy Sussex cathedral town of Chichester take action. Though they had ignored the paper’s previous pleas, the local constabulary quickly threw a team together and knocked on Redlands’ door.

Keith Richards, Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithful were inside. So were Robert Fraser, a hip London art dealer, and the mysterious David Schneiderman. Schneiderman was a struggling Canadian actor, singer and sometime drug dealer who billed himself as “The Acid King.” The group initially dismissed the commotion outside as another intrusion from annoying fans, and ignored the knocking. They eventually opened the door and were served a search warrant.

Jagger Mug FrontJagger was arrested after admitting that four capsules found in a jacket pocket were his. Keith Richards had no drugs on him (Oh, the irony!) but was the owner of an ashtray that showed traces of marijuana resin. Robert Fraser was in possession of heroin and amphetamines. David Schneiderman, whose briefcase was likely full of drugs, told the police he was a photographer. He claimed the case contained exposed film that would be ruined if it were opened. The briefcase was not searched and he was not charged.  Jagger and Richards smelled a set-up. Schneiderman, who traveled under a variety of aliases and held several false passports, slipped out of the country in short order.

Marianne Faithfull, Jagger’s pop star girlfriend, was fresh from a bath and had improvised a robe by wrapping herself in a rug. She possessed neither drugs nor pockets to keep them in.

News of the World broke the story a day before the police officially announced the arrests. The counterculture cred the Stones had lost by caving into Ed Sullivan was recovered instantly. Because Marianne Faithfull was under twenty-one, the English press could only refer to her as Miss X. But News of the World was more than happy to leak her real name, and to sleaze up the story by claiming she and Jagger were engaged in bizarre sex acts when the coppers burst in. (They weren’t.)

The trial promised to be a media circus—one that would require both a strong legal defense and a spirited PR offense. It presented Andrew Loog Oldham with the perfect opportunity to work his way back into the band’s good graces. Sadly, exhaustion, addiction and depression left him unable to rise to the occasion. Oldham fled England, alternately seeking solace in substance abuse and psychiatric treatment.

Co-manager Allen Klein wasn’t about to let the moment pass him by. Throwing himself into the task with typical tenaciousness, Klein hired the best attorneys and told any reporter willing to listen that he was fighting furiously on behalf of his persecuted lads.

Jagger’s pills proved to be travel sickness drugs purchased legally in Italy during a tour. But they were a form of amphetamine and required a prescription in England. Jagger’s doctor testified that he had approved the use of the medication, but hadn’t bothered to write a script because Jagger had already purchased the drug abroad.

Wheel Full

In June,  Jagger and Richards were both convicted and given harsh sentences. Jagger got three months. Richards drew a full year in Wormwood Scrubs, one of the most notorious prisons in Britain.

The sentences prompted William Rees-Moog of the London Times to write a thoughtful editorial titled, “Who Breaks A Butterfly On A Wheel?” Rees-Moog calmly pointed out that, had Mick Jagger not been famous, he would have been sentenced to a brief probation at worst. More likely, a non-celebrity caught with a few pills purchased legally overseas would never have been charged at all. How could those who attacked the Rolling Stones for ignoring  traditional values do so by ignoring traditional values like basic fairness and equal justice under law?

In an incredible twist, the same establishment that had yearned to see The Rolling Stones get their comeuppance now rushed to their defense. The tide turned. An appeals court threw out the sentences. “Butterfly On A Wheel” eventually became one of the most famous editorials of the twentieth century.

Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were free. And they were more than ready to make Andrew Loog Oldham pay the price for abandoning them in a crisis.

(This concludes Part X of Throwing Stones. Click here to read Part XI: Out of Time.)


Throwing Stones IX: Offstage Lines

(For Part VIII, click Throwing Stones VIII: Band Vs. Brand.)

In Part VIII, the Rolling Stones appeared on Ed Sullivan and agreed to change the lyrics of “Let’s Spend The Night Together,”  pleasing censors and alienating fans.


A week after their Ed Sullivan Show debacle, the Rolling Stones appeared on British television’s Sunday Night at the London Palladium. Like Sullivan, Palladium was a long running, hugely popular Sunday night variety hour. Like Sullivan, Palladium was often criticized as a cornball showbiz throwback. And like Sullivan, Palladium had served as a launching pad for nationwide Bealtemania. But Stones’ manager Andrew Loog Oldham had refused all of the show’s previous offers for fear of tarnishing his band’s hip image.

Things change. After years of roadwork, The Beatles stunned the entertainment world by announcing their retirement from live performing. Mick Jagger told reporters that the Stones would be taking a break from the road, and theirs might become permanent as well. “Let’s Spend the Night Together”/“Ruby Tuesday” would have to climb the singles chart without the benefit of a concert tour.

’Ello Sunday Night At The London Palladium.

The Stones performed both sides of their new single and two other songs without incident. But they refused to join the other guests and wave goodnight from a revolving stage when the end credits rolled. Oldham made it clear that he expected the band to be on the roundabout, whether they liked it or not. The Stones laughed in his face. Oldham stormed out, and Sunday Night’s sign-off remained Stone free.

