On Thursday, July 12, 2012, The Rolling Stones will celebrate their 50th anniversary. Long revered as “the world’s greatest rock and roll band”, the legendary rockers performed their very first gig at London’s Marquee Club on July 12, 1962. Riding the wave of the British invasion, The Stones began a 50 year journey that took them from the tiny London club to the biggest arenas in the world and super-stardom.
Flamboyant, brash and often controversial, The Rolling Stones earned every bit of their fame and fortune by hard work and outstanding musicianship. While most of their contemporaries have long since faded from the scene, The Rolling Stones still pack arenas and turn out hit records. They remain the reigning kings of rock and roll.
The band was originally known as The Rollin’ Stones and their first night’s lineup consisted of Mick Jagger (vocals), Keith Richards (guitar), Brian Jones (guitar), Ian Stewart (piano), Dick Taylor (bass) and Tony Chapman (drums).
They made their debut performance as a last minute replacement for the Marquee Club’s house band, Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated, who were appearing that night on the BBC. The group picked their name from a song by blues master Muddy Waters and as they say, the rest is history.
Stewart, Taylor and Chapman soon departed and Manager Andrew Loog Oldham changed the band’s name to The Rolling Stones. In 1963, drummer Charlie Watts and bassist Bill Wyman joined The Stones and became one of rock and roll’s most outstanding rhythm sections. The pair served as the musical foundation for the guitar virtuosity of Richards and the showmanship of vocalist Jagger.
Like many of the great bands that started in the 1960’s, The Stones were not immune to crisis and tragedy. Founding member Brain Jones fell into a deep pit of drugs and depression that ended with his death by drowning on July 3, 1969. Singer Mick Jagger and lead guitarist Keith Richards added their own personal drama to the mix, highlighted by years of animosity and tension between the two.
Despite all the pitfalls of an early death, in-fighting, drug addiction and superstar excess, The Rolling Stones have managed to survive and prosper. They have a huge catalog of hits and platinum records including over 100 singles and two dozen studio albums. The Stones have sold upwards of 200 million records in their 50 year career and they are the 13th highest selling artists in music history.
To celebrate their 50th anniversary, The Rolling Stones will be at the Somerset House in London on Thursday July 12, 2012, for the unveiling of an exhibition of photographs. The images are part of the book, Rolling Stones 50, that features concert and studio photographs spanning the 50 year odyssey of the band. The book will be followed by the release of a brand new documentary about The Rolling Stones in November of 2012.
Despite all the fuss and hoopla, The Stones have no plans to retire. Even though the original members of the band are now in their 60’s and early 70’s, they are still looking forward to performing live and recording more music. Keith Richards, always one for a provocative remark, left everyone anxious for more with this witty comment to Rolling Stone Magazine: “The Stones always really considered 1963 to be 50 years, because Charlie [Watts] didn’t actually join until January. We look upon 2012 as sort of the year of conception, but the birth is next year.” Hopefully next year will herald the birth of more great rock and roll from The Rolling Stones.