Why did The Rolling Stones give away their first-ever song?

In the history of rock music, almost half of The Rolling Stones’ output could be regarded as revolutionary. The Beatles may have caused a global stir the moment they landed in America to perform on The Ed Sullivan Show, but The Rolling Stones were the insane reaction to them, covering blues songs or making music that parents didn’t want their children to hear. Though the band has amassed an amazing repertory over the years, some of their most important work was nearly shelved in the early going.

The band wanted to become the blues masters when they worked on the London club scene. The name of the group, which was inspired by an old Muddy Waters song, was taken from its original, distorted version of American blues music when it was founded by Brian Jones in the early 1960s.

But the moment the band brought Keith Richards on guitar and Mick Jagger on vocals, they started to take on their iconic shape and injected much more attitude into those blues anthems. But manager Andrew Loog Oldham suggested that Jagger and Richards give songwriting a shot after the Stones realised how much money they could make creating original music.

Richards would explain to Howard Stern that, “[Oldham] said ‘Listen, guys, we can’t keep doing covers forever. He locked Mick and me in a kitchen and said, ‘Come out with a song.'” The songwriting team gave away a lot of their songs because they were unconfident in their material, despite the fact that they would go on to become the greatest songwriters of their generation.

Jagger and Richards brought their first song, “As Tears Go By,” to Marianne Faithfull after receiving the Beatles song “I Wanna Be Your Man” as a gift. They didn’t think the song would fit into The Rolling Stones’ style. Unlike how they usually write songs for their group, Jagger and Richards claimed that the majority of their early compositions weren’t suitable for the Stones.

Richards described their method, stating that the majority of the songs came from practising, clarifying, “We didn’t think [our songs] were any good at all. But at the same time, I think Andrew was giving us leeway to figure it out. Songwriting isn’t something that happens overnight. We were writing some of the pop crap because it’s easy.”

Richards was writing songs all along that he would eventually be able to show the other members of the band. The two spent a long time focusing on pop songs before coming up with “The Last Time,” which went on to become the band’s first big hit and featured the name “Jagger-Richards” in the credits.

Richards continues to write songs with the same mindset to this day: he wants something that maintains The Rolling Stones’ sound while still fitting into the band’s aesthetic. Richards’s early attempts at songwriting demonstrated that, despite his natural ability to generate riffs, he was also capable of becoming a master pop songwriter. Richards understood the value of exercising his creative mind no matter how many times he picked up his guitar.

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