220px-Rolling_Stones_LSTNTAndrew Loog Oldham insisting that the Rolling Stones behave themselves would have made a terrific Monty Python routine. Skipping the Palladium roundabout was exactly the kind of bad-boy publicity stunt he had routinely cooked up to feed the band’s anti-Beatles branding. But by 1967, Oldham was worried that the Stones were due for some serious backlash.

U.K. fans were angry that the Stones had bowed to the demands of American TV but couldn’t muster so much as a wave for the home front. Still, “Let’s Spend the Night Together” reached number three on the British charts.

Back in the U.S.A., some radio stations played “Let’s Spend the Night Together.” More played it safe, flipping the single and going with “Ruby Tuesday” instead. Hardly surprising, since the Stones’ Sullivan lyric switcheroo would have made it difficult to defend playing “Night” if challenged.

“Ruby Tuesday” went all the way to number one in America, while “Let’s Spend the Night Together” stalled in the mid-fifties on the Billboard chart. It was an embarrassing showing for a Rolling Stones song.

2 StonedUnfortunately, Andrew Loog Oldham had bigger problems. His depressions were growing longer, deeper and more frequent. Self-medicating with massive amounts of booze and drugs only made things worse. When Oldham sought professional help, he found himself at the mercy of a doctor whose ghastly overuse of electroshock therapy left the young manager in a fog even when he was sober. Adding to his woes, Oldham’s beloved Rolling Stones were turning on him.

After his first meeting with Andrew Loog Oldham in 1964, Allen Klein had followed through with characteristic persistence. Well aware of Oldham’s obsession with American movie tough guys, Klein played the role of brainy Jersey-bred bruiser to the bristly hilt. A captivated Oldham agreed that if Klein could get rid of estranged co-manager Eric Easton, he was in.

Oldham introduced Allen Klein to the Rolling Stones with great enthusiasm. Klein presented himself as an American Robin Hood, who took from greedy record companies and gave to deserving artists. Klein vowed to renegotiate the Stones’ record contract and get them more money than they had ever imagined. He was a band’s best friend—and ultimate attack dog. The Stones were impressed.

Klein cut a deal and bought out Eric Easton in short order. Rumors flew that it was more of a bullying out, but Eric Easton made no public comment. His relationship with Andrew Oldham and the Rolling Stones had lasted less than three years. It had been a wild windfall and a huge headache. Whether Easton felt relieved, betrayed or both when his dealings with Oldham and the band came to an end remained unsaid. He filed suit against Oldham a couple of years later and won a relatively small judgement. Easton eventually retired, relocating to Florida.

The Rolling Stones’ original 1963 Decca deal included an impressive royalty rate for the time. But those royalties were paid to their managers’ independent production company, which retained ultimate ownership of the masters. Oldham and Easton took a sizable cut of the royalties before passing them on to the band.

Sir Edward CU

Having secured the role of co-manager in late August of 1965, Allen Klein set about renegotiating the Stones recording contract. Klein famously brought the band along to his negotiations with English Decca head Sir Edward Lewis. As per Klein’s instructions, the band members all wore sunglasses and let him do the talking. Klein mercilessly berated the sixty-five-year-old Lewis and his staff. When Sir Edward said he had many good people working at Decca, Klein snapped, “Well, I hope they can sing, because you aren’t going to have the Rolling Stones.”

Less than a week after Allen Klein officially joined their management team, the Rolling Stones re-upped with Decca in a landmark deal. But while Klein and Oldham celebrated getting the better of a man they dismissed as a hopeless old has-been, Sir Edward got the Stones for five more years. He also funded more than half of the large cash upfront payment that Klein had demanded with accrued American royalties that Decca was in the process of sending the band anyway. Whether American tough guy bluster or sensible English reserve won the day depends on who you ask.

The jubilant Stones reveled in Klein’s hardball tactics.  A few years later, when they found themselves on receiving end of those tactics, they would come to view Allen Klein in a very different light.

(This concludes Part IX of Throwing Stones. Click now to read Part X: Hear Me Knocking.)


Throwing Stones VIII: Band Vs. Brand

(For Part VII, click Throwing Stones VII: Mr. Ed .)

 In Part VII, Ed Sullivan rose from the sports desk of an infamous tabloid to become the most popular impresario on primetime TV.

On Friday, January 13, 1967, Mick Jagger left London and flew to America to rendezvous with the rest of the Rolling Stones.  Jagger dismissed press questions about travelling on such a dreaded day as silly superstition. His confidence appeared to be well founded.

M and CLess than three years after starting out as a cover band playing local clubs, The Rolling Stones had morphed into an international phenomenon. They had racked an impressive string of hit singles and albums in Europe and America. Their concerts sold out quickly and ended in fans-gone-wild pandemonium. They were second only to The Beatles in the newly built Brit-rock pantheon, and Jagger and Richards were second only to Lennon and McCartney as chart-topping songwriters.

Despite their success, the Stones were seen as dark, dirty and dangerous. They were outspoken, outrageous, uncompromising and unwilling to play showbiz games. Manager Andrew Loog Oldham’s anti-Beatles brand strategy had succeeded beyond anybody’s wildest dreams. The Beatles were great. But the Stones were badass. Even John Lennon envied their nasty image.

