Rolling Stones Tongue & Lips Design — John Pasche (1969)

Perhaps the most well known symbol in rock ‘n’ roll history is the Rolling Stones’ Tongue & Lips design, commonly shortened to ‘Hot Lips’. It has been in use by the band for almost half a century and has helped to solidify the Stones’ place as some of the true legends of rock ’n’ roll.

The Rolling Stones formed in 1962, and released five studio albums before Hot Lips first appeared. The logo came to be when, in 1969, Mick Jagger approached the Royal College of Art in London in search of some visual assets for the band’s upcoming album, Sticky Fingers. Jagger found the work of one man in particular — 24 year-old John Pasche — intriguing enough to commission him to create some artwork for the next album for a grand total of £50.

‘Sticky Fingers’ album cover and inside sleeve, where the symbol made its debut (1971)

The idea of the tongue & lips came about from Jagger wanting a resemblance to Kali, the Hindu goddess of everlasting energy, death and doomsday, whom is commonly depicted with her tongue out. However, upon meeting Jagger, Pasche was immediately drawn to Jagger’s large lips and mouth. Combining the two resulted in the Hot Lips we know today.

Kali, the Hindu goddess of death, time, doomsday and energy, depicted with her tongue out

Over the years, the racy symbol has become synonymous with the Stones and the themes they have come to be associated with — sex, anti-authoritarianism, and swagger. The luscious red colour along with the lolling of the tongue have strong sexual connotations, which is fitting for a glamorous and rebellious rock band of the era. It has withstood the test of time and has become larger than life — quite literally at the 2006 Superbowl in which the Stones performed at the halftime show on a massively scaled up version of the logo.

The Rolling Stones performing at the Superbowl XL, 2006

The symbol’s versatility has allowed it to remain at the forefront of all marketing ventures relating to the band, such as tour promotion and merchandise. It has been modified to fit the theme of various singles and tours, such as the icicle-covered symbol for the 1981 single ‘She’s So Cold’. It’s this versatility that has allowed the symbol to become commonplace in society, and as such has perhaps enabled the ageing band to remain relevant in today’s fast moving world of on-demand music and huge pop industry.

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