Rolling Stones celebrate 50 years on stage

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LONDON (AP) - It’s only rock `n’ roll, but the Rolling Stones definitely like it.

The band celebrated the 50th anniversary of its first gig at a bash in London Thursday, and despite being well over retirement age, the Stones have no plans to quit.

“All of this has sort of brought us back together, and we’ll see what comes out of it,” said guitarist Keith Richards, who revealed that the Stones have begun rehearsing for new live shows that could come later this year.

It all means Jagger may need to rethink the words he sang more than 45 years ago in “Mother’s Little Helper” - “What a drag it is getting old.”

The group is marking its half-century with no letup in its productivity or rock `n ` roll style. At 68, Jagger is still the cool, rich frontman of the world’s most successful rock band.

Now in their late 60s and early 70s, the band members celebrated the anniversary by attending a retrospective photo exhibition at London’s Somerset House.

Jagger, Richards, Ronnie Wood and Charlie Watts mingled with a mixed crowd of rockers, writers and hangers-on - from Simply Red singer Mick Hucknall to playwright Tom Stoppard - at a launch party for the exhibition.

The show, which opens to the public Friday, charts the band’s career from their first official photo shoot in 1963 - young mop tops lined up against a row of red phone boxes - to their monster `80s and `90s stadium tours.

“You can see when you look at the photos how we couldn’t give a hoot about anything,” Jagger said with rock `n `roll pride. “You can just sort of tell by the attitude of those photographs how we didn’t care.”

Jagger spoke to the Associated Press 50 years to the day after the young R&B band played London’s Marquee Club. Taking a name from a song by bluesman Muddy Waters, they were billed as “The Rollin’ Stones” -the `g’ came later.

The lineup for the gig was vocalist Jagger, guitarists Richards and Brian Jones, bassist Dick Taylor, pianist Ian Stewart and Mick Avory on drums. Taylor and Avory soon left the lineup, while Stewart switched to a backup role; drummer Watts joined in 1963 and guitarist Wood in 1975.

The band had its first hit, a cover of Chuck Berry’s “Come On,” in 1963, and soon became one of the world’s biggest and most influential rock acts, rivaled only by The Beatles.

The Beatles split up in 1970, but the Stones are still going strong - something Jagger attributes in part to an early grounding in versatility.

He said that at that first gig, “the audience was college students having a night out, and they weren’t particularly demonstrative, but they appreciated and enjoyed the set. That was our audience, it was more of a college audience, art-school kind of crowd. A few months later we were playing in front of 11 year olds who were screaming at us.

“Even in the very early days, we played to a lot of different kinds of audiences.”

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