UnknownThe band planned to kick off  ’67 in style. They would headline The Ed Sullivan Show on Sunday, January 15, performing both sides of their new single for a gigantic primetime audience. Musically,  “Let’s Spend the Night Together” and “Ruby Tuesday” were among the most radio-friendly tracks the Stones had ever recorded. The single would hit stores and radio stations the day before tens of millions of viewers caught the band on national TV.  It couldn’t miss.

Mick Jagger’s Friday the 13th flight was uneventful. But his band’s luck was about to run out.

The Rolling Stone’s first Sullivan appearance in October, 1964, had provided a much-needed boost to their fall U.S. tour. Still, CBS had been deluged with calls and letters from irate viewers, who excoriated the Stones as unkempt, untalented, indecent and inappropriate for family viewing.  Apparently a band that wore their hair longer than the Beatles but didn’t wear matching suits was too much for America to take—especially one that drove young female fans into a non-stop screaming frenzy.

Ed Sullivan vowed he would never book The Rolling Stones again. But the ratings had been high, and when Oldham inquired about a second appearance, Sullivan softened, responding that he would consider it if  “…your young men reformed in the matter of dress and shampoo.”

ed-sullivan-beatle-wigOldham must have loved that one. The Stones hair had been clean. Indeed, Brian Jones’ shimmering locks were enough to make a Breck® Girl jealous. The clothing issue seemed to center around Mick Jagger’s choice of a sweater instead of a suit or sport coat. Oldham agreed to dandy up his lead singer and let the show’s stylist wash his boys’ hair before the broadcast. Deal.

Jagger donned a jacket when the Stones returned to The Ed Sullivan Show in May of 1965. They were back in February of 1966 as stars, performing their summer of ’65 smash, “Satisfaction,” and two more songs. Jagger, sans sport coat, had clearly mastered the art of playing to the camera, sending out one saucy stare after another to the folks at home.  (Note to self: Try to work the word “saucy” into all future blogs.)  The Stones made their fourth appearance on Sullivan the following September.

Clearly, the Rolling Stones and The Ed Sullivan Show had developed a mutually beneficial business relationship. Booking the band ensured high ratings, and high ratings drove ad sales and record sales alike. But before they hit the Sullivan stage that Sunday evening in early 1967, the Stones were informed that there was a problem.


Sullivan and CBS censors confronted the band and Oldham, explaining that the phrase “let’s spend the night together” was too risqué for American TV. After all, only married couples could spend the night together.  (Wink, wink.)  The Stones would have to make a teensy change to the lyric before show time. When the band seemed resistant, Sullivan became characteristically blunt:  “Either the song goes, or you go.”

While anyone who examines the lyrics of “Let’s Spend The Night Together” can figure out where the singer is coming from, the wording is far from explicit. It doesn’t even contain the kind of smirk inducing double entendres found in 1950’s rock and R&B hits. But the very idea of the song scared the hell out of broadcasters.

Though the culture was changing rapidly, the sixties remained an era of heavy self-censorship in American broadcasting. The federal government strictly regulated the number of stations. There were no cable networks. A broadcast license was like a license to print money. Each of the big three TV networks owned a handful of flagship stations, and network execs lived in fear of an on-air slip-up that could cost them or their local affiliates their coveted licenses.

The Rolling Stones had a decision to make.  And time was not on their side.CBS Logo Edit

In his memoirs, Andrew Loog Oldham claims that a year or two earlier, the band would have walked. But now, everyone had a lot more to lose. Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts felt it was up to Jagger and Richards. Brian Jones was too zonked to care. Keith Richards, whose love of Lenny Bruce had familiarized him with American censorship, figured this was the way things worked. The ever-calculating  Jagger rolled his eyes and quickly came up with “let’s spend some time together.”  Deal.

Early in that night’s broadcast, the Stones delivered “Ruby Tuesday” to an enthusiastic audience. They reappeared near the end of the hour, and Mick sang “let’s spend some time together.” Jagger repeated his eye roll during the chorus, but his overall performance was so camped up that it was difficult to tell if the gesture was a comment on the revised lyric or simply part of the act.

The fallout was immediate. Like the Stones themselves, their fans had changed dramatically in a short time. Many were no longer screaming teenyboppers. In the wake of The Beatles and Bob Dylan, kids and critics were beginning to think of rock ’n’ roll as a legitimate art form. Musical preferences were worn as badges of honor. Bands were supposed to have integrity.  And now, The Rolling Stones–the ultimate bad boys of British rock–had sold out to creepy old Ed Sullivan.

(This concludes Part VIII of Throwing Stones. Click now to read Part IX: Offstage Lines.)


Throwing Stones VII: Mister Ed

(To read the previous chapter, click Throwing Stones VI: Hey, Hey, Heyday)

In Part VI, the Rolling Stones struggled to become stars in America.

Ed Sullivan CUEd Sullivan was the ultimate show business cipher. He couldn’t sing, dance, act or tell a joke. But he became one of the biggest stars, and the biggest star-maker,  in television history.

Born in New York in 1901, Sullivan boxed in his youth, and got his first big break as a sportswriter for The New York Evening Graphic. The Graphic was the quintessential tabloid; a paper so belligerent, sensationalist and exploitative that it was nicknamed “The Porno-Graphic.”  The Graphic gave rise to Walter Winchell, the original showbiz gossip columnist. Winchell was a true phenomenon, and became a legendary kingmaker and career-breaker. The powerful columnist portrayed by Burt Lancaster in Sweet Smell of Success was modeled on Winchell. So was Ed Sullivan.

