It was The Rolling Stones’ beloved Bo Diddley, via the words of fellow blues hero Willie Dixon, who famously decreed, You Can’t Judge A Book By The Cover. But where the Stones’ debut was concerned, Diddley was wrong. Compare it to that of The Beatles, released 13 months earlier: four cheeky young chappies smiling down from above in broad daylight, their name on the cover beseeching Please Please Me. And then The Rolling Stones: five grimacing ne’er do wells in chilling chiaroscuro, untitled and anonymous, their sullen askance-to-camera glances making it very clear they’ve no intention of pleasing anyone but themselves. As a daringly text-free cover (save for the Decca logo), Nicholas Wright’s portrait told you everything you needed to know about young masters Jagger, Richards, Jones, Watts and Wyman before they’d even plugged in the Dansette. Popular music would never be the same again because – “lock up your daughters!” – the Bad Lads were here.Recorded in five days in a basement studio in London’s Denmark Street, aided by a chance visit from Phil Spector and Gene Pitney bearing a bottle of Napoleon brandy (which, once drained, was stuffed with a few coins and turned into a maraca), most of its dozen tracks were the devotional labours of obsessive suburban London R&B fanatics desperate to spread the then-largely-unknown gospels of their sacred Diddley, Dixon, Slim Harpo, Jimmy Reed and his holiness Chuck Berry. The 20-years-old Jagger and Richards, still in their songwriting infancy, stretched to using their “Nanker Phelge” pseudonym on two lesser fillers but were justly proud of the gorgeously simple Tell Me, the first Stones track to bear their soon-to-be imperial composer credit. No less groundbreaking were manager Andrew Loog Oldham’s sleevenotes: “The Rolling Stones are more than just a group – they are a way of life.” A glorious new age of pop pretension, propaganda and hype had arrived. SG
Runners-up: The Beatles A Hard Day’s Night, Bob Dylan Another Side Of Bob Dylan, The Kinks The Kinks.