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Music / The Rolling Stones (Band)

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The classic '60s line-up of the Rolling Stones. From
left to right: Mick Jagger, Brian Jones, Keith Richards,
Bill Wyman, and Charlie Watts.

"I've decided to answer a few Frequently Asked Questions... Other than The Rolling Stones, what's my favourite group? Well, I guess I'm a real fan of The Free Credit Report Dot Com Band!"
Mick Jagger, Saturday Night Live, May 19, 2012

The Rolling Stones are a British blues-based rock band which has been described (first by stage manager Sam Cutler in 1969) as "The World's Greatest Rock and Roll Band" and has been doing its best to justify the description for more than half a century.

The Stones were formed in London in June of 1962, when guitarist and original leader Brian Jones recruited pianist Ian "Stu" Stewart, soon followed by vocalist Mick Jagger, who brought along guitarist Keith Richards. Following a series of fill-ins, bassist Bill Wyman joined up in December 1962 and drummer Charlie Watts in January 1963, completing the first stable line-up. After the band recruited Andrew Loog Oldham to be their manager, Stewart was removed from the official line-up, as Oldham felt that six members were too many, and Stewart was the odd one out image-wise. However, Stu took the demotion admirably well and continued to work with the band as road manager and main pianist and keyboardist until his death in 1985.

The band's early recordings largely consisted of covers of American blues and R&B songs, while their earliest self-penned numbers were credited under the collective pseudonym Nanker/Phlege. After first achieving success in the UK with a cover of Lennon and McCartney's "I Wanna Be Your Man" in late 1963, they crossed the Atlantic as part of the first wave of The British Invasion in 1964. However, their first U.S. tour was famously a disaster, with the Stones having no major hit to tour on, getting mocked by Dean Martin on national TV, and regularly failing to sell tickets well. Their big breakthrough came in 1965, when their hit singles "The Last Time" and "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction", as well as their third album Out of Our Heads, shot the Stones into superstardom on both sides of the pond. By this time, Jagger and Richards had taken the leadership role from Jones in the group, largely on the strength of their now-fertile songwriting partnership.

Starting with their 1966's Aftermath (Album), the songs of Jagger and Richards, aided by the instrumental experimentation of Jones, expanded the band's ever-present stylistic flexibility. The experimentation continued through 1967 with the baroque pop album Between the Buttons and climaxed with the polarizing album Their Satanic Majesties Request and single "We Love You". 1967 proved to be an important year for the Stones, who came close to breaking up. Jagger, Jones, and Richards were all hit by drug busts, which would have a devastating impact on Jones in particular. Oldham, who had worked as their manager and producer since 1963, quit around this time, feeling that his partnership with the band had run its course. This led to the Stones self-producing Satanic Majesties.

In 1968, the band recruited Jimmy Miller as record producer and chose to return to a back-to-basics approach to their music after the psychedelic excesses from the previous year. Beggars Banquet proved to be the last hurrah for Brian Jones, who was hit by another drug bust, and stopped making major contributions to the band's music. His health had also been affected by drug use, and as a result of the drug busts, he was unable to gain a visa to tour in America. Jones's final contributions to the band were autoharp on "You Got the Silver" and percussion on "Midnight Rambler" from Let It Bleed. Matters soon came to a head, and Jones was forced to leave the band he had founded and named, replaced by Mick Taylor. Jones sadly drowned in his own swimming pool several weeks after his departure, and just a few days before Taylor had his first gig with the band—at Hyde Park, which was transformed into a tribute concert for Jones. Taylor recorded five studio albums with the Stones (including Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main St., which along with their two predecessors are widely regarded as one of the greatest four-album streaks in rock music history) before quitting in 1974. Former Faces guitarist Ronnie Wood stepped in, became an official member in February 1976, and has been with the band ever since. Wyman quit in 1993; bassist Darryl Jones, who is not an official band member, has worked with the group since then.

Charlie Watts died on August 24, 2021, at the age of 80.

They have released 23 studio albums in the UK (25 in the US), 19 live albums, and numerous compilations; and have sold more than 200 million albums worldwide. Sticky Fingers from 1971 began a string of eight straight studio albums that charted at number one in the United States. In 1989, The Rolling Stones were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. In 2004 and again in 2011, they were ranked at number four in Rolling Stone magazine's 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. Their image of unkempt and surly youth (originally cultivated in large part to contrast them with The Beatles) is one that many musicians still emulate. The band's attitude and style were major influences on Hard Rock, Heavy Metal, Punk Rock, and Alternative Rock bands that followed them.

For the Heinlein novel, see The Rolling Stones (1952).

