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A dedication to aesthetics as practised by The Who and The Rolling Stones.

A dedication to aesthetics as practised by The Who and The Rolling Stones.

Pete Townshend stole his trademark arm swing from Keith Richards. And Andrew Oldham cut the Rolling Stones from six members to five, not for an musical reasons, but to improve their aesthetic and their memorability.

Here are three extraordinary passages from an extraordinary book; Stoned by Andrew Loog Oldham.

Firstly Pete Townshend:


Keith went out swinging his arm to limber up as he went on and I thought it was his trademark, so I just stole it. I was such a fan I stole it. We played with them again about two weeks later in Forest Gate and he didn’t do it. I went up to him and I said, ‘What happened to the arm swinging?’ He said, ‘What arm swinging?’ I said, ‘The arm swinging!’ He said, ‘I don’t swing me arm!’ – so I had it , but it came from him.


And here is Andrew Oldham, the book’s author and the brash, brazen, nineteen year old upstart who managed and, to a certain extent, made The Rolling Stones:


I told Brian and Mick that it was okay for Ian Stewart to appear on records and do live radio, but their ivory thumper could not be seen in photos or on TV. I compounded the cruelty, adding that he was ugly and spoiled the ‘look’ of the group. Plus I was convinced that six members in a group was at least one too many. The public would not be able to remember, much less care, who the individual members of a six-piece band were. For me, six was not synonymous with success or stardom. Five was pushing it, six was impossible. People worked nine to five, and they couldn’t be expected to remember more than four faces. ‘This is entertainment, not a memory test,’ I concluded.


You can’t fault him for attention to detail. Here he is again talking about why he insisted on changing the band’s name from The Rollin’ to The Rolling Stones:

I met with Mick and Brian and told them that from now on, they were “the Rolling Stones”. I’d informed Decca that Rollin’ was gone: they were not an abbreviation, they were not slang. I said, ‘How can you expect people to take you seriously when you can’t even be bothered to spell your name properly? You’ve taken away the authority of the group.’

One of my favourite books on branding is The Brand Gap by Marty Neumeier. It is a short, plain speaking, practical read. You can pretty much read the whole thing on a flight between London and Edinburgh.

He talks about the hallmarks of Charismatic Brands, brands for which people perceive there is no substitute. One of these characteristics is “a dedication to aesthetics”:


Why aesthetics? Because it’s the language of feeling and, in a society that’s information rich and time poor, people value feeling more than information.

Some people need to get this from a book. Some people, evidently, just get it.



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