The Rolling Stones All the Songs

The Story Behind Every Track


By Philippe Margotin

By Jean-Michel Guesdon

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Comprehensive visual history of the “World’s Greatest Rock & Roll Band” as told through the recording of their monumental catalog, including 29 studio and 24 compilation albums, and more than a hundred singles.

Since 1963, The Rolling Stones have been recording and touring, selling more than 200 million records worldwide. While much is known about this iconic group, few books provide a comprehensive history of their time in the studio. In The Rolling Stones All the Songs, authors Margotin and Guesdon describe the origin of their 340 released songs, details from the recording studio, what instruments were used, and behind-the-scenes stories of the great artists who contributed to their tracks.

Organized chronologically by album, this massive, 704-page hardcover begins with their 1963 eponymous debut album recorded over five days at the Regent Studio in London; through their collaboration with legendary producer Jimmy Miller in the ground-breaking albums from 1968 to 1973; to their later work with Don Was, who has produced every album since Voodoo Lounge. Packed with more than 500 photos, All the Songs is also filled with stories fans treasure, such as how the mobile studio they pioneered was featured in Deep Purple’s classic song “Smoke on the Water” or how Keith Richards used a cassette recording of an acoustic guitar to get the unique riff on “Street Fighting Man.”


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In 1962, during the early days of spring, English rock history was about to be made under London's foggy skies. It all started with a chance encounter, when Mick Jagger and Keith Richards met Brian Jones, a blond angel who played the guitar so well he might have hailed from Chicago. The stones had not yet begun to roll. But they were already well formed.

It All Started at the Ealing Club

"Ealing Broadway Station. Turn left, cross at Zebra and go down steps between ABC Teashop and Jewellers. Saturday at 7.30 P.M." This brief notice published in the March 17, 1962—Saint Patrick's Day—issue of the New Musical Express gave directions to the Ealing Club and the opening gig by Alexis Korner's band Blues Incorporated, "the most exciting event of this year," as the magazine put it. Located at 42A The Broadway, in Ealing, London W5, a district hitherto known for its moving picture studios, the Ealing Club had recently been born out of the ashes of the Ealing Jazz Club at the instigation of Alexis Korner and Cyril Davies. Their aim was to promote the blues to a London music scene that was still somewhat conformist and that could hardly see past jazz (traditional or modern) and skiffle.

Korner and Davies played guitar and harmonica, respectively. Members of Chris Barber's jazz band at the end of the forties, they then performed as a duo in the Soho clubs, drawing on the repertoire of the black bluesmen of the United States. Later, their paths would diverge. After forming the band Blues Incorporated together, Davies abandoned it in 1963 for a more traditional form of blues, starting the Cyril Davies R&B All-Stars. As of May 1962, the Blues Incorporated lineup consisted of (in addition to its two founding members) the singer Long John Baldry, the pianist Keith Scott, the saxophonist Dick Heckstall-Smith, the bassist Jack Bruce, (the future bassist for Cream, who played double bass back then), and a certain Charlie Watts on drums.

Brian "Elmo Lewis" Jones

Over the course of the days, the band attracted a growing number of blues enthusiasts to the Ealing Club. Among them was one Brian Jones. Born in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, on February 28, 1942, Lewis Brian Hopkin Jones was the son of an aeronautical engineer and a piano teacher. Possessing an IQ of 133, Jones was a hyperintelligent child who showed a particular talent on the saxophone and the guitar. He was resistant to all forms of discipline, however, and in 1959, to the great displeasure of his parents, he abandoned his studies to go traveling in Scandinavia. The fact that he had got two girls pregnant within a matter of months of each other, a schoolgirl of fourteen and a married Cheltenham woman (Angeline), no doubt played a part in his sudden infatuation with the lands of northern Europe. Upon his return to England, Brian played alto saxophone for a time with the local band the Ramrods, before leaving Cheltenham for good in 1961 to set up home in London with the mother of his third child, Pat Andrews, a girl of just fifteen years of age. There, he started to frequent the blues scene, which was still in its infancy, and played from time to time with Alexis Korner.

