How did The Rolling Stones get their logo?

26 May 2022, 10:00

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 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.

A Stones t-shirt in the wild, Toronto 2002
A Stones t-shirt in the wild, Toronto 2002. Picture: The Canadian Press / Alamy Stock Photo

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 and the famous Rolling Stones lips logo in 2005
Mick Jagger and the famous Rolling Stones lips logo in 2005. Picture: REUTERS / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

The Rolling Stones lips logo rolls out for the opening of the band's pop up store in Carnaby Street, September 2020
The Rolling Stones lips logo rolls out for the opening of the band's pop up store in Carnaby Street, September 2020. Picture: Steve Tulley / Alamy Stock Photo

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: PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo

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

TRENDING ON RADIO X

Liam Gallagher Performs At Knebworth Park, 3rd June 2022

Hear highlights from Liam Gallagher's Knebworth shows on Radio X

Florence + The Machine - Dance Fever track by track

Florence + The Machine - Dance Fever Track By Track

Oasis played two huge gigs at Knebworth in August 1996

Oasis at Knebworth: the story behind their biggest ever gigs

Listen to Radio X on Global Player: Podcasts, Live Playlists and more!

Songs from 2001... but which ones?

Only an expert can get maximum points on this 2001 lyric quiz!