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Principal members (Founding members in bold, current members in italic):

  • Mick Jagger - lead vocals, harmonica, guitar, percussion, tambourine, piano, keyboards, maracas, castanets, bass (1962–)
  • Brian Jones - guitar, backing vocals, harmonica, percussion, organ, keyboard, harpsichord, marimba, sitar, dulcimer, koto, vibraphone, recorder, saxophone, oscillator, mellotron, flute, brass, tamboura, trumpet, congas, autoharp, banjo, mandolin, bass, clarinet, xylophone, glockenspiel, harp, tabla (1962–69; died 1969)
  • William Perks (Bill Wyman) - bass, backing and lead vocals, guitar, organ pedals, double bass, piano, percussion, maracas, autoharp, vibes, synthesizer, marimba (1962–93) note 
  • Keith Richards - guitar, backing and lead vocals, piano, organ, bass, double bass, bicycle spokes, tambourine (1962–)
  • Ian "Stu" Stewart - piano, keyboard, organ, percussion (1962–63; died 1985) note 
  • Mick Taylor - guitar, backing vocals, bass, synthesizer, congas (1969–74) note 
  • Charlie Watts - drums, percussion, tabla, cowbell, clave, tambourine (1963–2021; died 2021)
  • Ronnie Wood - guitar, backing vocals, bass, bass drum, drums, saxophone, dobro (1976–)

Early Members/Fill-Ins:

  • Mick Avory - drums (1962)
  • Tony Chapman - drums (1962–63)
  • Ricky Fenson - bass (1962–63)
  • Colin Golding - bass (1962–63)
  • Carlo Little - drums (1962–63; died 2005)
  • Dick Taylor - bass (1962)


Studio Discography:

Live Discography:

  • 1965 - Got Live If You Want It! (EP) note 
  • 1966 - Got Live If You Want It! note 
  • 1970 - Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out! The Rolling Stones in Concert
  • 1977 - Love You Live
  • 1982 - "Still Life" (American Concert 1981)
  • 1991 - Flashpoint note 
  • 1995 - Stripped
  • 1996 - The Rolling Stones Rock And Roll Circus note 
  • 1998 - No Security
  • 2004 - Live Licks
  • 2008 - Shine a Light
  • 2011 - Brussels Affair (Live 1973)
  • 2011 - Some Girls: Live in Texas '78
  • 2012 - Hampton Coliseum (Live 1981)
  • 2012 - L.A. Friday (Live 1975)
  • 2012 - Live at the Checkerboard Lounge, Chicago 1981 note 
  • 2012 - Live at the Tokyo Dome note 
  • 2012 - Light the Fuse note 
  • 2012 - Live at Leeds note 
  • 2013 - Hyde Park Live

Non-album singles:

  • 1963 - Come On
    • I Want to Be Loved as the B-side
  • 1963 - I Wanna Be Your Man
    • Stoned as the B-side
  • 1964 - Not Fade Away note 
    • Little by Little as the UK B-side note 
      • I Wanna Be Your Man as the US B-side note 
  • 1964 - It's All Over Now note 
    • Good Times, Bad Times as the B-side note 
  • 1964 - Time Is on My Side note 
    • Congratulations as the B-side note 
  • 1964 - Little Red Rooster note 
    • Off the Hook as the B-side note 
  • 1965 - The Last Time note 
    • Play with Fire as the B-Side note 
  • 1965 - (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction note 
    • The Spider and the Fly as the UK B-side note 
      • The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man as the US B-side note 
  • 1965 - Get Off of My Cloud note 
    • The Singer Not the Song as the UK B-side note 
      • I'm Free as the US B-side note 
  • 1965 - As Tears Go By note 
    • Gotta Get Away as the B-side note 
  • 1966 - 19th Nervous Breakdown
    • As Tears Go By as the UK B-side note 
      • Sad Day as the US B-side
  • 1966 - Paint It Black note 
    • Long Long While as the UK B-side
      • Stupid Girl as the US B-side note 
  • 1966 - Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadow?
    • Who's Driving Your Plane as the B-side
  • 1967 - Let's Spend the Night Together note 
    • Ruby Tuesday as a double A-side note 
  • 1967 - We Love You
    • Dandelion as the B-side
  • 1968 - Jumpin' Jack Flash
    • Child Of The Moon as the B-side
  • 1969 - Honky Tonk Women
    • You Can't Always Get What You Want as the B-side note 
  • 1974 - It's Only Rock 'n Roll note 
    • Through the Lonely Nights as the B-side
  • 1975 - I Don't Know Why
    • Try a Little Harder as the B-side
  • 1975 - Out of Time note 
    • Jiving Sister Fanny as the B-side
  • 1978 - Shattered note 
    • Everything Is Turning to Gold as the B-side
  • 1981 - If I Was A Dancer (Dance Pt.2)
    • Dance (Instrumental) as the B-side
  • 1984 - She Was Hot note 
    • I Think I'm Going Mad as the B-side
  • 1989 - Mixed Emotions note 
    • Fancy Man Blues as the B-side
  • 1989 - Rock and a Hard Place note 
    • Cook Cook Blues as the B-side
  • 1989 - Terrifying note 
    • Wish I'd Never Met You as the B-side
  • 1994 - Love Is Strong note 
    • The Storm as the first B-side
      • So Young as the second B-side note 
  • 1994 - You Got Me Rocking note 
    • Jump on Top of Me as the B-side
  • 1994 - Out of Tears note 
    • I'm Gonna Drive as the first B-side
      • Sparks Will Fly and So Young as the second and third B-side note 
  • 1998 - Saint Of Me note 
    • Anyway You Look At It as the first B-side
      • Gimme Shelter and Anybody Seen My Baby as the second and third B-side note 
  • 2002 - Don't Stop
    • Miss You as the B-side note 
  • 2012 - Doom and Gloom
    • Doom and Gloom as the B-side note 
  • 2013 - One More Shot
    • One More Shot as the B-side note 

