Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 472
They have participated in and provoked the transformation of the morals and manners of their generation so effectively that to future social historians the Rolling Stones might actually seem to bear out reactionary ravings that they are the ringleaders of an international conspiracy of rock & roll punks to undermine Western civilization with drugs, music, polymorphous sexuality and violence….
The Stones have been the primary catalysts in creating an adolescent lifestyle without precedence by grasping the repressed elements of society and expressing its confusions and frustrations with outlandish exhibition…. If the Beatles initiated it, it was the Stones who amplified it and stretched it to its logical conclusion, and if their effect has been less universal than that of their polar twins, the Beatles, it has also been more insidious because it is more difficult for society to absorb their antisocial stance. The Stones have always delighted in their role as outlaws…. Their punky arrogance makes them the aristocrats of the new morality. (p. 95)
As street fighters for the new sensibility, the instrument the Stones used to pry themselves and their subculture away from traditional morality and convention was the liberating monster reeking of barely concealed menace and sexuality latent in rock and blues. (p. 96)
[They] established themselves almost instantaneously with "Satisfaction," the classic rock song…. [Its] smouldering sound sums up the frustrations of the sixties in an emotional language. Loosely based on Martha and the Vandellas' "Dancing in the Streets," it is a bitter, ironic blend of blues, R & B and rock that the Stones had been working on since 1962. The synthesis created a disdainful tone that was to become the epitome of their songs.
In the early compositions, the lyrics had been simple and repetitive …, but on Aftermath and Between the Buttons the Stones entered their most bizarre period. Conjugating a verbal ambiguity inspired by Dylan and social themes from the Kinks, their songs took on a surrealistic quality, focusing on a weird collection of types: neurasthenic bitches, suburban pill-poppers, discotheque dodos and slumming heiresses. They developed an expressionistic precision for examining confused relationships, disturbed emotional states, and made an art of arrogance and egocentricity. "Under My Thumb" is so vicious it manages to justify itself by its own outrageousness. (pp. 97-8)
The power of the Stones' hieroglyphic songs … is that they are fantasies dreamt up by the dark princes of rock & roll, mental tigers awakened from the deepest layers of rock geology. The songs seem so real because the Stones, at one remove from both the sources and the consequences, are capable of embodying them so totally, thus creating rock's most sensual and convincing theatre. (p. 99)
David Dalton and Lenny Kaye, "The Big Three," in their Rock 100 (copyright © 1977 by David Dalton and Lenny Kaye; used by permission of Grosset & Dunlap, Inc.), Grosset & Dunlap, 1977, pp. 89-104.∗