Rolling Stones hint at tour ahead of 50th anniversary celebration

 

Mick Jagger may rethink the words he sang more than 45 years ago — "What a drag it is getting old."

Today marks 50 years since Jagger played his first gig with a band called the Rolling Stones, and the group is marking its half-century with no letup in its productivity or rock 'n ' roll style. Jagger himself is still the cool, rich frontman of the world's most successful rock band.

Now in their late 60s and early 70s, the band members are celebrating the anniversary by attending a retrospective photo exhibition at London's Somerset House — and looking to the future by rehearsing for new gigs.

Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood and Charlie Watts are getting together 50 years to the day after the young R&B band played London's Marquee Club. Taking a name from a song by bluesman Muddy Waters, they were billed as "The Rollin' Stones" —the 'g' came later.

The lineup for the gig was vocalist Jagger, guitarists Richards and Brian Jones, bassist Dick Taylor, pianist Ian Stewart and Mick Avory on drums. Taylor, Stewart and Avory soon left the lineup; drummer Watts joined in 1963 and guitarist Wood in 1975.

The band had its first hit, a cover of Chuck Berry's "Come On," in 1963, and soon became one of the world's biggest and most influential rock acts, rivaled only by The Beatles.

The Beatles split up in 1970, but the Stones are still going strong — something Jagger says he could never have imagined at the time.

"Groups in those days and singers didn't really last very long," Jagger, 68, told the BBC. "They weren't supposed to last. It was supposed to be ephemeral. It was only really Elvis and The Beatles that were the biggest things that ever happened in pop music that I can remember. But even (Elvis) had lasted perhaps less than 10 years, so how could anyone really last?"

Richards told the BBC that his biggest regret in the last 50 years was the drowning death in 1969 of Brian Jones, but that on the whole the band's career has been "an incredible adventure."

Music critic John Aizlewood said the Stones' contribution to rock 'n' roll is "immeasurable."

"They are a founding father of rock music as we know it," he said. "Other bands have tried and not pulled off that amount of sexiness, allied to a kind of street-fighting menace."

Aizlewood said the Rolling Stones have endured where other bands have split because "they are smart enough to put the band ahead of the individuals, despite their collective egos."

He said they are also canny businessmen, and realized early on that "once you get to a certain level, if you maintain your live performance, you can play stadiums forever."

The Stones have sold more than 200 million records, with hits including "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," "Street Fighting Man" and "You Can't Always Get What You Want."

But in recent years much of their income has come from touring. Their last global tour, "A Bigger Bang," earned more than half a billion dollars between 2005 and 2007. And as they enter their sixth decade, more live shows are on the way.

Guitarist Richards said they have met up for "a couple of rehearsals", fanning the fire of rumours that a new world tour may be in the works.

Richards would not go so far as to say when the quartet would be performing in public again.

"There's things in the works - I think it's definitely happening," he told British broadcaster the BBC. "But when? I can't say yet."

"We're playing around with the idea and had a couple of rehearsals - we've got together and it feels so good."

The relationship at the heart of the Stones' success remains the working friendship of singer Jagger and Richards, whose long musical partnership goes back to the days when they roomed with the late guitarist and former Stones founding member Brian Jones, hustling gigs wherevever they could find them.

* BECOMING ROCK STARS:

- Michael Philip Jagger - who will be 70 in July 2013 - was an avid fan of American blues artists like Muddy Waters and he formed his first band in his teens. He had won a place at the prestigious London School of Economics (LSE) but admitted he didn't take it seriously.

- At London's Ealing Blues Club, Jagger met Brian Jones who was recruiting for a band he called the Rollin' Stones - the “g" was to be restored later - after a Muddy Waters song.

- The original line-up included Mick Jagger (vocals), Brian Jones (guitar, harmonica, vocals), Keith Richards (guitar, vocals), Ian "Stu" Stewart (piano), Dick Taylor (bass) and various drummers such as Mick Avory (later of The Kinks) and Tony Chapman. Taylor left shortly after to return to art school, and was later to form The Pretty Things. He was replaced by Bill Wyman.

- By the beginning of 1963, the Stones lineup was Jagger, Keith Richards, Brian Jones, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts. In 1964 Jagger was catapulted to fame amid outrage and controversy about his surliness and the length of the group's hair.

* HITS GALORE:

- There were riots when the band went to America and it was in 1965 that “(I Can't Get No) "Satisfaction" gave them their first U.S. and British hit.

- Another hit, "“Get Off My Cloud", fully used Jagger's defiant persona. Bad-boy controversy continued with Jagger, Jones and Wyman arrested for urinating at a London petrol station.

- A stream of hits followed, from "“Under My Thumb", to the anarchic “"19th Nervous Breakdown" and doom-laden "“Paint It Black". Jagger spat out a diatribe of abuse in “"Have You Seen Your Mother Baby, Standing In the Shadow?"

* Jagger's increasing prominence in the group reached crisis point with Jones who left the band in June 1969. He was found dead in his swimming pool the following month.

* MYTHICAL STATUS:

- In 1970 Jagger made a foray into movies appearing in "“Ned Kelly" and the earlier “"Performance" followed by the albums "“Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out" and “"Sticky Fingers".

- By the late 1970s, Jagger and the Stones were being written off by the British media switched on by the new Punk era but they responded by releasing the impressive "“Some Girls".

- "A “Steel Wheels" tour in 1989 catapulted the band into the record books earning more than $300 million. This was followed by the equally successful “"Voodoo Lounge" tour. By the turn of the century, they still had not lost their appetite for touring.

- The Rolling Stones ended the 1990s with their album "Bridges to Babylon" released in 1997 to mixed reviews. However, their Bridges to Babylon Tour was a huge success which crossed Europe, North America and various other destinations.

* PRESERVING THE BAND:

- In 2002, The Rolling Stones released "Forty Licks", a greatest hits album that spanned their career, that contained four new songs. The same year, Q magazine named The Rolling Stones as one of the "50 Bands To See Before You Die."

- The group's last major tour was their 2005-07 Bigger Bang Tour which took in over 30 countries and took over $550 million in sales. It has only been beaten by Irish group U2 during their 2011 360 tour.

- They made their debut in China in 2006 riding roughshod over the censors during their first show in the communist country, serenading the crowd with songs about Satan, sleaze bags and serial killers at the Shanghai Grand Stage.

- Film director Martin Scorsese's 2008 "Shine a Light" film of two 2006 concerts in New York provides few clues as to when the group would lay down their instruments. The veteran rockers rolled back the years and Jagger put in a performance worthy of a man a third his age.

- A new official book, "Rolling Stones 50", is published on Thursday and a film will be released in November 2012.

Reuters/ AP

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