The Rolling Stones are the Trope Namers for:

"You can't always trope what you want..."

  • Born During a Storm: "Jumping Jack Flash" was "born in a cross-fire hurricane, and [howled] at [his] ma in the driving rain," which was only the beginning of the man's tumultuous and exciting life.
  • Break-Up Song: "Angie", which Mick wrote based on things going downhill with Marianne Faithfull.
  • Camp Straight: Mick Jagger. Very flamboyant on and off stage, had eight children with five women.
  • Canon Discontinuity: The band's Decca Records albums up to Between the Buttons; the altered American releases by London Records are officially considered the canon versions. It's an inversion of most other British bands such as the Capitol albums by The Beatles in that the American versions are considered canon instead of the other way around.
  • The Casanova:
    • Bill Wyman. By his own estimate, he slept with over 1,000 women.
    • Brian Jones was no slouch, having numerous affairs and bearing at least four children by four different women.
    • Don't let Mick Jagger fool you. The man has probably never been turned down once in his entire life.
  • Chronological Album Title: The Rolling Stones No. 2, their second UK album.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: "Star Star". It was originally called "Starfucker", but had the title changed after Atlantic Records boss Ahmet Ertegun managed to get them to do so. He couldn't make them remove the profanity though.
    • Also "Andrew's Blues," a drunken outtake from 1964 where the Stones (with Gene Pitney, Phil Spector, and the Hollies' Graham Nash and Allan Clarke) pay tribute to their manager Andrew Loog Oldham in the most profane way possible.
  • Concept Album: Their Satanic Majesties Request
  • Control Freak: Jagger has the reputation of being one of these.
  • Country Music: They have written a sizeable number of songs in this genre of varying degrees of sincerity. From Sticky Fingers we have the example of "Dead Flowers" which is an Anti-Love Song featuring deliberately trashy musicianship intended to sound like the band members themselves were trashed when they recorded it. The same album also contains the example of "Wild Horses", which is played completely seriously and, like many of the best songs of the genre, is utterly heartbreaking.
  • Cover Album: Blue & Lonesome, the band's first all-cover work, with some old blues...
  • Cover Version: ...bringing back a tradition of the band's old days. Their first singles were Chuck Berry's "Come On" and The Beatles' "I Wanna Be Your Man", their debut album has only one Jagger-Richards song, and so on. It became more sporadic as the Glimmer Twins wrote more and more, with examples from the 70s to the 90s including "Ain't Too Proud to Beg", "Just My Imagination", "Harlem Shuffle" and "Like a Rolling Stone".
    • Occasionally they covered songs that they themselves wrote or cowrote. "As Tears Go By", which Jagger and Richards cowrote with the Stones' manager Andrew Loog Oldham, was a Marianne Faithfull song before the Stones recorded their version. Faithfull recorded "Sister Morphine" first too - and she cowrote it with Jagger and Richards. Unfortunately, her version of "Sister Morphine" was released on a single that Decca quickly withdrew in the UK (although it remained in print in some other territories), which has caused it to be almost forgotten.
  • Darker and Edgier: Beggars Banquet was the album that truly set the template for the band's sleazy, raunchy sound following the psychedelic experimentation of Between the Buttons and Their Satanic Majesties Request (and the grittier but still comparatively tame R&B covers and pop singles of their early period).
    • The Stones themselves, of course, were initially seen as a Darker and Edgier alternative to The Beatles.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Keith, of course.
  • Demoted to Extra:
    • Shortly after becoming the Stones' business manager in 1964, Andrew Loog Oldham had keyboardist Ian Stewart demoted to road manager, ostensibly on the grounds that six were too many for a pop group but more likely because Stewart's short-haired, lantern-jawed appearance didn't fit the image that Oldham was trying to cultivate for the band. However, he did continue to contribute to the Stones' recordings and perform in the background as their touring keyboardist (but not a full member of the band) until his death. When the Stones were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989, the band requested that Stewart be inducted as a member as well.
