As part of the festivities guitarist Ronnie Wood told Reuters in an exclusive interview that the Stones are set to reveal their plans for future live gigs this week. "What we do is live in hope and hopefully this week we'll unfold some plans," Wood said, adding that the band had recently spent a number of days rehearsing in a studio in New York and that getting together was like "being back at school."
Richards said this week that the Stones have met up for "a couple of rehearsals," but would not go so far as to say when the quartet comprising himself, Jagger, Charlie Watts and Wood would be performing in public again. "We're playing around with the idea and had a couple of rehearsals -- we've got together and it feels so good," Richards told Britain's publicly funded broadcaster the BBC.
The 65-year-old Wood, who joined the Stones in 1975 to replace Mick Taylor, also refused to rule out the possibility of a return appearance by Bill Wyman -- bass guitarist for the band from 1962 until 1993. "I saw him last week and he was in top form, rocking," Wood said. "We also did a rehearsal with him a few weeks ago. It's like he'd never been away."
The exhibition of photos at London's Somerset House and the accompanying book track the rise of a group of fresh-faced British boys who played their first gig at Oxford Street's Marquee Club in 1962, became the scourge of the establishment in the 1960s, the titans of '70s music and finally the elder statesmen of rock and roll in the 21st century.
"There was no sort of master plan," Richards says on the band's official website rollingstones.com. "We were flying by the seat of our pants. That is what amazes me, that the whole thing was improvised."
The relationship at the heart of the Stones' success remains the working friendship of singer Jagger and Richards, whose long musical partnership goes back to the days when they roomed with the late guitarist and former Stones founding member Brian Jones, hustling gigs wherever they could find them.
"You have to put yourself back into that time," Jagger says on rollingstones.com. "Popular music wasn't talked about on any kind of intellectual level. There was no such term as 'popular culture.' None of those things existed."
Rift and reconciliation
But the Jagger/Richards partnership has also had its chillier moments. Earlier this year, Richards apologized to Jagger for derogatory comments he made about the lead singer in his 2010 memoir "Life," which caused a rift within the band. In comments reported by Rolling Stone magazine, the two agreed it was time to settle their differences, leaving fans keen for another world tour breathing a sigh of relief.
"I got very involved with the business side of the Stones, mainly because I felt no one else was interested, but it's plain now from the book that Keith felt excluded, which is a pity," Jagger was quoted as saying. "Time I reckon to move on." Richards added: "Mick's right. He and I have had conversations over the last year of a kind we have not had for an extremely long time and that has been incredibly important to me."
Some industry sources had put a tour delay down to the argument, but Rolling Stone said it may be more closely linked to concerns over Richards' health. "The quality of the guitarist's performances declined after he suffered a head injury on vacation in Fiji in April 2006, midway through the Bigger Bang tour," the magazine said. A Bigger Bang, the Stones' last tour, played to 4.5 million people in 32 countries over two years before it finished in London in 2007.
"The Rolling Stones: 50" picture book also hit the shelves on Thursday to correspond with the golden anniversary and were showcased at a Champagne-fuelled London party on Thursday attended by the Stones and other celebrities. The new book features 700 illustrations, 300 of them in color and many taken from the archive of the Daily Mirror tabloid, which contains the largest newspaper collection of Rolling Stones photography.
"This is our story of 50 fantastic years," Jagger, Richards, guitarist/bass player Wood and drummer Watts said in a joint statement. "We started out as a blues band playing the clubs and more recently we've filled the largest stadiums in the world with the kind of show that none of us could have imagined all those years ago."
The photographic autobiography, which also features words from the band, includes images taken by Philip Townsend, the photographer for the band's first ever shoot. The 352-page hardback edition published by Thames & Hudson in Britain, will retail at 29.95 pounds ($48).
The Stones have said they also plan to release a documentary film in November chronicling their history.
The last studio album by the group was in 2005. They have released two live albums, “Hampton Coliseum (Live 1981)” and “L.A. Friday (Live 1975),” so far this year. Richards said on rollingstones.com that he is grateful for the hallowed place that he and the band have carved into the hearts of their fans and in rock history, but was still striving to improve, half a century into his career. "If you say I'm great, thank you very much, but I know what I am. I could be better, man, you know?"
A brief look at Rolling Stones’ five decades
The Rolling Stones -- Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood and Charlie Watts -- marked their 50th anniversary with a photographic exhibition in London on Thursday. Here is a look at the history of the group, which used the name “Rollin’ Stones” for the first time on July 12, 1962, at a performance in the Marquee Club in London to replace Alexis Korner’s blues band.
Becoming rock stars
Michael Philip Jagger, who will be 70 in July 2013, was an avid fan of American blues artists like Muddy Waters and he formed his first band in his teens. He had won a place at the prestigious London School of Economics (LSE) but admitted he didn’t take it seriously.
At London’s Ealing Blues Club, Jagger met Brian Jones who was recruiting for a band he called the Rollin’ Stones -- the “g” was to be restored later -- after a Muddy Waters song.
The original lineup included Mick Jagger (vocals), Brian Jones (guitar, harmonica, vocals), Keith Richards (guitar, vocals), Ian “Stu” Stewart (piano), Dick Taylor (bass) and various drummers such as Mick Avory (later of The Kinks) and Tony Chapman. Taylor left shortly after to return to art school, and was later to form The Pretty Things. He was replaced by Bill Wyman.
By the beginning of 1963, the Stones lineup was Jagger, Keith Richards, Brian Jones, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts. In 1964 Jagger was catapulted to fame amid outrage and controversy about his surliness and the length of the group’s hair.
There were riots when the band went to America and it was in 1965 that “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” gave them their first US and British hit.
Another hit, “Get Off My Cloud,” fully used Jagger’s defiant persona. Bad-boy controversy continued with Jagger, Jones and Wyman arrested for urinating at a London petrol station.
A stream of hits followed, from “Under My Thumb,” to the anarchic “19th Nervous Breakdown” and doom-laden “Paint It Black.” Jagger spat out a diatribe of abuse in “Have You Seen Your Mother Baby, Standing In the Shadow?”
Jagger’s increasing prominence in the group reached crisis point with Jones who left the band in June 1969. He was found dead in his swimming pool the following month.
In 1970 Jagger made a foray into movies appearing in “Ned Kelly” and the earlier “Performance” followed by the albums “Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out” and “Sticky Fingers.”
By the late 1970s, Jagger and the Stones were being written off by the British media switched on by the new Punk era but they responded by releasing the impressive “Some Girls.”
“Steel Wheels” tour in 1989 catapulted the band into the record books earning more than $300 million. This was followed by the equally successful “Voodoo Lounge” tour. By the turn of the century, they still had not lost their appetite for touring.
The Rolling Stones ended the 1990s with their album “Bridges to Babylon” released in 1997 to mixed reviews. However, their Bridges to Babylon Tour was a huge success which crossed Europe, North America and various other destinations.
In 2002, The Rolling Stones released “Forty Licks,” a greatest hits album that spanned their career, which contained four new songs. The same year, Q magazine named The Rolling Stones as one of the “50 Bands To See Before You Die.” London Reuters