It was 55 years ago today (April 16th, 1964) that the Rolling Stones released their self-titled debut album. The collection, which was based around the Stones' stage act at the time, featured covers of Bobby Troup's “Route 66,” Willie Dixon's “I Just Want To Make Love To You,” Jimmy Reed's “Honest I Do,” Bo Diddley's “Mona (I Need You Baby),” Chuck Berry's “Carol,” and Marvin Gaye's “Can I Get A Witness,” among others.
The album featured the first Stones-released Mick Jagger–Keith Richards original “Tell Me (You're Coming Back),” along with the group's co-write with Phil Spector — “Little By Little” — which like all of the Stones' early group collaborations was credited to the pseudonym Nanker Phelge.
Keith Richards was quoted talking about the album in Victor Bockris' Keith Richards: The Biography: “A first album can be incredible. All that energy . . . unbelievable! It's almost sad in a way, because you know it can only be a once-ever experience . . . I still listen to that album, the enthusiasm there is obvious I think . . . We had all these numbers we had been playing for ages and at that point they were just ready to be (gotten) down in the studio.”
The striking cover shot of the band by David Bailey was groundbreaking at the time in that it didn't feature the group's name or the album title on the cover. The only identification was the iconic Decca label in the upper right hand corner.
The Rolling Stones went on to top the UK album charts for 12 weeks. Its American counterpart — with a slightly different track listing — retitled England's Newest Hitmakers went on to peak at Number 11 in the States.
Keith Richards explained that becoming a pop — or even a rock n' roll — sensation was the furthest things from the Stones' minds: “No, we were R&B. Yeah, and to us, we were very anti-pop and anti-fame — mainly because it was totally out of the question, I guess. But at the same time, the showbusiness aspect of it never appealed to us. We were sort of crusaders for the blues. If we can turn a few people on to, like, the stuff, like Jimmy Reed, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, John Lee (Hooker), Elmore James — that was our mission in life for those first couple of years.”
Drummer Charlie Watts admitted that upon joining the Stones in early-1963, becoming famous — let alone being regarded as living legends — truly seemed impossible: “No, no, every band I'd ever been in lasted a week. I mean, you only lasted as long as the guy in the club, or whatever, would book you for. So, if they didn't like you, y'know, it was two gigs and that was it. So I always thought it was gonna last a week.”
After 50-plus years in the public eye, we asked Mick Jagger what he recalls about his and the Stones' early fame: “You kind of always say that it was great to get the band going the very first time, because you start to be successful the first year or first couple of years and like, all your little teenage dreams (laughs) are sort of coming true. And so, you feel very young and you're very ambitious and you're starting to be successful and that feels very good. Like, getting your first job, isn't it, y'know?”