What’s The Surprising Secret Behind The Rolling Stones Logo?

24 June 2018, 16:00

The Rolling Stones logo, 1970
The Rolling Stones logo, 1970. Picture: Rolling Stones Store

It’s an iconic image that symbolises the greatest rock ’n’ roll band in the world… but what does it ACTUALLY mean?

Take a look at the Rolling Stones logo. As far as corporate branding for a rock band goes, it’s unbeatable. For over 45 years, the gaping mouth and tongue has symbolised the greatest rock ’n’ roll band in the world.

When you see it, you know you’re in for riffs, rock and something a little bit risque. It’s appeared on everything from t-shirts to silk ties, baseball caps to underpants.

Stones pants at the Isle Of Wight Festival 2007
Stones pants at the Isle Of Wight Festival 2007. Picture: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

The tongue-and-lips logo is obviously - obviously - based on the unmistakable face of Stones frontman Mick Jagger. Isn’t it? Well… not exactly.

Mick Jagger live in 1973
Mick Jagger live in 1973. Picture: Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In April 1970, Jon Pasche was a 25-year-old student at the Royal College Of Art, when a call came through looking for a young artist to work on a poster for a forthcoming Rolling Stones tour. Jagger had seen Pasche’s designs at his final degree show that year, and he got the gig.

Pleased with his work, Jagger commissioned Pasche to come up with a logo for the brand new company Rolling Stones Records, which was being prepared to release the band’s material after they’d left their original company Decca.

The Rolling Stones logo, pictured in 2005
The Rolling Stones logo, pictured in 2005. Picture: MAX NASH/AFP/Getty Images

Originally, the commission was for “a logo or symbol which may be used on note paper, as a programme cover and as a cover for the press book”.

Jagger’s inspiration was a newspaper cutting that he’d seen that showed the Indian goddess Kali, with a pointed tongue, hanging down. In Hindu mythology, Kali symbolises death and time, but is also a powerful feminine figure.

The Goddess Kali
The Goddess Kali. Picture: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Pasche told the V&A: “A lot of people ask me if it was based on Mick Jagger’s lips - and I have to say it wasn’t, initially. But it might have been something that was unconscious and also really dovetailed into the basic idea of the design. It was a number of things.”

The logo took Pasche about two weeks to finalise - working every evening - and he was paid the princely sum of £50.

Rolling Stones 2002
Rolling Stones 2002. Picture: Keith Bedford/Getty Images

The design first appeared on the album Sticky Fingers in April 1971, and has been used ever since.

Pasche thinks the design has stood the test of time because, “It’s universal statement, I mean sticking out your tongue at something is very ant-authority, a protest really… various generations have picked that up.”

And he admits, “When I’m out and about on holiday, it’s always a bit of a surprise when someone comes round the corner wearing a t-shirt or whatever!”

Rolling Stones Super Bowl XL halftime show, 2006
Rolling Stones Super Bowl XL halftime show, 2006. Picture: Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images