    • Brian Jones, originally the Stones' leader, was relegated to an increasingly secondary role as the '60s progressed, due to such factors as Oldham taking over the band's management (Jones and Oldham didn't particularly like each other), the emergence of the Jagger-Richards writing partnership (Jones couldn't or wouldn't write usable songs for the group, which made him far less important as their commercial ambitions grew), deteriorating relations with his bandmates (exacerbated by a Love Triangle between Jones, Richards, and Anita Pallenberg), and his own personal problems (including severe drug and alcohol abuse and a corresponding deterioration in his physical and mental health). As a result of all this, Jones contributed little to the Stones' music after 1967; his final album with the band, Let It Bleed, features him on just two tracks (congas on "Midnight Rambler" and autoharp on "You Got the Silver").
  • Determinator: Keith, of course.
    • Also, the character "Jumpin' Jack Flash"
    • The band as a whole. To illustrate: as noted they are "only" number 4 in Rolling Stone magazine's 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. In the top 26, note  Mick and Keith have literally, in the true sense of the word, outlived the majority of the artists listed. Further, in terms of active or even semi-active careers, only Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, and The Beach Boys rival the lads in rock and roll longevity.
  • Disguised in Drag: the original group dressed up as aeroplane stewardesses on the picture sleeve for the "Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadow?" single.
  • Drugs Are Bad:
    • "Mother's Little Helper", which is about a housewife abusing prescription drugs (presumably meprobamate (Miltown) or diazepam (Valium)) to deal with her everyday life, eventually leading to a fatal overdose. The first line gives a clue as to her deep motive: "What a drag it is getting OLD..."
    • The final stanza of "Sister Morphine" mentions that "you know and I know in the morning I'll be dead."
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Ron Wood played on "It's Only Rock & Roll", released in 1974, while he was still a member of the Faces. He would play with the band for the ensuing tour in 1975 after Mick Taylor left the band, but did not become an official band member until the release of Black and Blue in 1976.
  • Embarrassing Middle Name: In a memoir of his time living with the group in the early '60s, one-time Stones crony Jimmy Phelge relates how Brian Jones had a strong aversion to his middle name (Hopkins) and tried to keep it a secret from the others.
  • Epic Rocking: "Goin' Home", "Midnight Rambler", "Can't You Hear Me Knocking", "You Can't Always Get What You Want", "Love Is Strong"
  • Everyone Has Standards: Charlie Watts originally abstained from drugs and alcohol, but when he began indulging in the mid-1980s, his use got so extreme that Keith Richards - yes, the man who probably qualifies as the Trope Codifier for Immune to Drugs - told him he was doing too much. Watts himself later admitted that he nearly lost his marriage because of it.
  • The Fashionista: Charlie Watts was famous for his fashion sense. He frequently showed up on "best dressed" lists.
  • Fish-Eye Lens: Used on the cover of the UK version of the Big Hits (High Tide and Green Grass) compilation.
  • For Doom the Bell Tolls: "The Lantern"
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: The classic '60s lineup:
    • Sanguine: Mick
    • Choleric: Keith
    • Melancholic: Brian
    • Phlegmatic: Charlie
    • Leukine: Bill
  • Friendly Rivalry: With The Beatles in the '60s.
    • There is also a Foil to it; the Stones were considered the "less wholesome" counterpart to The Beatles.
  • Gratuitous Panning: The stereo mix of the "We Love You" single has the vocals on the chorus shift from hard right to hard left.
  • Greatest Hits Album: Several, going all the way back to 1966's Big Hits (High Tide and Green Grass).
  • Grief Song: "Paint It Black"
  • Groupie Brigade: They had a substantial one during their heyday, probably almost rivalling The Beatles in this regard.
  • Happily Married: Charlie Watts was the only member of the band still married to his first wife, Shirley, who he married before the Stones became famous. His devotion to his wife is well known: When the band visited the Playboy Mansion in 1972, Watts played pool with Hugh Hefner instead of hanging out with the Bunnies like the rest of the band. He also consistently turned down sexual advances from groupies while on the road, and most likely remained faithful to her until his death. (His marriage did suffer a crisis due to his substance abuse during the mid-'80s, but he recovered, and their marriage survived until his death.)