On April 7, 1962, Brian Jones had just teamed up with Blues Incorporated again for a performance under the alias Elmo Lewis ("Elmo" in homage to one of his idols, the bluesman Elmore James). When he launched into "Dust My Broom" with a killer slide intro played on his Hofner Committee, the reaction was one of general stupefaction. In the audience, three young musicians in particular were awed. Their names were Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Dick Taylor. "He was the first person I ever heard playing slide electric guitar," recalls Keith. "Mick and I both thought he was incredible."1

Mick, Keith, Dick…

Michael Philip Jagger and Keith Richards were born in 1943, five months apart, in Dartford, Kent, some fifteen miles (twenty-five kilometers) from London—the former on July 26, the latter on December 18. Mick was the son of Eva and Basil "Joe" Jagger, a gym teacher at a school in Dartford, and the elder brother of Christopher, who would also become a singer. The family belonged to the middle class, conservative with a small c, in which traditions such as saying grace before a meal were observed and strict discipline prevailed. The Jaggers initially lived at 39 Denver Road before moving in 1954 to a road named The Close in a far more "respectable" district.

Keith's father, Herbert William Richards, was an electrician and later, after sustaining a severe leg injury during the Normandy landings, a foreman in a London power station. His mother Doris demonstrated washing machines while bringing up her one and only son. The Richards family lived in a small house on Chastilian Road, not far from Denver Road, and later moved to Temple Hill, some distance from the center of Dartford.

Mick Jagger and Keith Richards both attended Wentworth Primary School, but went on to follow different academic paths—the London School of Economics for Mick, Sidcup Art College for Keith. On the morning of October 17, 1961, both of them found themselves by chance at Dartford train station. The future Stones singer was holding two precious items that immediately sparked Richards's interest. The latter recalls this decisive moment: "Did we hit it off? You get in a carriage with a guy that's got Rockin' at the Hops by Chuck Berry on Chess Records, and The Best of Muddy Waters also under his arm, you are gonna hit it off."2 In addition to their shared taste in music, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards discovered that they also, by coincidence, had a friend in common: Dick Taylor. Born in Dartford on January 28, 1943, this former Sidcup Art College student was a guitarist in the same group as Mick: Little Boy Blue and the Blue Boys. Shortly after their encounter, Keith joined the lineup, whose other members were Bob Beckwith on guitar and Alan Etherington (Mick Jagger's best friend in those days) on percussion. A strong bond developed between Keith and Mick as Little Boy Blue and the Blue Boys recorded their first songs on a makeshift tape recorder and sent the tape to Alexis Korner…

… and the Others

After Brian Jones's slide guitar demonstration onstage at the Ealing Club, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Dick Taylor exchanged a few words with him. "I think Mick was the first one to go up and talk to him, and discovered that he had his own band, most of whom deserted him in the next few weeks,"2 recalls Keith Richards. Later, on May 2, 1962, to be precise, Brian Jones put an advertisement in Jazz News for new musicians, specifically a harmonica player and/or tenor saxophonist, a pianist, a bassist, and a drummer. Ian "Stu" Stewart, a pianist well versed in the percussive rhythms of boogie-woogie, but also a great admirer of Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald, was the first to respond. Brian then recruited the guitarist Geoff Bradford. "I formed a band called Blues By Six," recalls Bradford. "We played the Marquee Jazz Club. This fellow came up to me and said, 'My name's Brian Jones and I'm thinking of forming a band. Do you want to be in it?'"1 Bradford agreed to do a trial, as did Brian Knight, the singer–harmonica player with Blues By Six, who pulled out soon after. During the course of June 1962, Ian Stewart invited the new vocalist with Blues Incorporated, one Mick Jagger (who had just joined Alexis Korner's band), to come along to a rehearsal, and Jagger turned up with Keith Richards and Dick Taylor in tow. This led to a reunion with Brian. Bradford, who didn't have the same passion for Chuck Berry, also ended up leaving the group.

