Mick Jagger and Keith Richards learn how to write a pop song, 1963

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On September 10 1963, The Rolling Stones were rehearsing in the Studio 51 jazz club in Great Newport Street, off Charing Cross Road, London.

Up to this point, they were strictly a covers band, of American rock’n’roll, blues and R&B numbers, originally recorded by the likes of The Coasters, Willie Dixon and Bo Diddley. Their first single had been a frenetic, unremarkable version of Chuck Berry’s “Come On”. They could not decide on a follow-up.

Serendipitously, The Stones bumped into their friends John Lennon and Paul McCartney in the street that very afternoon, and they stopped to chat. The Stones explained their situation regarding a song, or lack of. Fresh from a Variety Club lunch at the Savoy and with “She Loves You” riding high in the charts, an ebullient Lennon and McCartney offered to help. All repaired to Studio 51 where John and Paul demonstrated a half-written “I Wanna Be Your Man” on the piano.

The Stones liked what they heard, so The Beatles, in a matter of minutes, finished the song. The Stones recorded it the next day and had their first chart hit, reaching number 12. It was no classic (as John Lennon said, “We weren’t going to give them anything great, right?”), but it provided a valuable lesson. The ease with which Lennon and McCartney hammered out a song greatly impressed Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, who determined to master this most lucrative of pop music crafts. They bided their time, continuing to record some inspired covers, but sneaking their own royalty-generating compositions on to B-sides and LPs. Within two years they were writing such classics as “The Last Time”, “Satisfaction” and “Get off of My Cloud”.

The Beatles’ own, far inferior version of “I Wanna Be Your Man” appeared subsequently on their second LP, With The Beatles.


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