Young Ed was a quick study. When Winchell left the Graphic for the Hearst newspaper empire in 1929, Sullivan jumped at the chance to take over his column. Sullivan aped every career move his famous predecessor made. He landed a radio show, moved his column to another tabloid when The Graphic folded and eventually established himself as Winchell’s most determined rival. During the war years, Sullivan emceed a series of successful service fundraisers in Madison Square Garden. In 1948, the fledgling CBS Television Network hired Sullivan to host a variety show called Toast of the Town. It was an odd choice, to say the least.

ED TVGNobody ever accused Ed Sullivan of being telegenic. Devoid of the easy charm and relaxed demeanor television demanded, Sullivan came across as tense and intense. His smiles registered as grimaces. His eyes darted beneath his furrowed brow. He was stiff-necked and often listed to one side, and his lurching movements convinced some viewers that he suffered from palsy. Sullivan’s patter was stilted, his banter was boring and his awkward phrasing and strange pronunciations delighted amateur impressionists everywhere. His program was the closest thing to vaudeville on TV, and he always promised “a rilly big shew.”

As far as the American public was concerned, Ed delivered. In 1955, Walter Winchell hosted a variety show on NBC. He bombed. Ed Sullivan had outdistanced his role model. He was a hit. Nobody could argue with Ed’s ratings. And even the harshest critics of his on-camera delivery had to admit that the man had a knack for spotting rising stars and breaking trends.

But in the early days of rock ’n’ roll, Ed Sullivan almost let the trend pass him by. Though he picked up the buzz on Elvis Presley early on, Sullivan refused to book the hot young singer. He felt the kid’s music and stage act were vulgar. And he said so. Elvis performed on The Dorsey Brothers’ Stage Show, The Milton Berle Show and The Steve Allen Show instead, causing a sensation.

Sullivan_Elvis_Ready_ExpressionSteve Allen’s show aired opposite Sullivan’s, and demolished Ed’s ratings the night that Elvis appeared. Sullivan did a world class flip-flop, booking Presley for three shows. The first drew 60 million viewers, a TV audience record. By the third show, Sullivan was praising Elvis on air as “a real decent, fine boy” while CBS cameramen framed the hillbilly hip-shaker strictly from the waist up.

Though he lacked Walter Winchell’s viciousness, Ed Sullivan was no day at the beach. Sullivan liked show tunes and big band music. He saw his alliance with rock ’n’ roll as a necessary compromise, and he  wasn’t particularly happy about it. Ten months before Elvis first appeared on his show, Sullivan had ordered Bo Diddley not to play his hit song, “Bo Diddley.” Sullivan thought “Bo Diddley” was nothing more than shameless self-promotion. It was an odd charge coming from a host who had demanded that Toast of the Town be rechristened The Ed Sullivan Show that same year, but insight is often in short supply.

Having heard Bo diddle around with Tennessee Ernie Ford’s “Sixteen Tons” in rehearsal, Sullivan ordered the young rocker to sing Ford’s  tune on the broadcast. A baffled Bo agreed. But when the spotlight hit him on stage that night, “Bo Diddley” came out instead. Ed Sullivan was furious. He had showcased many African American acts over the years, despite political pressure to avoid booking them. His attitude toward young black performers was paternalistic, and he viewed Bo’s actions as a personal betrayal. Dismissing Bo as a double-crossing “boy,” Sullivan vowed to ruin Diddley’s career. He didn’t succeed, but he made sure Diddley was never seen on The Ed Sullivan Show again.

Holly MCUIn January 1958, more than a year after Elvis’s final appearance, Sullivan ordered Buddy Holly not to play “Oh Boy.” Like Bo Diddley, Holly was appearing on the show to promote his current single, and was mystified by Sullivan’s last-minute meddling. Apparently, Sullivan had decided that the song was simply too energetic for his show’s audience. When Holly stood his ground, Sullivan cut his second song and ordered Holly’s electric guitar be turned down during “Oh Boy.” Holly rocked the house anyway.  A flummoxed Sullivan later offered Holly more appearances.  Avenging the slight to his Fender® Stratocaster®, Holly turned Sullivan down.


In 1963, Ed Sullivan was passing through London’s Heathrow Airport and witnessed the frenzy of British fans greeting The Beatles, who were returning from a TV appearance in Europe. Sensing an Elvis-style pop explosion in the making, Sullivan reached out to Brian Epstein, offering big money for a single appearance. Epstein responded with a clever counteroffer. He took less money for three appearances and a guarantee that The Beatles would receive star billing, opening and closing each show.

The Beatles first Sullivan appearance drew 73 million viewers, setting a new television audience record. It launched the British Invasion and forever changed the face of popular culture. Ed Sullivan and British rock were joined at the hip, whether Ed liked it or not.

(This concludes Part VII of Throwing Stones. Click now to read Part VIII: Band Vs. Brand!)



Throwing Stones VI: Hey, Hey, Heyday

(For Part V, click Throwing Stones V: The Uncanny Accountant.)

 In Part V, accountant Allen Klein rose from a New Jersey orphanage to become the manager of  legendary soul artist Sam Cooke, then began connecting with the English rock scene.