The Rollin' Stones: Bluesmen at Eighteen

The Rollin' Stones (the name was Brian's idea, in homage to Muddy Waters) were born. Or the band's first incarnation, at any rate, consisting of Brian Jones (guitar, harmonica), Mick Jagger (vocals, harmonica), Keith Richards (guitar), Dick Taylor (bass), and Ian Stewart (piano). They gave their first concert at the Marquee on July 12, 1962, with Mick Avory (who was later to join the Kinks) on drums. Soon after this, following an advertisement in the Melody Maker, Tony Chapman, previously drummer with the Cliftons, took Avory's place.

At the end of the summer of 1962, Brian Jones, Mick Jagger, and Keith Richards moved into a small flat at 102 Edith Grove in Chelsea with a certain James Phelge. "The place would have been perfect as a replica of a World War Two battlefront,"3 Phelge would later say of the modest apartment. At this time the young musicians were living hand to mouth: Brian had just been fired from the store Whiteleys of Bayswater, having been caught with his hand in the cash register, and Keith was reselling deposit bottles, while Mick was in receipt of a modest grant as a student at the London School of Economics. What did it matter if there was no more money at the beginning of the month than there was at the end? There was always music—blues and rock 'n' roll. Having managed to scrape together a few pounds, the Rollin' Stones, minus Dick Taylor, who had chosen to return to his studies, booked Curly Clayton Sound Studios in Highbury for October 27 (or October 26, according to Bill Wyman). There they recorded three numbers: "You Can't Judge a Book by the Cover" by Willie Dixon, "Soon Forgotten" by St. Louis Jimmy, and "Close Together" by Jimmy Reed. The demo was sent off to two record companies with no success.

Day after day passed in the same manner: rehearsals in the afternoon at 102 Edith Grove and gigs at the Ealing Club in the evening. Ever since Taylor had walked out, the Stones had an urgent need for a new bassist. Another advertisement was placed. At the beginning of December, on the recommendation of Tony Chapman, with whom he had played in the Cliftons, Bill Wyman agreed to go and meet one of the Stones, Ian Stewart, at the Red Lion.

Born William George Perks in London on October 24, 1936, Bill Wyman was one of the five children of William Perks, a bricklayer, and his wife Molly. He assumed the name Bill Wyman in memory of a friend with whom he had completed his national service in the Royal Air Force. Mad about music, Bill played guitar before switching to the bass upon joining the Cliftons in 1961. Ian Stewart was interested. He invited Bill Wyman along for an audition on December 7. This audition was all the more successful for the superb Vox AC30 guitar amp the bassist had brought along with him. Bill: "I was wearing a suit and a tie, as I thought a band should dress smartly. It did not impress them, but my equipment did."1 Seven days later, on December 14, Wyman played his first concert with the Stones at the Ricky Tick Club at the Star and Garter Hotel in Windsor. However, this did not prevent Brian Jones from placing another advertisement for a new bassist in the Jazz News of December 27… an ad that fortunately went unanswered.

On January 11, 1963, Tony Chapman played with the group for the last time at the Ricky Tick in Windsor. The reason? He did not fit. Brian Jones, who for a long time had wanted the former Blues Incorporated drummer, who had gone on to join Blues By Six, by his side, was eventually rewarded for his patience. Charlie Watts, born in London on June 2, 1941, a graphic design student and jazz enthusiast, officially became a member of the Rollin' Stones on January 11, 1963. Now the lineup was complete.

