This appeared on my old blog July 12, 2010. Seems appropriate to exhume it for the 50th anniversary of the first Rolling Stones gig. For what it’s worth, I did not re-check the ARSA database before re-posting this; this is based on the evidence at hand when I wrote it in 2010.
Today (July 12) is the 48th anniversary of the Rolling Stones’ first gig.
That’s worth a snort of bourbon and a couple of hundred words.
I profess to be tired of most everything labeled “classic rock.”
But I still love the Stones, one or two tunes excepted.
(I’m thinking mainly of “Satisfaction,” though I know someday I will encounter that song in a setting that makes me love it all over again.)
Throughout their career, the Stones have moved between all manner of contradictions — rich and poor; blunt and oblique; dangerous and predictable — and have adopted all kinds of musical flavorings without ever losing touch with the ragged, lusty blues pulse that defines them.
(Well, almost never.)
I find their catalog more rewarding than that of most classic-rock bands, and I do not think I will ever stop finding things to enjoy there.
It’s intriguing to me to compare the career paths of the early Stones and the early Beatles.
Lennon and McCartney (and, from early on, Harrison) spent the better part of five years slouching around Liverpool and Hamburg before becoming stars in the UK in 1962.
The Stones, in contrast, recorded their first UK single something like nine months after their first gig, and had a UK number-one album less than two years after that low-key first show.
I’d guess that the Beatles had much to do with the Stones’ quick ascent. They raised — if not created — record companies’ interest in any and all British beat bands, from the Stones to the High Numbers.
I’m also guessing that geography played a role. The Stones hailed from London, the undisputed center of Britain’s pop-music world and a great place to be discovered; while the Beatles came from Liverpool, a provincial city with about as much pop-culture clout as, say, Buffalo.
Our man Wisconsin JB wrote a post about the extent of the Beatles’ popularity before Beatlemania — checking the ARSA airplay charts to see what U.S. stations were spinning Beatles records before the avalanche of January and February 1964.
I thought that might be interesting to do for the Stones.
The Stones’ first foothold in America — or, at least, the earliest hieroglyph to be found on the walls of the ARSA cave — comes from Endicott, N.Y., where the “Not Fade Away” single showed up as a pick hit on Top 40 station WENE-AM the week of March 28, 1964.
(Where’s that, you say? Endicott is a suburb of Binghamton. Where’s that, you say? Look it up.)
Small beer, perhaps, in a survey where Limey groups the Beatles, the Searchers and the Swingin’ Blue Jeans were all in the Top 10; but a start, nonetheless.
And I’ll tell you what — the Beatles would have killed to get American airplay less than two years after their first gig.
According to Wiki, “Not Fade Away” would top out nationally at No. 48 in the Stones’ hands.
The ARSA surveys for the song show it achieving a decent degree of success in markets across the country between the first week of April and the first week of August, and even cracking the Top 20 on stations in Miami and Chicago.
(This was likely helped by the Stones’ first, brief U.S. tour in June.)
By the first week of August ’64, the Stones would have more tunes on American airwaves:
Jagger and Richards’ tentative first single A-side, “Tell Me,” would crack the Top 20 at stations in Detroit, Hartford, Milwaukee and faithful Endicott.
And “It’s All Over Now” would ascend to the lofty heights of No. 6 in Keene, New Hampshire, while also going Top 10 in Endicott.
Incidentally, an Internet search suggests that the Stones never rewarded the loyalty of the greater Binghamton area — perhaps their first foothold Stateside — by playing a gig there.
It’s not too late, blokes.
The ARSA archives also turn up one oddity: Early single “I Just Wanna Make Love To You” shows up on exactly one survey, from late July 1964 in Montgomery, Alabama.
Wonder what the people in Montgomery thought of these long-haired Anglo kids feeding them back their music.
As for the LP market, the first Stones album (the wonderfully titled “England’s Newest Hitmakers”) first shows up on an ARSA survey from Detroit/Dearborn, Michigan, the week of June 11, 1964.
That album only appears on four surveys in the ARSA archive, with the other stations hailing from New Haven, Pittsburgh and Salt Lake City.
Later that fall, the “12X5” album appears on 18 surveys — including one from Endicott.
All this, of course, was a prelude to 1965, when the Stones would release three successful albums, notch their first U.S. Number One and cement their status as a smokin’ singles act.
And that, in turn, was simply a prelude to the peak of the Stones’ career — June 20, 1980, and the release of the iconic, evanescent, ethereal yet deeply human “Emotional Rescue” single.
That must be the bourbon talking.
Anyway, one more curiosity before there’s silence on my radio:
The final survey in the ARSA database for faithful ol’ WENE-AM in Endicott, N.Y., the station that loved Mick and Keef when no others did, comes from the week of Aug. 2, 1969.
The Number One that week: “Honky Tonk Women.”