Rolling stones: not fade away...Ever

By Tony Nielsen

Who would've thought on July 12, 1962, a bunch of wannabe white blues aficionados, low on actual musical experience, played their first gig at London's Marquee Club. While it wasn't revered then, it is now, because Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were in that group, what was to become the Rolling Stones. And, on August 12 this year, their half century together was celebrated with the release of 50, an official documentation of their long and rocky (excuse the pun) road.

By early 1963, Jagger and Richards had been joined by bassist Bill Wyman, multi-instrumentalist Brian Jones and drummer Charlie Watts, joined also by their common interest in the blues, Chicago style, and the rock'n'roll pioneer Chuck Berry. Their initial recordings were all covers, their first real hit given to them by arch rivals the Beatles. Fittingly, on their first tour of the United States, they recorded a swag of songs at the famed Chess studios in Chicago, meeting their idols, such as Muddy Waters. One of those songs, a cover of Bobby Womack's It's All Over Now became their first No1.

But their manager, Andrew Loog Oldham, didn't fancy paying other people royalties and he cajoled Mick and Keith into writing songs, and so a very productive partnership began, with Keith becoming the renowned riff creator. The rest, as they say, is history. Fast forward 50 years, yes 50 years, and the Rolling Stones are still here.

In spite of their best efforts to do otherwise, they've survived, not just on a personal level, but as a band which has no rivals. This publication, 50 is an incredible chronicle of those years, and some of the images are simply outstanding, the rest of them just excellent.

We experience the changes in personnel. Brian Jones fired in 1969 for his erratic, drug-fuelled, behaviour, replaced by John Mayall's Bluesbreakers' guitarist Mick Taylor. Taylor lasted until just 1974 when he left, disillusioned and with a habit.

The auditions to replace Taylor included Peter Frampton, Rory Gallagher and Jeff Beck, but it was former Faces guitarist Ronnie Wood who won the day and, nearly 40 years on, he is almost a foundation member of the Rolling Stones.

In 1993, Bill Wyman also left and the four members of the Stones have used a variety of musicians since to fill the gaps.

The Rolling Stones' live shows have become the benchmark for others to follow, with stadium tours growing in capacity towards unbelievable levels. Steel Wheels, Voodoo Lounge and Bridges of Babylon all raked in hundreds of millions, but were eclipsed by the Bigger Bang world tour, which grossed NZ$537 million.

In all, the Rolling Stones have recorded 29 studio albums, 17 live albums and 30 compilation albums, reaching overall sales in excess of 250 million, and there have been solo albums from all of them, excursions into acting for Jagger and Richards, then 2008's much acclaimed live concert filmed by Martin Scorsese, Shine a Light, recorded in New York's Beacon Theatre.

50 takes us on a pictorial ride across the tours, the changes in personnel, the studio sessions, and lots more.

Yes, there is a big difference between the fresh-faced young Keith Richards circa 1963 and the grizzled 68-year-old who graces today's magazines. For those of us of a certain age though, this is a book to cherish, as it directly reflects our life and times as well. As they put it so plainly themselves, "It's only rock'n'roll but I like it".

The Rolling Stones 50

by Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood

Thames & Hudson, $49.95

- Hamilton News

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