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Rolling Stones in America

By Brian Ireland

Rolling Stones in America

Dr Brian Ireland is originally from Belfast in Northern Ireland. He did his undergraduate degree at the University of Ulster and on exchange at the University of Wyoming. After completing an MA in American Studies at the University of Ulster, he moved to Honolulu, living there for five years while completing a PhD in American Studies at the University of Hawaii, Manoa.


Brian has written about such diverse topics as the US military in Hawaii, road movies, horror and science fiction stories and comic books. His latest book is entitled The Hippie Trail: a history, (1957-1978) (Manchester University Press, 2017).


Brian has received a number of awards, including a Centre for Asia-Pacific Exchange scholarship, an Access to College Excellence award, and the Carl Bode Journal Award for 2003.

This monograph about the Rolling Stones and the United States in the time period from 1964 to 1972 explores the band’s musical development, live on stage and in studio recordings. It measures their impact and reception, focussing particularly on the rapid social, cultural and political developments of the era. In addition, this book explores the Stones’ relationship with the counterculture in all its forms, from the apolitical ‘freaks’ and ‘heads’ to those political radicals who saw the Stones as allies in the battle against the Establishment, those who were always pushing the Stones to do more, but were destined for disappointment. It also proposes that the Stones’ 1972 ‘Exile’ tour should be considered as a marker for the end of the ‘Sixties’, the political era between the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the Watergate investigation, and also the timeframe of major American involvement in the Vietnam War. This period transcends the calendar end of the decade, and encompasses all the era’s great ideas, myths, hopes, and dreams,

While the Stones’ longevity and fame might suggest they have always been successful, in reality they had to work hard to make their mark in the United States. For instance, a number of dates on their first American tour in 1964 had to be cancelled due to low or non-existent ticket sales. At a gig at the San Antonio State Fair they suffered the humiliation of sharing the bill with performing seals. During their second American tour later that year, their appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show caused so many complaints that Sullivan vowed never to host them again.

Yet in the latter half of the 1960s the Stones produced some of the most exciting music of the era, releasing a series of singles and albums matched in popularity and influence only by the Beatles. Their music was inspired by their devotion to American blues, a love affair that was eventually reciprocated by those black artists they tried to emulate. However, the Stones also put their own stamp on the blues, injecting those songs with an energy that proved attractive mainly and paradoxically to young, white audiences.

Further on, when Jagger and Richards began to write their own music, it remained infused with American influences, yet also somehow transcended any particular genre. The Stones did not simply copy American musical tropes; their own experiences as young men growing up in the post-war years of austere, repressed England led them to embrace freedom and individuality in ways that proved very attractive to American audiences. When they proclaimed they ‘can’t get no satisfaction’, many young Americans empathised with that sentiment. The American Dream was failing before their eyes: its promises seemed unobtainable in an era of civil rights abuses, inequality, and war. Stones’ music was a form of entertainment that both expressed that pent-up frustration and also acted as an outlet for protest against the status quo.

While much has been written about the Stones, their connections to the American counterculture remain underexplored. This book therefore fills an important gap in our knowledge of the band’s relationship with its American audience. Furthermore, it shines a light on the counterculture itself, from those who were content merely to analyse Stones’ lyrics for evidence that Jagger was on their side of the culture wars, to those more radical elements who hoped the Stones might take tangible action, for example, to pay the legal costs of arrested demonstrators, fund health clinics for drug users, or perhaps even work from within to undermine the capitalist music industry. More generally too, this book explores the role rock music played not just as the soundtrack to the era, but also how it influenced the ‘baby boom’ generation as they tested the limits of American freedom.

This book captures some of the tensions and excitement of the Sixties: using a variety of primary sources such as mainstream and underground newspapers, magazines, and television appearances, it evokes the looks, style and argot of the era. In this book you will find assessment and analysis of:

  • the historical context of the Stones’ American experiences

  • all American tours from 1964 to 1972, including ‘lost’, forgotten, or cancelled gigs

  • the Stones’ musical development from playing blues covers in small London clubs to becoming ‘the Greatest Rock and Roll band in the world’

  • censorship and controversy on the Ed Sullivan Show

  • controversy over Brian Jones’ dressing in Nazi uniform in Germany

  • revolutionary Weathermen protest of the Stones’ International Amphitheater gig in Chicago in 1969

  • feminist protests in California over the Stones’ brand of misogynist ‘cock rock’

  • encounters with Muddy Waters, Bob Dylan, Ken Kesey, James Brown, Andy Warhol, Abbie Hoffman, and Hugh Heffner

  • the Stones’ rivalry with The Beatles, both real and imagined

  • Jagger’s views about radical politics

  • the Stones’ relationship with the counterculture, and subsequent fall out

  • the impact on the American market of the Redlands’ raid and ensuing drug trials

  • violence at Altamont, the Hells Angels, and Gimme Shelter

  • allegations that the Stones appropriated the music of black artists

  • touring with B. B. King, Chuck Berry, Ike and Tina Turner, and Stevie Wonder

  • ‘Sucking in the Seventies’ –- the Stones’ musical decline and popular longevity


While this book provides a historical treatment of the Rolling Stones and America in the Sixties, with thorough citing of sources required by historians and students, it is also written in a clear and accessible style to appeal to the widest potential audience. Stones’ fans will discover much new material here, that has been unearthed from obscure underground and alternative newspapers, as well as a previously unexplored reading of the Stones’ American journey, significantly just in time for 2022 - the 60th anniversary of the Stones’ formation, and also the 50th anniversary of their legendary 1972 American Tour.


Additional Information:

Seeking initial publication as well as Foreign Rights

approx. 110.000 words.

Rights: World

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