Giorgio Gomelsky's Crawdaddy Club

Two months later, Brian Jones, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ian Stewart, Bill Wyman, and Charlie Watts returned to the recording studio, this time the International Broadcasting Company (IBC) Studios at 35 Portland Place, London. The studios had just been bought by Eric Robinson (an eminent figure at the BBC), whose sound engineer was Glyn Johns. On March 11, 1963, the Rolling Stones recorded Bo Diddley's "Diddley Daddy" and "Road Runner," Willie Dixon's "I Want to Be Loved," and two songs by Jimmy Reed: "Honey, What's Wrong?" (alias "Baby, What's Wrong?") and "Bright Lights, Big City." "I thought the results were tremendous," recalls Glyn Johns. "I had finally got to record the music that had inspired me so much on my American pal Pat's Jimmy Reed album. They sounded like the real deal. I remember being particularly impressed by Brian Jones's harmonica playing, and the extraordinary feel and sound that Charlie and Bill got, and it goes without saying, Stu's piano playing."4

At the time the Rollin' Stones crossed the threshold of IBC Studios, they had just become the resident band at the Crawdaddy Club at the Station Hotel in the suburb of Richmond in southwest London. This establishment, which took its name from a Bo Diddley song ("Doing the Craw-Daddy"), was run by Giorgio Gomelsky, a highly cultured man who, after developing an interest in jazz, started to believe in the future of English blues. This "Russian émigré, a great bear of a man, with incredible drive and enthusiasm,"2 in the words of Keith Richards, acted in a sense as the group's first (unofficial) manager. It was he who got the group its initial press coverage, in the Richmond and Twickenham Times of April 13, 1963, and it was he who produced the April 20 session at the RG Jones Studio in Morden, Surrey, during which Bo Diddley's "Pretty Thing" and "It's All Right Babe" were recorded. Finally, and most importantly, it was Gomelsky who got various musicians and insiders of the music world who were in a position to help his protégés, to come to Richmond. Thus on April 14, the Beatles turned up at the Crawdaddy for a performance by the Stones. Two weeks later it was Andrew Loog Oldham and Eric Easton's turn to sit down at a table in the club.

The "Dynamite and the Detonator"

Eric Easton, who ran a small artists' agency on London's Regent Street, was a moneyman. Oldham was a visionary publicist who had worked with Brian Epstein, the Beatles' manager, and understood the key role the media could play in the success of a band. It took him no more than a few seconds to grasp the potential of the Rollin' Stones when he heard them for the first time at the Station Hotel in Richmond. "I'd never seen anything like it,"5 he would write in his memoirs, "… I heard the anthem of a national sound, I heard the sound of a national anthem. I heard what I always wanted to hear. I wanted it; it already belonged to me. Everything I'd done up until now was a preparation for this moment. I saw and heard what my life, thus far, had been for."5 Keith Richards would sum up the decisive encounter on this April evening in 1963 in the following pithy statement: "We were the dynamite, Andy Oldham the detonator."2

From that moment, things started to move very quickly. On April 29, Oldham and Easton set up the company Impact Sound, whose precise object was to oversee both the image and the recordings of the Rolling Stones. Ian Stewart saw himself relegated to the role of supplementary musician and road manager—owing to his general appearance, which was out of keeping with the look expected of a rock star in those days—and the tape recorded at IBC was bought back for £90. Oldham even went as far as to ask Keith to remove the s in his name, on the grounds that it was more hip (an orthographical change that has not been taken into account in this book for reasons of consistency). Regarding Oldham's role, Bill Wyman has commented: "We went with him (Andrew) on the morning of May 4, 1963, to Carnaby Street, where he bought us all tight black jeans, black roll-neck sweaters and highly fashionable Anello & Davide black Spanish boots with Cuban heels."6

Perfect Timing

On May 5, Oldham persuaded Dick Rowe, the A&R man at Decca, to attend a Stones gig at the Crawdaddy. This man, famous in the music world for having turned down an opportunity to sign the Beatles in March 1962, did not want to make the same mistake again and followed George Harrison's advice to "sign the Rollin' Stones."7 Thus on May 8 (or 9), Brian Jones, in his capacity as leader, signed a three-year management contract with Impact Sound, which led a few days later to a recording contract with Decca.