Brit FlagThe Beatles chalked up six #1 U.S. hits in 1964. Their TV appearances shattered audience records, and their American tour was a runaway success. By the end of the year, English acts accounted for more than a third of all the singles to reach the American top ten. The British Invasion was rolling across the pop cultural landscape like a mechanized division. But the Rolling Stones were stuck in the trenches.


Depending on who tells the story, the band’s first U.S. tour was either a difficult audience-building exercise or an outright disaster. With no big American hits, little press coverage, too many empty seats and only one major TV appearance, during which host Dean Martin mocked them, the Stones struggled every step of the way.

That summer of  ’64 slog kicked manager Andrew Loog Oldham’s cockiness where it hurt. America’s brash capitalism and no-holds-barred business practices clobbered his confidence, while the country‘s size, wealth and strangeness overwhelmed his self-importance. In Oldham’s defense, the rock concert business was still in its infancy, and local promoters ranged from conscientious pros to skirt-chasing shysters to cattlemen booking state fairs. Profitable tours from across the pond were tricky propositions at best.

None of this was lost on Allen Klein.

Klein was managing Sam Cooke when the Stones decided to cover “It’s All Over Now,” a song written by the Womack brothers. The Womacks were signed to Cooke’s publishing company and record label. Their version of “Over,” released under the name The Valentinos to avoid upsetting their gospel fans, had just cracked the American charts.

1964 rolling stones concert poster

Oldham broke away from the tour to meet with Sam Cooke’s “publishing guy” (most likely J.W. Alexander, the African American musician and entrepreneur who co-owned the publishing and record companies with Cooke). Klein and Cooke blessed the Stones’ cover of “It’s All Over Now,” infuriating the Womack brothers. Rushed into release, the Stones’ version made it to the mid-twenties on the U.S. charts, scuttling the Womacks’ record. It shot to the top slot in England and was a hit in Europe as well. The Womacks understood the wisdom of Cooke and Klein’s decision as soon as their songwriting royalties began gushing in.

166px-Stones_ad_1965The Stones’ stateside fortunes changed dramatically when the band returned to America in the fall of 1964. “Time Is On My Side” was riding the rising tide of Brit hits into the top ten. Buoyed by a late October appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, the Stones began playing to full houses, and firmly established their anti-Beatles image in the U.S.

Allen Klein and J.W. Alexander travelled to London on business shortly after Sam Cooke’s death. In a meeting with Andrew Loog Oldham, the Stones manager tried to arm-twist half of the publishing rights to “It’s All Over Now” out of Klein. Oldham claimed that, since his boys had made the song a hit, he was entitled to a kingsized piece of the action. It was an old music business ploy. Klein refused the request.

Klein must have been both impressed with Oldham’s brass and amused by the young man’s lack of experience. Clearly, Andrew Loog Oldham did not know who he was dealing with.

Though Allen Klein was famous for his piss and vinegar approach, he knew when to go with milk and honey instead. Having studied the Stones in detail, Klein came to the meeting prepared. He  presented himself as an experienced professional with expert knowledge of the music business, which he was. He also presented himself as a father figure and ideal mentor to Oldham, which he may not have been.

Klein heaped praise on Oldham and his boys. Oldham poured his heart out to Klein, who seemed to know every problem the rattled young manager had encountered in the U.S. before the Brit could put it into words. Klein offered helpful suggestions, bashed big record company bumblers and dazzled Oldham with his mathematical mind. Andrew Loog Oldham appeared to have found a friend in America at last.

Klein returned to the states and consolidated his ownership of Sam Cooke’s copyrights, recorded catalog and image. Klein purchased the Cooke estate’s share of those properties from Cooke’s widow, Barbara. He also bought out J.W. Alexander, who felt too grief stricken to carry on with day-to-day business.

UnknownThe production team of Hugo & Luigi, who had worked on many of Cooke’s hits and owned an interest in some of his projects, turned down Klein’s buyout offers. The producers claimed that Klein responded by stonewalling them, making it impossible to learn what was going on with their stake in Cooke’s legacy. The duo eventually sold to Klein out of sheer frustration.

What 1964 did for the Beatles, 1965 did for the Stones. The Jagger-Richards songwriting team charged ahead, generating outstanding material under siege conditions. “Satisfaction” welded lyrics bemoaning the frustrations of consumer and romantic desire to one of the all-time great guitar riffs. It hit number one in the States on July 10 and held the top slot for four weeks, becoming the signature song of the summer. “Satisfaction” put The Rolling Stones over the top in a way nothing else had.  “Get Off Of My Cloud” was a suitably feisty,  funny follow-up. It became their second American number one.

Building on the success of their summer tour, the band returned to the U.S. in the winter of 1965.  They played to an estimated 250,000 fans in five weeks. The Rolling Stones had conquered America. And Allen Klein had become their new co-manager.

(This concludes Part VI. Click now to read Throwing Stones VII: Mister Ed)


Throwing Stones V: The Uncanny Accountant

(For Part IV, click Throwing Stones IV: The Unmanageable Manager.)

 In Part IV, the Stones’ first manager, Andrew Loog Oldham, grew increasingly erratic, alienating fellow music biz pros and damaging his relationship with the band.

