Time is still on their side. After a half-century, the Rolling Stones remain a powerful, transfixing and lionized force in pop culture. You can't say the same for tape cassettes, the Telstar satellite or The Jetsons, which also made an entrance in 1962.
Fifty years ago this month, the newly formed British band was touring the U.K., ranked third on a bill behind the Everly Brothers and Bo Diddley. Before long, they were cranking out hits to challenge The Beatles' grip on global charts.
Rocking and rolling ever since, the band is marking its golden anniversary with sold-out concerts, a book, a documentary, its umpteenth hits album and possibly a 2013 tour.
Nobody is more surprised by the Stones' shelf life than singer Mick Jagger, who in his 30s proclaimed he'd rather be dead than sing (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction after turning 40. He's now 69 and rehearsing tunes that span the band's entire catalog.
"It would have been very foolish to think it was going to last a long time," Jagger says by phone from a rehearsal venue in Paris. "The world around us was pretty crazy. You're battered by the winds of the wild times we lived through.
"I don't know the answer to our longevity. One of the important things is that we always had such amazing, appreciative fans. If they didn't exist to keep this afloat, the Rolling Stones wouldn't exist."
Guitarist Keith Richards chimes in: "I don't think anybody in their right mind thought we could carry on. When our first record hit the charts in England, we thought, 'We've got two years.' That was the life span. After that, we got carried away along with everyone else."
He credits much of the band's durability to undiminished drive.
"The boys are very tough and they love what they do," says Richards, 68. "We're having a ball, and hopefully we'll translate that on stage."
Fans snapped up every ticket to a short run of arena shows, dubbed The Stones: 50 and Counting, despite some seats selling upward of $800. The band will perform Nov. 25 and 29 in London's O2 Arena and Dec. 13 and 15 in Newark's Prudential Center. The final concert airs live at 9 p.m. ET as a pay-per-view special, One More Shot, distributed by WWE to cable and satellite outlets.
The 50th salute also brings Tuesday's release of GRRR! Greatest Hits, a classics collection with new songs Doom and Gloom and One More Shot, and newly published coffee-table book The Rolling Stones 50 (Hyperion, $60), curated and narrated by the band and packed with 1,100 illustrations that include rare photos, posters and memorabilia.
Riding out a 'Hurricane'
Crossfire Hurricane, a Stones documentary directed by Brett Morgen, makes its U.S. debut Tuesday at the Ziegfeld Theatre in New York before premiering Thursday on HBO. The 111-minute retrospective chronicles a raucous transition from rebel outsiders to commercial titans.
"It wasn't a goal in life to become an institution," Jagger says. "If you stick around long enough, you tend to become one. It wasn't our master plan."
The rockumentary introduces the band in shambolic club dates packed with screaming girls and closes with aerial footage of 1981's record-setting American Tour.
It halts at midcareer "because we ran out of time," Jagger, Crossfire's producer, says. "Brett's excuse was that it was an interesting place to end, but we really needed another nine months to do Part 2. It's a good place to drop out, and we could always do Part 2 later.
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