Yesterday marked the 50th Anniversary of The Rolling Stones first ever gig, which means today technically marks the 50th Anniversary of their first post-gig hangover. Knowing, Keith Richards that’s probably how he best wants to be celebrated.
He’s even told BBC as much saying that if the world’s longest living rock band were ever to officially retire – Richards wants to do it “elegantly wasted.”
Focus on the Stones has been at fever-pitch following rumours they’d be gearing up to head out on tour to celebrate their 50 years together, quickly dispelling rumours that they’d be headlining Glastonbury Festival as a farewell concert. But it was half-a-century and a day ago at a jazz club in London that their legacy began.
The Rolling Stones – who had dropped the ‘g’ and were billed as The Rollin’ Stones – played their first ever gig at London’s Marquee Club, on July 2, 1962.
Mick Jagger was merely days from his 19th birthday, while Richards was a fresh-faced 18 years old himself, along with original guitarist Brian Jones, Ian Stewart on piano and Dick Taylor on bass. Recollections over the drummer are hazy, but it was most likely Tony Chapman.
Their eponymous debut album wouldn’t be released for another two years (on April 16, 1964), and another twelve months before their first hit – a cover of Chuck Berry’s “Come On” ; but none of that material appeared in that first ever show. In fact, there was no original material at all to speak of – with the young lads delivering a set of covers and blues standards from the artists that first influenced their rough and ready version of rock.
Artists like Elmore James, Chuck Berry and Jimmy Reed – who the band would continue to namecheck well into their decades-long career – made up their 18-song set. Shortly after, their acting manager Giorgio Gomelsky secured a residency at the local Crawdaddy Club, which triggered – as he put it – an “international renaissance for the blues.” Later in the year would see the arrival of bassist Bill Wyman to the line-up, and the permanent addition of Charlie Watts in January the following year. Cementing the band’s classic line-up of their debut.
The rest, as they say, is history.
The wealth of their influence in sound and attitude is almost impossible to measure, let alone their enormous commercial and creative successes over the years. A band that would go onto shape the landscape of rock music arguably as much as their friendly rivals, The Beatles; and unlike the Fab Four, the Stones are still around to celebrate their 50th Anniversary.
“It’s been an incredible adventure,” says Keith Richards today, in a BBC interview, reflecting on the band’s legacy fifty years on.
When asked if thought The Rolling Stones would ever achieve such longevity, the legendary guitarist replied “Never, back then groups used to last about two or three years. You hoped to have a good time and that was that.”
But Richards wants to keep the band going for as long as possible, “there might be life in the old dog yet – we’ll die gracefully, elegantly wasted.”
Adding that, “it’s a generation thing, that post-war thing, also technology, when we started we were making 45s and then when you could make albums, that gave us the chance to do more. I never expected to get here, so it’s all gravy.”
On his equally legendary capacity for excess, Richard reflected, “I wouldn’t have taken certain things if I’d known what I’d have to do to get off of it. I can’t think of any other real regrets.” Except, of course, the death of fellow guitarist Brian Jones in 1969, “I regret Brian dying, I remember thinking ‘Brian, how dare you leave the band’ because we were all very close. I can’t regret something, I’d go through the hard times again just to keep things as they are.”
Speaking of the band’s career, half-a-century on, Richards said simply, “sometimes its hard work and you wonder why you’re doing it, but apart from those few moments it’s been an incredible adventure.”
As for those still-brewing tour rumours over a jubilee tour? “We’re playing around with the idea and had a couple of rehearsals – we’ve got together and it feels so good.”
So far the only official celebrations from the Rolling Stones camp has been a photo exhibition at London’s Somerset House. A collection showcasing rare and previously unseen images, with a book, simply entitled The Rolling Stones: 50, that collects the photography to be released to coincide with the exhibition.
But the question on everyone’s lips is ‘will The Rolling Stones will be heading out on tour?’ “There’s things in the works – I think it’s definitely happening,” Richards told the BBC. “But when? I can’t say yet.”
The band’s last extended tour, the massive “A Bigger Bang” Tour, stretched for two years between August 2005 – August 2007 across 30 countries. Eventually becoming the second highest grossing tour of all-time, earning over $US 550 million, second only to U2′s “360″ tour, including a visit to Australia in 2006.
If a new 50th Anniversary world tour of the same scale went ahead, it would mark their seventh visit to Australia.
Richards final word on the band’s legacy? “Fascinating and raunchy. Let’s keep it that way.”