Today, we put "Five Questions" to author Richard Hougton, whose new book is "You Had To Be There: The Rolling Stones 1962-69." The book provides insight into those early Stones tours through recollections of people who were in attendance. Get your copy quick; like The Stones, they're selling out quickly!
Yes my book includes the early US tours. They played a mixture of places across the country, and not necessarily towns or cities where the Blues was listened to. The US was still a segregated country at that time and in some states many white people didn’t listen to the music that black people performed. Part of what the Stones achieved was helping American audiences rediscover their own musical heritage. We have come a long way culturally and socially from how things were in the 1960s.
You call your book a “people’s history” of the world’s greatest rock band, but had they become that yet, and is there an overriding perception of what they were in your book, say a substitute for the Beatles, or a new face of the blues?
They weren’t a substitute for The Beatles. To some teenagers they were an antidote to them. Teenagers, and particularly girls, liked the Stones because they knew their parents didn’t, and several of the women in the book who recount their memories talk about that. Liking the Stones was an act of teenage rebellion, whereas The Beatles were nice boys and still part of the showbiz establishment. The Stones didn’t respect authority and teenagers loved that.
The label ‘the greatest rock’n’roll band in the world’ is one the group appropriated in 1969, so they weren’t calling themselves that in 1962. Back when they started, they just wanted people to hear the music they played, which was R&B and the Blues. I think the release of Let It Bleed was when they stepped into those rock’n’roll shoes.
Was the perception in the UK and the States different and, if so, how?
I think audiences in the US went to see the Stones because what was termed the British Invasion was happening. US audiences might have been younger and perhaps more willing to hoover everything up. I suppose some of that is about living in a bigger and more affluent country. Several US fans talk about their parents driving them to gigs. In the UK, fans were more likely to be getting the bus!
The later years of your book were when Jagger/Richards blossomed as songwriters. Was there a shift in live dynamics as the band moved from covers to more original material?"
The Stones went from performing to a handful of people through to screaming crowds and then on to a point where Mick would be telling the audience to stop screaming because they wanted to play a quiet song. I think the book, and the stories that people tell, reflect the way the band matured as performers between 1962 and 1966. After that, of course, they played very few shows before the 1969 Hyde Park gig, which was the first one they played without Brian. I think they actually got fed up with all the screaming girls in the same way as The Beatles did. But whereas The Beatles went on to make records that they couldn’t necessarily reproduce on stage such as Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the Stones unearthed even more obscure Blues numbers such as "Love In Vain" and "Prodigal Son" and made them their own.
Many of the Amazon.co.uk reviews reference some sadness or melancholy, certainly an appreciation of time gone by. Do you agree with those emotions your book seems to pull out and, if so, why?
The book is meant to be a celebration of times gone by and what it was like to see the Rolling Stones live in a small pub or club. But obviously the people telling those stories are mindful of what happened to the group, and to Brian Jones in particular, and perhaps there’s a sense of loss around that. But lots of contributors are still rocking and rolling in their 60s and 70s and are big music fans because the Rolling Stones introduced them to music that they wouldn’t have heard otherwise. I think it’s a very life-affirming book and it was certainly a gas to research it and talk to all those people.