  • #HashtagForLaughs: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood each have their own Twitter account, alongside the Rolling Stones as a whole. Charlie Watts did not. When the Rolling Stones account listed individual accounts in a tweet, it used the hashtag #CharliestoocoolforTwitter in his absence.
  • Heavy Meta: "It's Only Rock 'N' Roll" (but I like it, I like it, yes I do!)
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Mick and Keith. Keith:
    "I always feel sorry for Mick's women. They always end up crying on my shoulder and I tell them 'How do you think I feel? I'm stuck with him!'"
  • Hey, You!: Get off of my cloud!
  • Historical Rap Sheet: "Sympathy for the Devil" lists many atrocities that the titular Devil has been a part of, such as being a German General during World War II, being an accomplice of the assassination of both Kennedys, and the French and Russian Revolutions.
  • Horrible History Metal: "Brown Sugar"—about the rape of enslaved women in the antebellum Deep South—is something of a predecessor.
  • Hypocritical Humor: This video Mick and Charlie did for Monty Python's reunion show in 2014.
    "A bunch of wrinkly old men trying to relive their youth and make a load of money. I mean, the best one died years ago!"
    • Thoroughly lampshaded:
      Mick: [to Charlie, who's sitting next to him on the sofa] I mean, we've seen it all before! They've put it all up on YouTube!
      Charlie: [Aside Glance]
  • Ice Queen: "She's So Cold".
  • "I Hate" Song: "Stupid Girl" is three verses and a middle eight of of "grrr..." against shallow, empty-headed women.
  • Immune to Drugs: Keith Richards. A lesser man would have died long ago taking half the amount of drugs he's taken in his life.
    • To put this in perspective, Richards admitted he only quit cocaine in 2006 after his head injury in Fiji, meaning he only quit hard drugs when he was sixty-three. And even now, in his late 70's, he still enjoys cocktails and cannabis in his downtime.
  • Instrumentals: "Stoned", "2120 South Michigan Avenue"
  • Intentionally Awkward Title: Especially for their time, Their Satanic Majesties Request and arguably Let It Bleed. Also the song "Bitch". Not to mention the somewhat obscure song "Cocksucker Blues", which also lent its title to a never-released documentary about the band.
  • Intercourse with You: "Let's Spend The Night Together" as the most blatant.
  • International Pop Song English
  • Irony: One of the main reasons why Bill Wyman — a former RAF veteran — left the Stones was because he had developed a fear of flying.
  • Junkie Parent: "Mother's Little Helper" is about a mother addicted to benzos.
  • Large Ham: Mick, frequently.
  • Last Chorus Slowdown: "Ruby Tuesday"
  • Lead Drummer: Charlie Watts may have qualified as a downplayed example; he was nowhere near as well-known as Jagger or Richards, but apart from those two, he's the only Rolling Stone to appear on every record until his death. Both rock critics and fellow drummers also regarded him as one of the greatest rock drummers of all time (for an example of each, critic Robert Christgau called him the greatest, and Phil Collins named him as one of his five favourite drummers in a 2020 interviewnote ), and after his death, tributes unanimously poured out that noted how important he was to the Stones' sound.
  • Line-of-Sight Name: Brian Jones supposedly came up with the band's name while trying to get a club booking on the telephone. When the venue's manager asked Jones what his newly-formed group called themselves, he looked at a Muddy Waters album that was sitting on the floor and noticed the first track, "Rollin' Stone Blues".
  • Live Album: Several. Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out!, recorded on the 1969 U.S. tour and released in 1970, is generally considered the best of them.
  • Long Runner: Started as a London club band in 1962, still going strong.
    • Long-Runner Line-up: Two of them:
      • Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman, Ronnie Wood: 1975–93
      • Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Ronnie Wood: 1993–2021
  • Loudness War: The 2010 remaster of Exile on Main St. suffers from a bad case of this.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: The Stones have a knack for combining beautiful, moving music with severely screwed-up lyrics full of sex (and definitely not of the Safe, Sane, and Consensual kind), drugs, violence, and general weirdness.
    • Case in point: "Brown Sugar", the only upbeat song on the Sticky Fingers album. It's about slave rape on American cotton plantations.

