Like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones began releasing vinyl records when it was the norm to record pop groups in mono—stereo added a dollar per disc to the cost of records, which labels assumed would be too much for younger listeners. As a result, some of the best music by the Rolling Stones, from their first U.K. album titled “The Rolling Stones” to 45s such as “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” were released in mono.
While many collectors of vinyl Rolling Stones records are happy just to have a copy of everything the band produced from, say, 1964 to 1974, one of the unique opportunities for Stones fans is to track down the scores of export singles and LPs. Sure there were plenty of Japanese issues, but when the Rolling Stones were at the top of the pop and rock music pyramid with the Beatles in the 1960s, the rest of the world wanted them, too. Thus there are singles released for fans in Norway and Sweden, including “Not Fade Away” and “Time Is On My Side.” Promotional copies of early Stones classics are also in demand.
In 1966, the Rolling Stones joined the stereo revolution with “Aftermath,” which was also their first album recorded entirely in the United States (in Hollywood, as a matter of fact). Like many Stones albums of that era, the disc featured different covers for U.K. and U.S. audiences, as well as different tracks. For example, listeners in England got “Mother’s Little Helper” as the album’s opening track, while fans in the States heard “Paint It Black.”
The first Rolling Stones album to break this tradition was “Their Satanic Majesties Request” from 1967. It featured a 3D, lenticular card on its cover that caused the faces of the band members, except Mick Jagger, to turn towards each other. All four Beatles can be spotted on the cover—indeed, “Majesties” was seen as the Stones’s rather half-baked attempt to create a concept album on par with “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band.” No such artistic breakthrough occurred. By the time the band returned to the studio, it was seemingly ready to return to its rock and Americana-music roots, which became “Beggars Banquet,” the last album that would feature Brian Jones prominently.
While Keith Richards’s ringing, fuzzed-out guitar had long been central to the Stones’s sound, it became more important than ever as Jones became less of a contributor to the group’s efforts. His departure in June of 1969 (he died a month later) made Richards’s role even more important, although Mick Taylor was, for most fans, a welcome dose of fresh blood in the lineup.
Taylor’s debut occurred on “Let It Bleed” (another jab at the Beatles, who were readying the release of “Let It Be”), but he really made himself known on “Sticky Fingers” (1971), whose cover was designed by Andy Warhol. While not exactly rare (it was, after all, the number-one album in both the U.S. and U.K.), collectors look for copies whose working zipper is in good condition and free of rust.
The double album titled “Exile on Main St.” from 1972 is perhaps the last vintage Rolling Stones vinyl record of serious interest to collectors. In addition to being hailed as a musical masterpiece, the first pressings of the albums featured a dozen perforated postcards, which many fans, including this one, promptly separated from each other.