On becoming manager (and producer) of the Rollin' Stones in spring 1963, Andrew Loog Oldham, already adept at working the media, soon abandoned the idea of making Mick, Brian, Keith, Bill, and Charlie the London equivalents of Liverpool's Fab Four. Uniforms and neatly combed hair were not for them. The Stones were more disillusioned sulk, vacant expression, derisive stare. To put it in a nutshell, and to quote the title of one of their as-yet-unwritten songs, their image was that of five middle-class adolescents who had "Grown Up Wrong." The band members saw themselves, however, not as bad boys, but simply as lads who had grown up listening to the blues of Muddy Waters and Jimmy Reed, as eighteen-year-old bluesmen who had seen their dream come true. "'We've done Mississippi, been through Chicago.' You kid yourself. But it was really flying into the face of it. And of course the timing was dead right."2

To put the finishing touches to this image of a "group your parents love to hate," Oldham made the band members change their look, excluded Ian Stewart, whose overly conventional appearance—in reality he perhaps may not have been the best-looking man in the world—clashed with Oldham's media plans, and added a small g to the end of Rollin… Now the curtain could rise on one of the most exciting bands in the history of rock 'n' roll.


After placing an advertisement in the Jazz News of May 2, 1962, Brian Jones installed himself on the second floor of the Bricklayers Arms, a pub on Broadwick Street where the auditions were to be held. The first person to come through the doors was a strapping fellow in his twenties.

"Stu," Piano Virtuoso

Born on July 18, 1938, in Pittenweem, a small fishing village on the eastern coast of Scotland, Ian Stewart grew up in Cheam, in the London Borough of Sutton. From the age of six, he learned the piano and the banjo, and later started to play in amateur groups. Blues and boogie-woogie were his two musical passions. "I'd always wanted to play this style of piano," said Ian Stewart, "cause I'd always been potty on Albert Ammons. The BBC used to have jazz programs every night, and one night many years ago my ears were opened. I'd thought boogie was piano solo stuff, and they had this program called 'Chicago Blues.' I don't remember any records, all I can remember is that they had this style of piano playing with guitars, harmonicas, and a guy singing. So when a little advert appeared in Jazz News—a character named Brian Jones wanted to form a R&B group—I went along and saw him."8 And he continues: "I'll never forget, he had this Howlin' Wolf album goin', I'd never heard anything like it. I thought, Right, this is it. He said, 'We're gonna have a rehearsal.'"8

Ian Stewart was thus the first musician hired by Brian Jones. Because of his maturity and virtuosity on the piano, Stu, as he was known, quickly came to exert a real influence over the other members of the group. Keith Richards describes his first meeting with Ian Stewart at the Bricklayers Arms: "And I can hear this boogie-woogie piano, this unbelievable Meade Lux Lewis and Albert Ammons stuff. I'm suddenly transported in a way. I feel like a musician and I haven't even got there!"2

The Wrong Kind of Face

The problem was that Ian Stewart was a few years older than Brian, Mick, and Keith, and above all was infinitely less eccentric than them. For Andrew Oldham, who was in control of the Rolling Stones' destinies, he did not look the part. Using the inevitable failure of a group of six musicians as a pretext, Oldham ousted Stewart, who had to content himself with playing piano on future recording sessions and carrying the equipment of the other five when they were on tour. For the pianist, it was a snub, a humiliation. But he loved the Stones too much—and believed in them too much—to rebel. He therefore consented. "I'd probably have said, 'Well, fuck you,'" admits Keith Richards, "but he said 'OK, I'll just drive you around.' That takes a big heart, but Stu had one of the largest hearts around."9 And this is how things remained until the middle of the eighties. However, as Cynthia Stewart Dillane (who became his wife in 1967) would later attest, he took this exclusion very badly: "Stu was deeply hurt, because he wasn't good-looking in the genre of the day. I don't think he felt anything except hurt."5 No doubt a deep resentment too, as this remark quoted by Oldham himself in his memoirs suggests: "Andrew Oldham? I wouldn't piss on him if he was on fire."5

Present on all the Rolling Stones' albums released between 1964 and 1986 except Their Satanic Majesties Request (1967) and Beggars Banquet (1968), Ian Stewart began to suffer from respiratory problems in the mid-eighties. On December 11, 1985, he was nevertheless onstage in Nottingham with Rocket 88—the boogie-woogie group he had formed at the end of the seventies with Charlie Watts, Alexis Korner, and Dick Morrissey. The next day he suffered a fatal heart attack in the waiting room of a medical specialist.

