Why the Rolling Stones are such icons


19th Oct 2023 Lifestyle

4 min read

Why the Rolling Stones are such icons
ACC Art Books in their new book cover the Rolling Stones' legendary career. We sat down with Harvey Kubernik, who wrote the book's foreword, to chat about the band's lasting impact
The Rolling Stones are one of the most iconic bands in history. They've been at the top of their game for decades, changing rock music forever with each of their albums. Now ACC Art Books are looking back on the Rolling Stones legendary career with the new book The Rolling Stones: Icons, which has over 300 pages of photos and stories from the band's career. 
We sat down with the man who wrote the foreword for this retrospective, Harvey Kubernik. Kubernik is an American music journalist from the 1970s onwards, as well as being an author and music historian who had a front row seat to the Rolling Stones' meteoric rise to success. 

1. What do you remember about first hearing and/or seeing the Rolling Stones?

Stones Icon Al Satterwhite p172-173
I first heard their 45 RPM single “It’s All Over Now” in 1964 on a car radio broadcast on Hollywood-based AM station KFWB. The sonic aspects of the recording, produced by Andrew Loog Oldham, really hit me between the ears. They weren’t copycats of the Beatles. It was raw rhythm and blues, and the singer’s voice accentuated the lyrical message. I immediately jumped on my skateboard and went to Lewin Record Paradise on Hollywood Blvd, which was a shop owned by a British couple who imported UK LP’s and singles.
"They were raw rhythm and blues and really hit me between the ears"
As for seeing the Rolling Stones…The 1964/1965 memorable impressions were on Stateside television. I remember their first-ever national TV appearance on ABC’s The Hollywood Palace, then, their appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on CBS-TV. Their performance on the the Jack Good-produced Shindig! TV series on ABC-TV and Howlin’ Wolf, in 1965 made an impression on me too. I remember the Stones performing “Little Red Rooster,” and loved it. However, I was confused why they would do a number Sam Cooke sang in 1963, and was recorded, written and cut by Willie Dixon in 1961. I then learned “It’s All Over Now” that was co-written by Bobby Womack, who, along with Sam Cooke, were stars in Hollywood and nationally. As a very young teen, I assumed people on TV and on the radio, sang, wrote, engineered and produced their records.
I later caught two concerts in the late Sixties by the Rolling Stones in Southern California. Monumental musical events that set me on the path I’m thankfully still travelling and documenting.

2. What do you think makes the Stones so iconic and one of history's most important bands and what was your favourite time as a journalist writing about the band?

Stones Icon Tony Sanchez p117
One theory I have about the Stones being so iconic and remaining one of the important bands, is that they reminded the world about seminal R&B artists and early rock ‘n’ roll talents. This was before the band really started writing their own material.
I believe one of the aspects of their longevity is the karmic reward they received by providing platforms and revenue streams they generated for many people by exposing the musical catalogs of record labels Chess, Motown, Stax and SAR to us first on vinyl, and additional retail products.
" The Stones are so iconic because they reminded the world about seminal R&B artists and early rock ‘n’ roll talents"
Another factor is the foundational 1963-1974 production work by Oldham, and later Jimmy Miller. Plus, the bulk of their studio endeavours were done in Hollywood facilities like RCA, Elektra, Sunset Sound, as well as sessions at Olympic in Barnes, London.
My favourite time as a journalist and author writing about the lads might be a three-week period in 1997 when they were recording their album Bridges to Babylon. Charlie Watts and I had developed a friendship in the Nineties, and he invited me to Ocean Way studios, the former United Western studio on Sunset Blvd.
The band members were very nice to me and we had a couple of meals together inside the studio between takes and playback review. Keith enjoyed my knowledge of Eddie Cochran and Reggae music. On their next tour we conducted an interview primarily about his Wingless Angels album and chatted about recording techniques.
In 2016 I was asked by Charlie and his dear friend Jim Keltner to attend one of the group’s rehearsals in North Hollywood as they prepared for a weekend festival known as Desert Trip. It was an education watching them prep for a gig. I helped Charlie Watts out lifting some drum equipment. I was briefly a crew roadie, and subsequently banged a nearby tambourine for ten seconds as they rehearsed “Rocks Off.” Ron Wood and Keith caught my action, waived me over and gave me their guitar picks.

3: The book "Icons" that you wrote the foreword for has an incredible array of photos from across the Stones' amazing career. What do you think makes this selection of photographs so important and revealing?

Stones Icon Terry O'Neill p20-21
After being requested to pen the introduction to this wonderful deep-dive visual volume, I was so pleased that the photographers involved in the undertaking offered their own unique insights about lensing the Rolling Stones.
"We now learn insider information about the Rolling Stones from the contributors who carried cameras"
Often, we just see the byline of the photographer next to a picture. In this collection, we now learn insider information about the Rolling Stones from the contributors who carried cameras. Icons houses the work of many noted photographers, and I’m thrilled to share the pages with UK photographers like Terry O’Neill and Gered Mankowitz, whose images of the band were my first introductions to these characters.

4: Are you excited for the new Stones album Hackney Diamonds?

Stones Icon Greg Brennan p292-293
I actually am. I’ve seen/heard some country and jazz recording artists create new music nearing or after age 80, but this is a rarity in rock ‘n’ roll. I appreciate that they did a lot of Hackney Diamonds in Hollywood, and employed a new producer, Andrew Watt. I suspect producer Don Was also has some credits. I know Mick Jagger is determined to not have the Rolling Stones strictly viewed as an oldies act, and we get to hear the presence of Charlie Watts on a couple of tracks.
The new book The Rolling Stones: Icons, which tells the story of the Rolling Stones in photographs is available to buy now. The Rolling Stones' new album Hackney Diamonds is also available to buy now.
Banner credit: The Rolling Stones (©Douglas Kirkland)
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