  • Man of Wealth and Taste: Trope Namer. Not specifically mentioned in the song, but Lucifer sounds like a guy who wears a nice suit.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: "Ruby Tuesday" is an early celebration of this character type.
    "There's no time to lose, " I heard her say
    "Catch your dreams before they slip away"
  • The Movie: Shine A Light, by Martin Scorsese.
  • The Masochism Tango: Mick and Jerry Hall. Jesus.
  • Misogyny Song: They had quite a run of these in the '60s: "Play with Fire", "Under My Thumb", "Stupid Girl", "Lady Jane", "Out of Time", "Yesterday's Papers", "Back Street Girl", "Ride On, Baby"...
    • And in the '70s: "Brown Sugar", "Star Star", "Short and Curlies", "Some Girls"...
  • Murder Ballad: "Hand Of Fate"
  • New Sound Album: Aftermath (Album) began to add elements of psychedelia to their early mod sound. Its follow up, Between the Buttons, took them into full-blown psychedelic rock, continuing with this on Their Satanic Majesties Request. Beggars Banquet codified their most well-known sound of bluesy, loose, garage rock. Some Girls played with elements of punk rock and disco, and Emotional Rescue and Undercover incorporated elements of synth-pop.
  • Nobody Loves the Bassist: It would seem, considering that, after Bill Wyman left, there's been no official replacement for him (just session and touring bassists).
  • Non-Appearing Title: "Sympathy for the Devil," "Let It Bleed"
  • Ode to Intoxication: The Cover Version of Muddy Waters' "Champagne And Reefer" on Shine A Light
  • One-Steve Limit: Twice averted, as they doubled up on Micks with Mick Avory's brief early membership, then later during Mick Taylor's time with the band.
  • One-Woman Song: "Angie", "Lady Jane", "Ruby Tuesday", "Sweet Virginia", "Hey Negrita", "Indian Girl"
  • Paint It Black: Trope Namer (the actual song has nothing to do with the trope).
  • Pen Name: The pseudonym "Nanker Phelge" was used for several early group compositions.note 
  • "But don't play with me, 'cause you're Playing with Fire..."
  • The Pollyanna: The narrator of "Jumpin' Jack Flash". Their whole life, they've been through misfortune after misfortune, even being at the mercy of Abusive Parents who whip their back with a belt, and yet they've never lost their optimism as the years went by.
  • Protest Song:
    • "We Love You" (1967): Outwardly a message to their fans for their support in the wake of Jagger and Richards' then-recent drug busts. However, beneath the surface it was a sarcastic riposte to the police harassment they had been receiving at the time.
    • "Street Fighting Man" (1968): A commentary on the violence and civil unrest of the late 1960s. Jagger said the song was inspired by British activist Tariq Ali after he attended a 1968 antiwar rally at which mounted police attempted to control a crowd of 25,000.
    • "Salt of the Earth" (1969): Apparently the result of John Lennon inspiring the Stones to write a working-class anthem; its lyrics (primarily written by Jagger) salute the working class, although Jagger admits that he finds it difficult to understand them.
    • "Sweet Black Angel" (1972): An expression of support for imprisoned Black Panther activist Angela Davis, who was facing murder charges at the time (she was acquitted later that year).
    • "Fingerprint File" (1974): Expresses frustration over government monitoring and surveillance activity.
    • "Hang Fire" (1981): Contains satirical lyrics about the economic decline Britain was facing throughout the 1970s; it's also sung from the perspective of a working-class Englishman who finds even marrying into wealth to be too much bother ("Marrying money is a full-time job"), even though it's implied to be the only way to get ahead in English society ("We've got nothing to eat/We got nowhere to work/Nothing to drink/We just lost our shirts"). Richards said the song was directed at the "ugly politicians" who caused the country to decline when the "money got tight".
    • "Undercover of the Night" (1983): A protest of the political repression in Argentina and Chile at the time.
      All the young men, they've been rounded up
      And sent to camps back in the jungle
      And people whisper, people double-talk
      Once proud fathers act so humble.
    • "Highwire" (1991): A protest of the First Gulf War. "It's not about the war. It's about how it started," Jagger said. Richards added, "This is not about the war. It's about how you build up some shaky dictator. You can't build them up, 'cause then you've got to slam them down."
    • "Sweet Neo Con" (2005): A biting critique of the American right wing, particularly the George W. Bush administration. It opens with the following lines, and continues in similar fashion from there:
      You call yourself a Christian
      I think that you're a hypocrite
      You say you are a patriot
      I think that you're a crock of shit
  • The Quiet One: Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman, and Mick Taylor.
  • Rock Me, Asmodeus!: "Sympathy for the Devil"
    • Mick Jagger himself was critical about this trope, noting that he was amazed that the Satanic metaphor became popular with Heavy Metal musicians when for him the song wasn't really about "the devil" at all.
  • Rock Star Song: "It's Only Rock 'N' Roll". Keith's "Before They Make Me Run" kind of qualifies as well.