Two months later, at the 100 Club in London, the Stones took to the stage alongside Rocket 88 for a tribute gig in honor of the "sixth" Rolling Stone. Finally, in 1986, the quintet succeeded in getting Stewart's name added to their own with his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. To close with praise from Keith Richards: "Ian Stewart. I'm still working for him. To me the Rolling Stones is his band. Without his knowledge and organization, without the leap he made from where he was coming from, to take a chance on playing with this bunch of kids, we'd be nowhere."2


Chuck Berry / 1:50


Come On / I Want to Be Loved


United Kingdom: June 7, 1963

Label: Decca



Mick Jagger: vocals

Keith Richards: rhythm guitar

Brian Jones: harmonica, backing vocals

Bill Wyman: bass, backing vocals (?)

Charlie Watts: drums


Olympic Sound Studios, Carlton Street, London: May 10, 1963

Technical Team

Producers: Andrew Oldham, Eric Easton

Sound Engineer: Roger Savage


In early May 1963, Eric Easton and Andrew Oldham reached an agreement with Brian Jones, as leader of the group, for a three-year management contract. On May 10, the London gang entered Olympic Sound Studios in Carlton Street, at the heart of the capital's West End, for their first official recording session. Oldham had had the studio booked since May 2: £40 for three short hours. The sound engineer, Roger Savage, would retain a memory of having worked free of charge, although he was actually paid £5 per hour: "I agreed to record them one night without payment, because he didn't have any money, so we sorta crept into Olympic late one night.… We set up and did four songs quite quickly."5 A number of songs were thus recorded on May 10. In her book about Brian Jones, the journalist Laura Jackson10 mentions a superb version of "Dust My Blues" (by Elmore James), with Brian Jones on slide guitar. But the number chosen as the A-side for this first single was "Come On."

"Come On" is a Chuck Berry song that was released by the rock 'n' roll pioneer in October 1961 but failed to chart (unlike the B-side, "Go Go Go," which climbed to number 38). Everything is wrong since me and my baby parted, sings Mick Jagger. This is a world away from the dark and brooding image the Rolling Stones had already started to cultivate, and equally far removed from the low-down blues, the "music of the devil" they had been voraciously imbibing since first setting foot in the clubs of Soho.


  • Three years ago, one of the books I was most excited about was Philippe Margotin and Jean-Michel Guesdon's All the Songs: The Story Behind Every Beatles Release; this October will bring The Rolling Stones All the Songs: The Story Behind Every Track (Black Dog & Leventhal, Oct.). Margotin and Guesdon combine a passion for music with thoughtful and comprehensive research, resulting in ready-reference that doubles as the ultimate coffee-table book. There's an entry for each song, along with a sumptuous array of images and anecdotes galore. It may only be rock and roll, but fans will like it (yes, they will).—Mahnaz Dar, Library Journal

On Sale
Oct 25, 2016
Page Count
704 pages

Philippe Margotin

About the Author

Philippe Margotin has written numerous books on music, including biographies of U2 and Radiohead, as well as All the Songs: The Story Behind Every Beatles Release, Bob Dylan All the Songs: The Story Behind Every Track, and Pink Floyd All the Songs: The Story Behind Every Track. He lives in Paris.

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Jean-Michel Guesdon

About the Author

Jean-Michel Guesdon, a musician, composer, and sound engineer, who wrote with Philippe Margotin All the Songs: The Story Behind Every Beatles Release, Bob Dylan All the Songs: The Story Behind Every Track, The Rolling Stones All the Songs: The Story Behind Every Track,  and Pink Floyd All the Songs: The Story Behind Every Track. He lives in Paris.

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