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This Day in Music Spotlight: Rolling Stones Riot on Ed Sullivan

October 25, 1964

Sean Patrick Dooley

Special thanks to

Back in July of 1962, The Rolling Stones played their first formal show at the Marquee Club in London. Billing themselves as The Rollin’ Stones, their lineup included Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Brian Jones, along with soon-to-be-ex-bandmates Ian Stewart on piano, Dick Taylor on bass and Tony Chapman on drums. Bassist Bill Wyman and drummer Charlie Watts would join the band in January of 1963, forming the first classic lineup for the Stones.

The band’s manager, Giorgio Gomelsky, booked the group for a regular Sunday gig at The Crawdaddy Club, and it was during this extended stint that the Stones truly began honing their sound. After seeing them perform at the Crawdaddy in 1963, former Beatles publicist Andrew Loog Oldham signed the Stones to a management contract, which eventually led them to signing with Decca Records, who were still reeling from their failure to sign The Beatles when they had the chance.

Despite having very little studio experience, Oldham made himself the Stones’ producer, and he booked them into various studios, most notably Regent Sound, where all of the songs on their first album were recorded. Keen to differentiate the Stones from The Beatles, Oldham’s strategy was to position them as near polar opposites of the clean-cut Fab Four, including eschewing matching outfits and making sure the band didn’t smile while shooting the cover for their debut album. It was also Oldham who recommended changing their name from The Rollin’ Stones to The Rolling Stones, as well as changing Keef’s name from Richards to Richard (that change didn’t last). They also removed Stewart from band photos and live appearances because he didn’t fit the mold of what Wyman later referred to as “pretty, thin, long-haired boys.”

Despite the Stones not being happy with their recording of the Chuck Berry classic, “Come On,” it became their first single on June 7, 1963, and eventually climbed to #21 on the U.K. charts. This success allowed the Stones to venture outside of London to perform, and in late 1963, they embarked on their first big U.K. tour, opening up for established American acts like Bo Diddley, Little Richard and The Everly Brothers. During this tour they released their second single, a remake of the Lennon/McCartney tune “I Wanna Be Your Man,” which peaked at #12 on the U.K. charts. Just a few months later, in February of 1964, they released their third single, a cover of Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away,” and the song rocketed all the way to #3.

Despite this initial success, Oldham saw the writing on the wall regarding publishing royalties, or lack thereof due to the group’s debut album being composed primarily of covers, and he urged them to write their own songs, which they eventually did.

Despite having very little name recognition in the U.S., The Rolling Stones launched their first tour of the States in June of 1964, an endeavor Wyman later called “a disaster. When we arrived, we didn’t have a hit record [there] or anything going for us.” When they appeared on Dean Martin’s television variety show The Hollywood Palace, Martin made fun of their hair and performance.

On this day in 1964, the Stones made their first appearance on the gold standard for television variety programs, The Ed Sullivan Show in New York. After a riot broke out in the studio, Sullivan swore that they would never appear on his show again.

Alas, as the band’s career snowballed over the next year, they would appear on The Ed Sullivan Show again a number of times, including this 1966 appearance:

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