It began life as a tiny emblem, something to adorn a 45 r.p.m. single or the band’s letterhead. It quickly became ubiquitous and, ultimately, the most famous logo in rock ’n’ roll. Over 50 years, the legendary “tongue and lips” of the Rolling Stones has been emblazoned on everything from T-shirts and lighters to stage sets, appearing in countless variations throughout the decades. And while many who love it are fans of the band, the logo has in many ways transcended the Stones. But when it was commissioned in April 1970 its designer, John Pasche, had little idea how popular — and lucrative — it would become.
The logo was to be displayed later this month in “Revolutions: Records and Rebels 1966 — 1970,” an exhibition at the Grande Halle de la Villette in Paris that has been postponed because of the coronavirus outbreak. But I caught up with Pasche, 74, in London by telephone last week, for a glimpse into its back story. (I included other witnesses to its history, as well.)
Early in 1970, the Royal College of Art in London was contacted by the Rolling Stones’ head office. The band was looking for an artist to create a poster for its 1970 European tour. The art school recommended Pasche, a Master of Arts student in his final year. Pasche met with Mick Jagger to discuss ideas for the poster, and returned to the frontman with a design a week later. Jagger was not satisfied. ‘‘I think it was possibly to do with the color and composition,” Pasche told the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2016.