They get mocked as the Strolling Bones but the Rolling Stones don’t give a damn – they are still rocking just as hard as they did 40 years ago on Day One.
That was July 12, 1962 when the founder members launched into a chorus of “Kansas City” at London’s Marquee Club. Their fee for the night was 25 pounds.
Now, four decades on, the elder statesmen of rock are ready to “Start Me Up” all over again with a round-the-world tour that will put yet more millions in their coffers.
The Dinosaurs of Rock are in no danger of extinction and disc-jockey Tommy Vance, who accompanied them on their first U.S. tour in the Sixties, puts it all down to Mick Jagger, the workaholic frontman with rubber lips and swinging hips.
“They are driven by a man who knows how to make a pound or two. On the road he has always had the ability to put on a damn good rock ‘n’ roll circus. They may not have sold many records recently but they can put on spectacular shows,” he said.
So why did they last 32 years longer than The Beatles?
“They had one leader whereas the Beatles developed two leaders. They had a very good sergeant-major instead of two squabbling sergeants,” Vance told Reuters.
But not all memories are rosy. Recalling his first trip with the Stones, Vance said: “They were incredibly surly, unpleasant and unco-operative except for Brian Jones who was a gentleman.”
Jones, one of the group’s founders, was found dead in his swimming pool in 1969.
Pop biographer Ray Connolly said “From the very beginning, they understood the importance of marketing. Mick Jagger not only appreciated band management but brand management too.
“The Rolling Stones deliberately set about selling themselves as rebellious – an image which fitted to perfection their music as a pepped-up blues band.”
At 58, the singer for rock’s “Satanic Majesties” has even signed on for The Establishment. Jagger, famed as much for his love life as he is for his outrageous stage antics, is to be knighted by Queen Elizabeth.
On tour, Jumping Jack Flash still loves the adrenaline buzz – and the cash, cash, cash. For him the attractions never fade. Recalling their 1972 tour, he said: “It was pretty wild. Girls, drink, you name it. Rock ‘n’ roll even.”
The craggy-faced Keith Richards, one of rock’s kings of excess, was asked what on earth still motivated him to hit the road at 58. “Fun,” was his simple answer.
Drummer Charlie Watts, now 61, is astonished by their longevity: “When I started, it was going to be a three-month thing, then a three-year thing. I always said it wouldn’t last.”
Bernard Doherty, the group’s spokesman since 1988, said: “What they did was create a template for successive generations of rock bands. They were the original bad boys, the ultimate bar band that kept on going.”
He said tickets for the tour, which kicks off in Boston in September, sold out within 30 minutes across the United States. But not everyone is a fan lost in the mists of Sixties nostalgia.
Andy Gill, writing in the Independent Review, said: “The sight of the wrinkled fop Jagger wiggling his bottom and clapping his hands like a fey flamenco dancer has become one of rock’s greatest embarrassments.”