A look back through the years with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards as they celebrate five decades of sex, drugs, and rock & roll

By EW Staff
November 02, 2012 at 04:00 AM EDT

If Mick Jagger and Keith Richards made a deal with the devil, that contract went into effect on July 12, 1962, at London’s tiny Marquee Club. It was there that Jagger, Richards, and guitarist Brian Jones first performed as the Rolling Stones (or ”the Rollin’ Stones,” anyway). Which makes 2012 the band’s 50th anniversary, right? Right — unless you happen to be a Rolling Stone. ”We always thought it was 1963 — that’s the year we called our first,” says Richards, 68, sounding amused that for once it’s the rest of the world that doesn’t know what year it is. The Stones’ riff-master and legendary bon vivant regards the band’s first release — their 1963 cover of Chuck Berry’s ”Come On” — as the technical start of the Stones story. That incredible tale has featured no shortage of incident — including Jones’ 1969 death — as well as more than 100 singles, two dozen studio albums, and a jaw-droppingly large array of compilations. There’s always room for one more of those, apparently, since the hits package GRRR! arrives Nov. 13 as part of an anniversary celebration that also features a Stones-on-film exhibit at New York’s Museum of Modern Art and the Nov. 15 HBO premiere of the Crossfire Hurricane documentary. Fans are most interested, though, in four concerts (two each in London and New Jersey) between now and Christmas at which, it is rumored, the core lineup of Jagger, Richards, Charlie Watts, and Ronnie Wood may be joined by ex-members Bill Wyman (bass player from 1962 to ’93) and Mick Taylor (guitarist from 1969 to ’74). We asked Jagger and Richards to take a moment away from their London rehearsals to revisit some of their other anniversary years — and, in deference to Richards, we counted up from 1963.

1968 5th Anniversary

The Stones score a massive transatlantic hit with the Jagger-and Richards-penned ”Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” which tops the charts in their native U.K. and reaches No. 3 in the U.S.

Richards Mick and I had wanted to come up with another great rock & roll track released as a single, which we had not done for quite a while. And ”Jumpin’ Jack Flash” just hit the slot, man. It took us, I don’t know, a half an hour to write. The great songs like ”Flash” just fall into place. It’s like they fall from heaven. I still love playing that one, by the way. I think there’s something primeval about it.

1973 10th Anniversary

August sees the release of the album Goats Head Soup, which features the classic ballad ”Angie.” But the following month, Richards finds himself mourning the death of his good friend, country-rock pioneer Gram Parsons, who overdoses at 26.

Jagger That was a difficult time. We’d had a lot of drug busts and Keith was in quite a lot of problems by then. A lot of Goats Head Soup — nearly all of it, really — was recorded in Jamaica, and Billy Preston was there and that was fun, there were some good things musically there. It was a bit of a departure as an album, compared to Exile on Main Street, which was the year that preceded it.

Richards Gram Parsons died at that time, too. He had also cut a version of ”Wild Horses” [from the Stones’ 1971 album Sticky Fingers]. The song is one I’m very proud of — it’s got an interesting melody, and I wrote it on a five-string guitar, of all things. It was a great song. Somebody did it recently, didn’t they? Susan Boyle or something? [Ed. note: She did, on her 2009 debut.]

1978 15th Anniversary

The summer brings Some Girls, and the album soars to No. 1 on the Billboard charts, powered by tracks like ”Miss You” and the raucous ”Respectable.”

Richards That was us responding, in a way, to the punk guys coming in 1976, 1977. It was the first time we sort of realized there was somebody behind us. I don’t think we ever thought about it much, and then you start sensing there’s another generation coming and it’s different and, yeah, I guess it was a kick in the pants for us in a way. We said, ”We’re not going to let kids roll over us.”

1983 20th Anniversary

The band releases the Undercover album — and enters the video age with an elaborate clip for the single ”Undercover of the Night.”

Jagger It’s kind of a fun album. I can’t remember it right now track by track…. We had gone to Mexico to shoot music videos for ”Undercover of the Night” and ”She Was Hot” — it was just a few days and really crazy. We had done some really bare videos, like ”Start Me Up,” but this was more complicated. We had a supertight budget, but [filmmaker] Julien Temple did them, and we tried to get more bang for our buck.

1988 25th Anniversary

The Stones’ silver anniversary was marked by…well, not much band-wise. In fact, relations between Jagger and Richards reached an all-time low during this period as the singer pursued a solo career, much to the annoyance of his longtime collaborator, who responded with that year’s Talk Is Cheap.

Richards The late 1980s, there was that gap there and we said things. Then there was a, well, I don’t want to call it a rebirth, but I guess I will. And we got back together, and the time away makes you miss the lads and things take care of themselves. That’s where we are now. Our last gig was 2007, so it’s time.

2012-13 50th Anniversary

In addition to the hits compilation, the documentary, the MOMA show, and the clutch of concerts, the Stones release a new single, ”Doom and Gloom.” Which is what fans will be feeling if the band doesn’t go out on a proper tour to mark its ”proper” 50th anniversary next year.

Richards Whether we will be on a tour next year is a good question. I can’t answer that, but my feeling is that once the Stones get going, they’re awfully hard to stop.

Two New Stones Docs Worth Seeing

Crossfire Hurricane
Nov. 15 on HBO, 9 p.m., 111 mins.

Terrific archival footage, supplemented by new interviews with the band in voice-over, makes Crossfire Hurricane a dandy summation of the Stones’ early career. Director Brett Morgen has cannily mixed previously seen and never-released clips from TV shows and other docs (including Gimme Shelter). The result is a fresh look at the group originally positioned (per Jagger) as ”the bad guys to the Beatles’ ‘good guys.”’ B+Ken Tucker

Charlie Is My Darling: Ireland 1965
Nov. 6 on DVD, 50 mins.

Shot nearly 50 years ago but never officially released, this rock doc follows the Stones on a brief tour of Ireland shortly after “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” hit the top of the charts. The film brilliantly captures the hormonal hysteria the band inspired, and reveals the Jagger beneath all that careerist posturing — really just a kid who loves goofing on the blues with his chums. A-Kyle Anderson