. Old School Tees Blog: Like Mick's Mouth, the Rolling Stones Tongue is Iconic

Like Mick's Mouth, the Rolling Stones Tongue is Iconic

Instantly recognizable, a good logo doesn't need words to tell you who it belongs to. A handful of such logos have come to define the 20th century - Apple, Nike, Starbucks, and the Rolling Stones tongue!

The Rolling Stones are certainly a legendary rock band, as well as a successful business. In 2013, they were worth more than $1.5 billion - including merchandise sales.

The tongue logo and the band are now inseparable. But where does that truly iconic logo actually come from?

Let's head back to 1971!

The Rolling Stones had been signed with Decca Records in the UK and London Records in the US since 1963.

But by 1971, they were ready to make a break and release their next album, Sticky Fingers, on their own label, Rolling Stones Records.

That split with Decca led to total creative control for both the band and their management. It was only a matter of time before they took a leap forward in both their music and packaging.

The cover of Sticky Fingers was designed by legendary Pop artist, Andy Warhol. Featuring a photograph of a male denim-clad crotch, it certainly stirred up controversy at the time.

Particularly since the zipper on the jeans was fully functional. You could pull it down to reveal his underwear.

To this day, no one knows the identity of the well-endowed model on the cover. But it certainly captured the public imagination.

The Sticky Fingers cover was voted "#1 Greatest Album Cover" of all time in VH1 in 2003.

We even carry it as a t-shirt design.

But some people have assumed that Warhol was also responsible for the Rolling Stones tongue.

That's partly because the logo made its appearance in the Sticky Fingers package.

While Warhol designed the outer sleeve, the tongue first appeared on the inner sleeve.


But Warhol didn't design the logo.

Unhappy with designs produced by Decca, the band had been looking for an art student to create designs for their 1970 European Tour poster.

They auditioned a range of artists from the Royal College of Art in London. There they discovered the work of John Pasche.

The band commissioned Pasche and Mick Jagger even turned up to see his final degree show. One of Pasche's designs was to be used by the band later.

His pastiche poster based on 1930s tourism adverts showed a real knack for graphic design.

Impressed by his work, Jagger also asked Pasche to design a logo for their new label. The logo would replace the previously rejected versions from Decca.

Originally, Jagger's thoughts revolved around the Hindu goddess Kali. Images of Kali, goddess of everlasting energy, show her with a large mouth and her tongue sticking out.

But Pasche worried that using Kali as inspiration might 'date' the image. After all, the Indian craze characterized the late 1960s. Pasche wanted something more current.

So he turned to an even more accessible source of inspiration. Mick Jagger himself.

Jagger is famous for his large lips and mouth, and by using them in the logo, Pasche distilled what the band was about into one image. He also captured their sexual provocation and reputation.

The Rolling Stones tongue also represented the band's stance against authority. While creating the logo, Pasche also made sure he chose a design that could be reproduced easily.

But he also chose a design that wouldn't age or date badly. Pasche was right, given the continued popularity of the band - and the logo.

And you can certainly enjoy the logo splashed across a high-quality t-shirt.


The Rolling Stones tongue was born

Pasche worked on the design himself and sent a basic version to Craig Braun at Marshall Chess. Braun's team refined it into the Rolling Stones tongue we recognize now.

One of the key reasons for the success of the Rolling Stones tongue is its recognizability. You don't need the name of the band to know whose logo you're looking at.

And legendary logo designer Paul Rand once said,
"The principal role of a logo is to identify, and simplicity is its means… Its effectiveness depends on distinctiveness, visibility, adaptability, memorability, universality, and timelessness."

Pasche's Rolling Stones tongue certainly meets all of those criteria. Merchandise saw it applied to all sorts of t-shirts and memorabilia - making it adaptable and distinctive.

At the time, Pasche received just £50 for the design. But 2 years later he received another £200 to recognize how successful the logo had been.

But that success wasn't without problems of its own. As late as 2013, the Rolling Stones sued a German jeans company that stole the logo and used it to sell clothing.

According to the lawsuit, the New Yorker Fashion company used the logo on posters and clothing tags. The band asked for $325,000 in settlement damages.

That's why all of our Rolling Stones t-shirts are fully licensed and official.


The legacy of the logo

The band eventually bought the copyright to the Rolling Stones tongue. In 2008, the V&A Museum in London bought the original artwork from Pasche for $92,500. Pasche still works as a freelance designer.

In 2008, the V&A Museum in London bought the original artwork from Pasche for $92,500. Pasche still works as a freelance designer.

In 2012, the Rolling Stones hired iconic illustrator Shepard Fairey to refresh the tongue logo. Fairey, the artist behind the Barack Obama 'Hope' posters, had previously collaborated with the band on the art for their 2011 album, SuperHeavy.

While Jagger wanted a logo for their 50th anniversary, Fairey insisted on keeping the tongue within his new design.

But the original logo has never really stopped flirting with controversy. In 2016, the Saatchi Gallery in London staged an exhibition about the Rolling Stones, called 'Exhibitionism'.

They tried to use the logo in adverts on the London Underground for the exhibition. Their ad team stuck the tongue on a photo of a woman's crotch, but the ads were banned until the team moved the logo to her navel.

Ever the exhibitionists, the band are still touring. They show no signs of slowing down as they head towards their 55th anniversary.

And their logo shows no signs of outstaying its welcome, either. Who knows where it'll appear next?
If you'd like to wear a slice of rock 'n roll history, then check out our range of Rolling Stones t-shirts now!
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