The stereotypical accountant is a pencil-necked, pencil-pushing, button-down milquetoast. People who believe that caricature never met Allen Klein. The stereotypical rock manager is a no-neck, button-pushing, hammer-down bulldog. People who believe that caricature may not know that it is largely based on Allen Klein.

Klein Street

Allen Klein was born in Newark, New Jersey in 1931.  Though he grew up an ocean away from London, his childhood took on a disturbingly Dickensian cast. Klein’s mother died when he was a baby. His maternal grandmother raised Allen for three years, until the fateful day that Klein’s father sent the boy to join his two sisters in the Hebrew Orphanage and Sheltering Home. Allen heard nothing from his father for six years, until the fateful day his dad returned with a new wife and retrieved him. Klein’s father never really explained why he had treated his children so coldly.

Young Allen possessed a remarkable knack for numbers, and eventually worked his way through Upsala College as an accounting major. His first accounting job was with a firm that handled The Harry Fox Agency, which collects mechanical (primarily disc sale) royalties for music publishers and songwriters in the U.S. Working on the Harry Fox account proved to be a crash course in the Byzantine complexities of entertainment accounting.  Klein quickly spotted the many ways that companies could hide profits and slow down payments to publishers, songwriters and artists—or avoid paying them at all.

Klein opened his own firm and began approaching recording artists. His pitch was simple. He would conduct an audit of the artist’s record company. The audit was free. If he discovered the record company owed the artist money, he took 20% off the top. Of course, even the dimmest entertainer knows that 80% of something beats 100% of nothing.

Allen Klein had incredible focus, impressive math skills, fierce determination and an eye for detail. More importantly, he had nerves of steel. The first record company Klein audited was Roulette Records, owned by the infamous Morris Levy. Levy had a well-earned reputation as one of the most mobbed-up men in show business. In 1957, Variety  labeled Levy “The Octopus”—a show biz player whose tentacles sprang from the Roulettedepths of New York’s notorious Genovese mob family and crept into almost every aspect of the entertainment world. Roulette Records functioned as a record company while serving as a mob bank, scam, social club and money laundering operation. Men who challenged Morris Levy on business matters tended to suffer brutal beatings, get dangled out of windows or simply disappear.

Undaunted, Klein conducted his audit and handed Levy a sizable bill. When Levy refused to pay up, Klein negotiated a lower amount and a payment plan. Given Roulette’s habit of stiffing artists even when they had huge hits, Klein’s success was as remarkable as his nerve. His firm grew quickly.

Klein realized that copyrights, master recordings and film negatives were the true keys to the entertainment kingdom. If an artist or a small company held onto those, corporate show biz behemoths could be reduced to the role of distributors. Klein headed for Hollywood. He set up an independent film production company in the former offices of Hecht, Hill and Lancaster. That would prove to be a strange coincidence. HH&L was Burt Lancaster’s production company. The same company that produced Rolling Stones’ manager Andrew Loog Oldham’s favorite movie, “Sweet Smell of Success.”

Klein produced a film, but none of the studios would distribute the movie, which lacked big names. Klein learned a vital lesson: If he expected his dream business model to succeed, he had to align himself with the stars.

He found one in Sam Cooke. The movie-star-handsome Cooke was an incredible singer, a talented songwriter and a hardworking producer. He was also an innovative entrepreneur. Cooke recorded for RCA but still ran SAR Records, the record company he founded in 1961. It was one of the few Copa ShotAfrican-American owned record companies in the country.

Cooke had grown frustrated with RCA, and suspected the company owed him some serious dough.  A Klein audit proved him right. Using the monies owed as leverage, Klein renegotiated Cooke’s contract with RCA and got him one of the best deals, perhaps the best deal, in the industry. RCA wrote Sam a big check, and Sam made Allen Klein his manager. Klein set up a new, Klein-controlled company and began shifting various copyrights and master recordings to the company, creating significant tax savings for Cooke. The future looked bright for all involved.

Meanwhile, the new President of RCA had been so impressed by Allen Klein’s skills that he hired Klein for a secret mission to London. Klein met with Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein and presented an offer that would have paid the Beatles a 10% royalty rate and a two million dollar bonus to move to RCA when their EMI/Capitol contract expired. Obsessed with behaving like a true English gentleman, Epstein turned Klein and RCA down flat. After all, a “yes” would have been disloyal to EMI. Epstein’s attitude must have appalled Klein. No doubt the feeling was mutual.

Klein took advantage of his London trip to make contacts with other key players in the British music boom. He even signed up The Dave Clark Five for a record company audit. Given that the band had become the Beatles’ fiercest chart rivals, it was quite a coup.

Back in the States, thirty-three-year-old Sam Cooke was on a roll. Allen Klein returned to the U.S. in time to push through the deal for Cooke’s triumphant return to the Copacabana that July. But their hot streak ended tragically, when Sam Cooke was shot to death under mysterious circumstances at a cheap L.A. motel in the early morning hours of December 11, 1964.

The man who needed stars had lost one of the biggest and brightest ever. His focus soon turned to the English music scene, which was creating new ones with astonishing speed.

(This concludes Part V. Click Throwing Stones VI: Hey, Hey, Heyday to read the next chapter now!)



Throwing Stones IV: The Unmanageable Manager

(For Part III, click Throwing Stones III: Write Yer Own.)

