It's Only Rock 'n' Roll but I Like It: The Story of the Rolling Stones (55+)

An amazing thing happened to the world of music in the early 1960s. Groups of young British men, with matching suits and shaggy hair, unleashed their pop music on the world with such impact that it was called the British Invasion. Take a grey and boring postwar England; add a passion for the blues, five young bad boys from London and a mix of Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley; shake well; and pour out the greatest rock ’n’ roll band in history, the Rolling Stones.

How has this band written nearly 400 songs and over 30 hit albums? How are these septuagenarians still touring after nearly 60 years? Together we’ll explore the story of the Stones: their music, how they found one another and why they are still together.

Please note that enrollment in this course is reserved for adults 55+.

Currently not available for registration.

What will I learn?

Week 1: How Britain got the blues

The blues began in the fields of the Mississippi Delta. Its origins can be traced back to the rhythms of Africa, brought to America by the slaves. It is a true American music and no one quite knows why the British took to the blues; maybe the industrial working class there caught the same feeling from this music as did farm and field workers in the “Deep South”, but in a grey post-war Britain the music first introduced by American GIs during the Second World War resonated with young Britons.

Week 2: In the beginning

What do Dartford, Harrow, Lewisham and Cheltenham all have in common? In the 50s, they were all dull English suburbs for a young man looking for the blues, and it was this boredom that led five young men, up for trouble, to look outside of their small local worlds for inspiration and excitement. All from different backgrounds, they met up in a jazz club in Ealing and began the unlikely road to rock stardom. Add in a bit of a “chancer” named Andrew Loog Oldham and they were on their way.

Week 3: First we take England then we take the world

With the help of relentless touring and recording, the Rolling Stones slowly built up their fan base with the flavour of “deliberate rebellion”. 1963 may have been the year of the Beatles, but 1964 was the year that the Rolling Stones made everyone sit up and take notice. Much of the world might have thought of them as unkempt and unruly, but girls kept screaming for more. Their songs started to appear on the US charts and they started to challenge the Beatle’s hit parade standings.

Week 4: Would you want your daughter to marry a Rolling Stone?

The Stones hit their stride in 1965 with more hits and successful tours of Europe, Asia and America. They continued their success through 1966 and 1967 and, as self-respecting rock stars, they enjoyed the life of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. In fact, with numerous drug busts, they cemented their credentials as bad boys. As Andrew Loog Oldham said, “I told them what to be and they became it!” Through all of this Jagger and Richards continued to write hit after hit and proved wrong the critics who said they would only last a couple of years.

Week 5: The end of the fantasy

The hippie era of peace and love came and went very quickly for the Rolling Stones. More drug busts, the death of Brian Jones under suspicious circumstances and the disastrous concert at Altamont Speedway in California, brought home harsh reality. But again though it all, Mick and Keith kept the hits coming and the Rolling Stones rolled on. Any other band with weaker characters would have crumbled. The world had changed and so had the Stones, with new members and a new sound.

Week 6: What have you done for me lately?

Stability came to the Rolling Stones in the late 70s and has continued for 40 years; they are still recording and touring in 2018. Now in their 70s, how do these septuagenarians live up to the image of the “World’s Greatest Rock Band”? What sustains them and what makes them want to keep rockin’? We’ll try to find the Rolling Stones fountain of youth!

How will I learn?

  • Lectures
  • Discussion (may vary from class to class)
  • Papers (applicable only to certificate students)

How will I be evaluated?

For certificate students only:

Your instructor will evaluate you based on an essay, which you will complete at the end of the course. You will receive a grade of “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory.”

Textbooks and learning materials

Reading material (if applicable) will be available in class. Some course materials may be available online.

If you're 55+, you may take this course as part of

Look at other courses in