THE ROLLING STONES
New tome The Rolling Stones On Air tells how the group fought the BBC. Plus, new album news!
A fine new pic-heavy book sheds light on the eternal rock’n’rollers’tumultuous ’60s on TV and radio. But who was on about cutting noses off?
Alongside the music, The Rolling Stones’ ’60s were full of incident, with Altamont, the Redlands bust, the Rock And Roll Circus and the free concert in Hyde Park just a few of the events scoured into the collective consciousness. Amidst Richard Havers’ new hardback broadcast-biography The Rolling Stones On Air In The Sixties, another flashpoint is illuminated in all its weird fascination: the band’s falling out with the BBC in 1964. As well as being handsomely illustrated and providing a wealth of info about the group’s appearances on radio, TV and beyond, the book reproduces lots of supporting documentation from the archives to thrill the inquisitive. Brian Jones’s bold letter from January 2, 1963, for example, asks for a BBC audition and declares, “an exceptionally good future has been predicted for us by many people.” Their ascent is not long coming, but by May 1964 then-manager Eric Easton is arguing that the money BBC producers “are prepared to pay the second-hottest group is
somewhat insulting.” Soon, to a swelling background of contemporary reports of brusque Juke Box Jury appearances, rows about long hair and not wearing ties – plus, on the morning of May 9, 1964, Long John Baldry describing the Stones as “those charming deviationists” during a special BBC stereo broadcast – the culture-clash comes to a head. When the Stones miss a November 1964 appearance on the Saturday Club programme, BBC light entertainment booking manager Patrick Newman talks of exiling the Stones from the airwaves, writing in an internal memo, “You may know that these gentlemen (sic) are (for a transient moment one rather hopes) third in the Top Ten… for my part I am a firm believer in noses being very occasionally cut off to spite one’s face.” (He also calls Animals manager Don Arden, “a thoroughly naughty man”.) By the following March, the unrepentant Stones were back on Top Of The Pops. Their subsequent BBC engagements included playing the last edition of Ready Steady Go! in December 1966 and making Top Of The Pops appearances on the day after Brian Jones’s death and just six days after the events of Altamont. The book coincides with other Stones activity: the group are playing European dates in September and October, while a 50th anniversary stereo/mono double vinyl/SACD edition of Their Satanic Majesties Request – with restored lenticular cover art – arrives on September 22. Additionally, in July Mick Jagger released the solo tracks Gotta Get A Grip and England Lost, the latter featuring north London MC Skepta: both songs are troubled blues rockers with baggy beats and lyrics which question Brexit, nationalism and how “No real passion is a national shame.” For his part, Keith Richards told an online questioner about a new group album: “We are very, very shortly cutting some new stuff and considering where to take it next. [2016 covers set] Blue & Lonesome caught us a little bit by surprise… I just think, actually the Stones will use it as a boost to their energy and their viability in this day and age… and see what we can come up with next.”
The Rolling Stones On Air In The Sixties: TV And Radio History As It Happened by Richard Havers is published by Virgin Books on September 21 (RRP: £30)
Hot box: the Stones on Thank Your Lucky Stars, June 6, 1965; (bottom) in Manchester celebrating Satisfaction hitting Number 1; (below) the book.