 In Part III, Andrew Loog Oldham, the Rolling Stones first manager, successfully badgered Mick Jagger and Keith Richards into writing songs, while  writing some masterful PR of his own.


As Britain’s colonial empire vanished into history, a new empire built on entertainment appeared to be replacing it. Suddenly, British fiction, fashion, films, theatre, television and music were finding fans around the globe. Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham was the new English entertainment industry incarnate: the hippest manager in the U.K., a hotshot record producer and a partner in an ever-growing string of showbiz entities. A closer look reveals the cracks in young Andrew’s fab facade.

Oldham loved movies. He was obsessed with one in particular, the 1957 American noir potboiler Sweet Smell of Success. In the film, Burt Lancaster plays J.J. Hunsecker, a nationally syndicated gossip columnist with his own radio and TV show. The all-powerful Hunsecker is a ruthless bully who enjoys nothing more than ruining lives and destroying careers. His creepy fixation on his adult sister, combined with his hypocrisy, self-importance and twisted delight in blackmailing corrupt cops and desperate press agents into doing his dirtiest work make J.J. Hunsecker one of the most despicable characters in screen history. In fact, he’s number 36 on the AFI’s list of the greatest movie villains of all time.


Andrew Loog Oldham seems to have missed the point. Oldham fantasized about becoming the living embodiment of J.J. Hunsecker, and dreamed of a day when the entire entertainment world would bow before him or suffer accordingly. It was as if he had seen Shane and mistaken Jack Palance’s psychotic gunslinger for the hero.

Oldham’s business relationships tended to degenerate into grudge matches with astonishing speed. Oldham and Stones co-manager and booker Eric Easton fell out in short order. Oldham claimed Easton was a sneaky old fuddy-duddy who envied his youth and celebrity, cheated him out of his fair share of commissions and demanded kickbacks on the band’s live gigs. Easton’s defenders, who include Bill Wyman, saw Easton as an honest old-timer who quickly tired of Oldham’s inflated ego, erratic behavior, and focus on his own fame.

Rather than sort out matters with his partner, Oldham threw himself into another venture. And then another. A pattern soon developed. Whenever Oldham got into a dispute with a partner in one company, he found another partner and started another company, creating a trail of dysfunctional businesses and unresolved issues.

Ignoring Easton’s advice that a manager should never get too close to his clients, Oldham moved in with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. He stuck close to his lads, enjoying all the perks of a rising rock star. The young Stones were a magnet for sex, drugs and booze, and Andrew Oldham was in no mood to say no to any of the above.

Oldham started producing instrumental versions of  Stones’ numbers, employing his new roomies as session players.  Jagger and Richards appreciated the extra income, as did Oldham, who had no qualms about using his “Andrew Oldham Orchestra” tracks as B-sides of singles he produced for other artists. It was a trick Oldham had learned from his idol, Phil Spector. The fact that a B-side credited to a different act than the artist on the A-side might confuse young record buyers and would deny the artist the easy income gained from a flipside didn’t bother Oldham.

Oldham soon set about turning his Sweet Smell of Success fantasies into reality. Making matters worse, he added a dose of the droogs, the brutal young gang in Anthony Burgess’ 1962 novel A Clockwork Orange. Alex, the book’s narrator, enjoys committing random acts of violence to entertain himself and his friends. Once again, Oldham made a fictional fiend into a personal hero. (Oldham tried to option the book and cast the Rolling Stones as the gang, but someone else had the film rights sewn up. Stanley Kubrick would eventually direct, sans Stones.)

a_clockwork_orange.large_-e1354228296744Oldham hired a handsome sociopath named Reg to serve as his chauffeur. Reg’s real job was to intimidate or physically attack anyone Oldham imagined had crossed him. One of Oldham’s favorite past times involved instructing Reg edge alongside another car at a traffic light. When the light changed, Oldham would lean out and punch the stranger in the car beside his, then order Reg to speed them from the scene.

Oldham continues to lovingly recount the day he tired of a young music reporter’s remarks about Keith Richards’ pimples. Andrew and Reg burst into the reporter’s office, jammed the man’s hands beneath an open window and threatened to crush them if the writer ever typed another word about the guitarist’s acne.

Andrew’s amateur gangster antics would have been shut down with brutal efficiency (and most likely, efficient brutality) in the mobbed-up American music business of the 1960s. But the stuffy old sirs who ran English show business had no idea what to make of Oldham’s third-rate thuggery.

As his mania for drink, drugs and delusions of grandeur spun out of control, Andrew Loog Oldham failed to notice that Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were growing annoyed with his behavior. Though they had once found Oldham’s shenanigans amusing, Jagger in particular was developing a keen sense of what it took to succeed in show business, and the singer began to regardi his band’s wunderkind manager/producer as more of a liability than an asset. Oldham should have re-read A Clockwork Orange and taken note of the scene in which the droogs finally tire of Alex’s high-handed self-regard and decide they’d rather run the show themselves.

(This concludes Part IV. To read Part V, click Throwing Stones V: The Uncanny Accountant.)



Throwing Stones III: Write Yer Own

(For Part II, click Throwing Stones II: If You Sign Me Up.)

