The Rolling Stones: This Horrible Lot – Not Quite What They Seem

"BUT WOULD YOU LIKE your daughter to marry one?" is what you ask yourself about the Rolling Stones. They've done terrible things to the musical scene – set it back, I would say, by about eight years.

Just when we'd got our pop singers looking neat and tidy and, above all, cheerful, along come the Rolling Stones, looking almost like what we used to call beatniks. (I use this démodé word liberally. I hope you can remember what beatniks looked like.) 

The Stones, which is what they are called by intimates, have wrecked the image of the pop singer in the '60s. 

"We're a horrible-looking bunch," they say of themselves, and there is not a murmur of dissent. Girls stop to stare and giggle in the street, men shout things that are unrestrainedly rude, the Hilton Hotel shows them the door and so do many provincial pubs. 

They do take a bit of getting used to. And certainly no prospective mother-in-law is going to accept them in their present condition.

Their ages range from 19 to 22. There is Keith Richard who has a pert face, pert manners and was eating an apple; there is Charlie Watts who is keen on clothes and considered by his manager to have the bone structure of Steve McQueen and therefore a great future in films; there is Brian Jones who has floppy yellow hair and is the one best-liked by me; there is Bill Wyman who bears a marked resemblance to both Charles I and Charles II, an essentially Stuart face; and then there is Mick Jagger, who is indescribable. 

Curious appeal

On television they look curiously appealing with their great heads shaking vaguely, Mick Jagger jerking like a jack-in-the-box but his feet rooted to the spot. 

They possess no uniform: "We couldn't adapt ourselves to a uniform," they say. They will walk on to the stage in the outfits depicted above, tie or no tie as the case may be. They sell a lot of records. Their 'Not Fade Away' is in at No. 3. Their manager, a young man with red hair called Andrew Loog Oldham, is passionately devoted to their scruffy image. 

"Aggressive," he said with satisfaction. "They don't wash too much and they aren't all that keen on clothes. And they don't play nice-mannered music; it's raw and masculine. I get letters from the kids begging me not to let them appear at the Palladium or go to America and get all tidied up."

Often he is asked if they are as stupid as they look. "People," said Mr. Oldham nonchalantly, "keep asking me if they're morons."

Belgravia

Indeed the Stones are not what they seem. You discover that one was a graphic designer, another did engineering, another went to the London School of Economics. 

Brian Jones now lives in a village in Berkshire but shortly moves to Belgravia where, he says, he will live next door to Lady Dartmouth. He hires a different make of car each week so as to get to know them all. 

Charlie Watts has invested a lot of his money in the Rock of Gibraltar which the others think is pretty stupid. 

They originally created a stir in a club in the Station Hotel, Richmond. The place held 140 people and on a good night there would be 500 dancing in the street. Sometimes you would find the Salvation Army at one end of the street and the Stones at the other. 

"The kids used to hang off the ceiling," said Brian, "taking their shirts off and that. They liked the way we raved. In places like Cardiff they kiss us, getting the sweat off our faces on to their faces."

As the Stones would say, the kids "recon" them like mad. They claim to have a disruptive influence on other pop singers, many of whom long to throw away their blue mohair suits and rebel. 

And of course their effect on the poor young man in conventional employment is to make him extremely discontented. He is forever confiding in the Stones how he longs to wear his hair down his back only his bosses and teachers won't let him. "From that quarter," Mick Jagger said, "there seems to be some sort of opposition."

Two weeks ago, they scored a victory over the grown-ups in the north. They appeared on Scene at 6:30. 

"Get those horrible people off the screen," cried the adults, switching over to Top of the Pops. There, gaping at them smugly from Top of the Pops, were the Stones. 

"We're quite clean really," Brian Jones says. Just for your information. "What we want to do is bring a lot of pleasure to people. Thereby earning a bomb!"

© Maureen Cleave, 1964

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