  • Rockumentary / Le Film Artistique:
    • Charlie is My Darling (1966), a documentary of the Stones' 1965 Irish tour, which was described by one commentator as A Hard Day's Night had it been directed by Jean-Luc Godard.
    • Sympathy for the Devil aka One Plus One (1968) is actually directed by Godard himself. It features digressive vignettes on politics and student movements intercut with actual footage showing the recording sessions in studio for "Sympathy for the Devil". The producer of the film famously re-titled the film after the song, outraging Godard and leading him to remark, "They wanted to make my One Plus One equal two!"
    • Gimme Shelter (1970), a documentary of their disastrous 1969 free concert at Altamont Speedway, has been viewed by some as a meditation on the death of the Sixties.
    • Cocksucker Blues (named after the song they recorded to get way the fuck away from Decca, see below) is even worse; it hasn't been released. If the director tries, they'll sue him. Considering what's in it, that's in their best interest.
    • Shine a Light (2008), directed by Martin Scorsese, intersperses concert and backstage footage from a New York concert on the 2006 A Bigger Bang tour with archival footage from throughout the band's career.
  • Scylla and Charybdis: "Rock and a Hard Place".
  • Seduction Lyric: Any band fronted by Mick Jagger is probably going to get a name for invoking this trope — but “Let’s Spend the Night Together” is an especially obvious instance for one.
  • Self-Backing Vocalist: While various band-mates and others have all contributed backing vocals at different times, it's not unusual for Jagger to employ this on recordings.
  • Self-Deprecation: A compilation of their late '70s material was titled Sucking In The Seventies.
  • Self-Titled Album: Their 1964 debut LP was one of these in the UK, although their American label subtitled it with England's Newest Hit Makers.
  • Serial Killer: "Midnight Rambler"
  • Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll: They were the pioneers, leading to the controversial, "Would you let your daughter marry a Rolling Stone?"
  • Sex Slave: "Brown Sugar" is about the rape of enslaved women in the antebellum Deep South, in something of a predecessor to Horrible History Metal.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: Charlie Watts was this, big time.
  • Shotgun Wedding: "Dear Doctor"
  • Shout-Out:
  • Signature Style: Keith Richards' use of open tunings.
  • The '60s: Mod suits and screaming girls.
  • Solo Side Project: Every main member has released solo albums or worked on solo projects while being a member of the Stones (save for Mick Taylor, whose solo debut didn't come until well after he'd left the band). Bill Wyman was the first to do this with a proper studio album (Monkey Grip) in 1974, although Brian Jones wrote and recorded a film soundtrack (A Degree of Murder) in 1967 which was never officially released, and produced an album of Moroccan folk music (Brian Jones Presents the Pipes of Pan at Jajouka) that was released posthumously in 1971.
  • Something Blues: "Stray Cat Blues", "Ventilator Blues", "Fancy Man Blues".
  • Song of Song Titles: Not a song, actually; "Don't Stop" has a Video of Song Titles.
  • Special Guest:
    • Phil Spector and Gene Pitney play maracas and piano, respectively, on "Little by Little" and "Now I've Got a Witness".
      • From the same sessions, they also appear (along with Graham Nash and Allan Clarke) on the unreleased (and very X-rated) "Andrew's Blues". In fact, Spector sings lead on that particular ditty.
    • John Lennon and Paul McCartney perform backing vocals on "We Love You".
    • Ronnie Lane and Steve Marriott perform backing vocals on "In Another Land".
    • Gospel singer Merry Clayton performs backing vocals (and even a couple of lead lines) on "Gimme Shelter". That song is also a great excuse to bring in a famous female singer during live shows; those who have done so include Florence Welch, Lady Gaga, and Mary J. Blige.
    • Ron Wood and Kenney Jones play guitar and drums, respectively, on "It's Only Rock 'n Roll (But I Like It)", two years before Wood joined the Stones officially.
      • David Bowie sang co-lead on the original recording of "It's Only Rock 'n Roll (But I Like It)", although his vocals were wiped for the finished version. Ditto Pete Townshend on "Slave".
    • Jazz great Sonny Rollins plays saxophone on "Waiting for a Friend".
    • Jimmy Page plays guitar on "One Hit (To the Body)".
    • Eric Clapton plays guitar on the live Flashpoint version of "Little Red Rooster", as well as on "Everybody Knows About My Good Thing" and "I Can't Quit You Baby" from Blue & Lonesome.
    • No Security includes a guest appearance by Dave Matthews on "Memory Motel".
    • Angus and Malcolm Young joined the band onstage to play "Rock Me Baby" a few times in 2003.
    • Live Licks includes guest appearances by Sheryl Crow ("Honky Tonk Women") and Solomon Burke ("Everybody Needs Somebody to Love").
    • Shine a Light includes guest appearances by Christina Aguilera ("Live With Me"), Jack White ("Loving Cup"), and Buddy Guy ("Champagne and Reefer").
  • Spicy Latinas: The "Puerto Rican girls who're just dying to meet you" in "Miss You."
