How did The Rolling Stones get their logo?

26 July 2020, 20:00 | Updated: 2 December 2020, 17:30

The Rolling Stones logo
The Rolling Stones logo. Picture: Shutterstock

The legendary Rolling Stones lips and tongue logo is Britain’s favourite t-shirt design - but who came up with it?

Take a look at the Rolling Stones logo. As far as corporate branding for a rock band goes, it’s unbeatable. For nearly 50 years, the gaping mouth and tongue has symbolised the greatest rock ’n’ roll band in the world. A poll back in 2018 named the classic 1970s logo as their favourite t-shirt design. When you see it, you know you’re in for riffs, rock and something a little bit risque. The Stones logo has appeared on everything from t-shirts to silk ties, baseball caps to underpants.

Rolling Stones fans in Rome, 2014
Rolling Stones fans in Rome, 2014. Picture: Alessandro Curci/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 announces the Stones will play that Half Time Show at the Superbowl in 2006... while the band's logo looks on
Mick Jagger announces the Stones will play that Half Time Show at the Superbowl in 2006... while the band's logo looks on. Picture: Shutterstock

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 Iconic Rolling Stones 'Tongue' logo, original artwork created by John Pasche in the early 1970s.
The Iconic Rolling Stones 'Tongue' logo, original artwork created by John Pasche in the early 1970s. Picture: MAX NASH/AFP via 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, as seen in a 19th century painting
The Goddess Kali, as seen in a 19th century painting. Picture: Sepia Times/Universal Images Group via 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.

egendary rock group The Rolling Stones arrive in a blimp for a press conference at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, New York City where they announced their World Tou
egendary rock group The Rolling Stones arrive in a blimp for a press conference at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, New York City where they announced their World Tou. Picture: CEWZAN GRAYSON/PA Archive/PA 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.”

A woman views artwork by John Pasche entitled 'Rolling Stones logo' in the 'Perfect Place to Grow' exhibition at The Royal College of Art in celebration of their 175th anniversary on November 15, 2012
A woman views artwork by John Pasche entitled 'Rolling Stones logo' in the 'Perfect Place to Grow' exhibition at The Royal College of Art in celebration of their 175th anniversary on November 15, 2012. Picture: Oli Scarff/Getty Images

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!”

Fabs Moretti of The Strokes rocks a Stone t-shirt as he attends the premiere of Lost In Translation with Drew Barrymoe in 2003
Fabs Moretti of The Strokes rocks a Stone t-shirt as he attends the premiere of Lost In Translation with Drew Barrymoe in 2003. Picture: Dave Allocca/Starpix/Shutterstock