Part II covered the rise of the Rolling Stones and their PR whiz kid manager, Andrew Loog Oldham, along with the band’s branding as the anti-Beatles. But when the time came to record their crucial second single, the Stones found themselves without a song.

100px-Rolling_Stones_1965Andrew Loog Oldham is bipolar, and had become depressed over the Stones’ lack of new material well before the session. Dejected, Oldham excused himself and took a brief walk, desperately trying to think of a solution. In perhaps the most incredible stroke of luck in pop music history, he bumped into John Lennon and Paul McCartney. The two songwriters stepped out of a handsome cab, having just left a Variety Club Luncheon honoring the Beatles. Full of free booze and good cheer, they immediately sensed their friend’s distress. When Oldham explained his dilemma, they responded with what can only be called Beatlesque enthusiasm. No song? No problem! They had a new number that was perfect for the Stones!

Lennon, McCartney and Oldham strolled back to the session. John and Paul decided their new tune needed a bridge, and knocked one out in no time. The two Beatles taught the Stones the song and were on their merry way. They had been there less than half an hour. The Stones were astounded.Lennon

It seems counterintuitive that the Beatles wrote the anti-Beatles’ first top twenty hit. But it made perfect sense. While “I Wanna Be Your Man” lacked Lennon and McCartney’s characteristic melodic inventiveness, it was loaded with rhythmic drive. That made it an ideal vehicle for the young Stones, and let the band to capitalize on fresh material from England’s hottest hitmakers. The song reached number 12 on the British charts. The Stones were rolling again.

Yet the last-minute save only deepened Oldham’s sense of doom. The odds of two Beatles appearing deus ex machina (literally!) to save the day a second time were nil. There was only one solution: Someone in the Rolling Stones had to start writing songs.

McCartneyOldham figured if Lennon and McCartney could write hits, so could Jagger and Richard(s). He floated the idea. Mick and Keith torpedoed it. They were performers, not song poets. Oldham pressed the issue. Bands that couldn’t come up with original material had no future. And they certainly couldn’t expect the petulant and increasingly unreliable Brian Jones to deliver. If the Rolling Stones wanted to hang onto their newfound fame, Jagger and Richards had better get started. The reluctant duo eventually agreed, but made little progress.

The ever-dramatic Oldham came up with a typically over-the-top solution. He locked the singer and the guitarist in a room and told them they could come out as soon as they had a new song to play.

According to Oldham and Richards, they didn’t finish until dawn. The title they came up with was “As Time Goes By.”  While that’s exactly the choice of subject matter you would expect from two guys you’d locked in a kitchen all night, it’s also the title of the classic song in the classic movie “Casablanca.” Oldham changed the title to “As Tears Go By,” cleaned up the structure, and polished the lyrics with help from his friend Lionel Bart, who had penned chart-toppers for British teen idols like Cliff Richard before moving on to the hit musical “Oliver!”

Jagger and Richards were somewhat embarrassed by “Tears,” which they felt was far too lightweight for the tough, bluesy Stones. That was fine with Oldham. He gave the song to his latest discovery, seventeen-year-old Marianne Faithful. After meeting Faithful at a party, Oldham took the inexperienced ingénue into the studio, where he lived out his Phil Spector fantasy to the string-soaked hilt. The result was a smash, reaching number 9 on the English chart and 22 in America. As soon as Jagger and Richard’s started receiving king-sized royalty checks, they realized Oldham had been right all along. Songwriting was the way to go.

Like Lennon and McCartney, the Jagger-Richards songwriting team got great fast. Their writing developed with astonishing speed, and quickly created the foundation of their band’s long-term success. And I don’t use the term “their band” lightly. The moment Jagger and Richards became the source of the band’s material, they became both the lifeblood and the leaders of the Rolling Stones.

The power shift hit Brian Jones like a bolt out of the blues. Jones had put the Stones together, named the band and led it since day one. He had a remarkable knack for adding just the right touch to the Stone’s records (the slide guitar lick on “The Last Time,” the sitar licks on “Paint It Black,” the marimba line on “Under My Thumb”), but was incapable of finishing a song–by himself or with a collaborator. As his authority slipped away, Jones comforted himself by  upping his already alarming drug intake.

Stones ShockWhile Jagger and Richards were busy writing songs, Andrew Loog Oldham was busy writing prose. Oldham’s PR masterpiece was the soon-to-be-infamous line, “Would You Let Your Daughter Go With A Rolling Stone?” Oldham fed his grabber to Melody Maker magazine, where a teen-centric editor changed “Daughter” to “Sister” and ran it as a headline. The stuffy Fleet Street editors who ruled the mainstream press weren’t exactly sure what “Go” implied, so they changed it to “Would You Let Your Daughter Marry A Rolling Stone?” and turned it into a legend. “The headline was a great example of everlasting meaning via product placement,” Oldham would write, decades later.

It’s hard to explain just how small the media world was in the 1950s and ’60s, or how easy it was to ignite a public uproar. Righteous indignation poured forth over an endless series of “outrages” that seem laughably quaint and incredibly non-newsworthy by today’s standards. Blue jeans, comic books, fast cars, television and rock ’n’ roll had all served time in the pop cultural hot seat as the great corruptor of modern youth. Now it was the Rolling Stones turn.

(This concludes Part III. Click Throwing Stones IV: The Unmanageable Manager to read Part IV.)