  • Spoiler Title: It takes until the final verse of "Sympathy for the Devil" for the song's narrator to be revealed. No guesses for who it is.
  • Spoken Word in Music: Several of their songs have brief spoken-word bits from Jagger: "Something Happened to Me Yesterday", "Fingerprint File", "Miss You", "Far Away Eyes", "Emotional Rescue", "Slave", "Tops", etc.
  • Stage Names:
    • "Bill Wyman" was born William George Perks.
    • Brian Jones initially called himself "Elmo Lewis" when the Stones started, after his idol Elmore James.
      • In fact, Brian was born Lewis Brian Hopkins Jones.
    • Keith Richards billed himself as "Keith Richard" in the '60s and '70s, in emulation of early British rocker Cliff Richard.
  • Step Up to the Microphone:
    • Keith Richards sings lead on numerous songs including "You Got the Silver", "Happy", "Before They Make Me Run", "Little T&A", etc. Often lampshaded by Jagger in concert, where he usually introduces the band right before Keith sings a song or two. To heighten the effect, Keith is last, wherein Jagger introduces him "on guitar and now the vocals".
    • Bill Wyman sings lead on "In Another Land", his sole writing credit for the Stones' core catalogue.
    • Brian Jones shares harmony vocals with Jagger on the choruses of "Walking the Dog".
  • The Stoic:
    • Bill Wyman.
    • To a lesser extent Mick Taylor as well.
    • Regardless of how hard the band was rocking, Charlie Watts' expression rarely moved from "polite interest".
  • A Storm Is Coming: "Gimme Shelter"
  • Subdued Section: "Let's Spend the Night Together" has a bridge where the whole band drops out except organ, bass, and percussive clicks (which engineer Glyn Johns says were batons borrowed from two police officers who stopped by the studio to make sure things were all right when they noticed the building's door was open), Jagger sings softer, and there are some choirlike, wordless vocal harmonies before they tear back into the song.
  • Sympathy for the Devil: Trope Namer. Ironically, the song in question is a subversion of the trope, as the Devil spends the whole song bragging about how evil he is. Or rather, sarcastically confessing how evil and horrible he is, when "after all it was you and me": that is to say, the Devil is the Anthropomorphic Personification of humanity's own capacity for evil...but you can just call him Lucifer. Lucifer also threatens to "lay your soul to waste" if you don't show him sympathy or respect. Yikes.
  • Take That!:
    • "We Love You" was the Stones' "valentine" to the British establishment following the group's harassment by police and media throughout 1967, which culminated in an infamous drug raid at Keith Richards' home and the attempted imprisonment of he and Jagger for possession.
    • When Decca Records told them they were obligated to deliver one more single after leaving the label, the band gave them the unreleasable "Cocksucker Blues". It was released in Germany and did well there, though.
  • Textless Album Cover: Their Satanic Majesties Request, It's Only Rock 'N' Roll, A Bigger Bang
  • Three Chords and the Truth: Particularly in the early years.
  • Three-Dimensional Episode: The cover of the Their Satanic Majesties Request album originally featured a lenticular 3-D image of the band.
  • Titled After the Song: The band's name derives from Muddy Waters'"Rollin' Stone".
  • Unreplaced Departed: After Bill Wyman departed in 1993, the remaining members brought Darryl Jones in to play bass on records and tours as a hired musician and not as a replacement to Wyman within the group. If the Stones continue on their current course, their time without Wyman will exceed the time he spent with them in 2024.
  • Video Full of Film Clips: The music video for "Angry" has Sydney Sweeney singing and dancing along to the song in the backseat of a convertible driving down a street with electronic billboards showing clips from previous Rolling Stones music videos and live shows, some stylized after their previous albums' covers, which also allows Charlie Watts, who'd passed away 2 years prior, to be featured.
  • Villain Song: "Sympathy for the Devil" sounds like a villain (the devil, obviously) bragging about all the atrocities he's committed over the ages, but it is more along the lines of As Long as There Is Evil.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Richards and Jagger both have described their relationship with one another as this.
  • Wants Versus Needs: "You Can't Always Get What You Want" sings about discontentment in life, but contrasts against uplifting production and ends each chorus on the message, "But if you try sometimes, you find, you get what you need."
  • We Used to Be Friends: Brian Jones's relationship with Jagger and Richards wound up this way.
  • Who Shot JFK?: In "Sympathy for the Devil:" "After all, it was you and me."
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: The narrator in "Paint It Black" who lost their love and wants to "see the sun blotted out from the sky."
  • Word Salad Lyrics: "2000 Light Years from Home"
  • Working-Class Hero: Semi-subverted with "Salt of the Earth", which at first seems to celebrate common people, but also characterizes them as a "faceless crowd" susceptible to being exploited by "grey-suited grafters".

Alternative Title(s): Rolling Stones, The Rolling Stones