Rolling Stones followers everywhere are enthusiastically waiting to get the band's 50th year celebrations under way. Some live gigs or maybe even a tour is anticipated. So, should we ignore a few facts and alter history a bit, and just get on with it? Does it matter if we get few datelines wrong as to when the 50th year starts and ends? There is no doubt we are now in the bands 50th year - I make it year 49.5 right now - or should it be taken from when they have actually completed the full 50th year? Only then will the band be 50 years old.
I was at their very first ever gig at London's Marquee Club on July 12 1962. I had gone there to see Alexis Korner and his Blues Incorporated band do their mid week gig. This particular Thursday, Alexis had been commissioned to appear on the BBC Jazz Club radio show. Long John Baldry took over as the main attraction at the Marquee and a new and an unknown Rollin' Stones were the support group.
Most of the group's faces (they were called groups back then) were familiar as they had made previous individual performances with the Korner band at the Ealing Jazz Club, where they were regarded as guest artists getting some experience. I never knew any of them personally then, but it was still surprising to suddenly see them all playing together from out of nowhere. The line-up for this first gig was Jagger, Richards and Jones, along with Stewart on piano, Dick Taylor on bass and Tony Chapman on drums. Here we have four of our Stones playing together.
Were the Rollin' Stones any good that night? I think we had a band full of nerves playing with an erratic drummer. Throw in a few goofs by the band. Place them in a large hall where they are not used to the acoustics, then hand them some inadequate amplification to use. They weren't that great but not much worse than other band back then. Mostly just needed to get instrument levels balanced. Sure they were inexperienced, but hey, they could rock with the right numbers. I think they probably watered down there choice of songs for that gig, more jazz type blues material - this was after all a jazz orientated joint. Picture Mick Jagger singing Kansas City Blues and you get the idea. The full Chuck Berry right then would have been a real culture onslaught for the jazzers.
It also needs to be remembered that these small club bands depended upon who was available on the night to turn up and play with them. I could never really work out who was permanently in Blues Incorporated, the flow of personnel seemed to be very fluid. People came to play for week or two then disappeared for the same period. The whole club scene was like one big mobile jam session happening all over town. Musicians were judged more on what they played and never on presentation - the latter was for TV and showbiz only.
Before this first public outing, the group had only been practicing together for a few weeks. The sequence of events seems to be:
April 1962 Keith meets Mick on Dartmouth station.
2 May 1962 Brian Jones placed an advertisement in Jazz News (a Soho club information sheet) inviting musicians to audition for a new R&B group at the Bricklayer's Arms pub at 7 Broadwick Street, Soho. Ian "Stu" Stewart was the first to respond, and later instrumental in contacting Mick and Keith, who then turned up.
The band was only named a few days before that first gig was due. Brian suddenly needed to produce one to advertise the Marquee gig in Jazz News. Later at Edith Grove when I was talking with Keith, he explained: Taylor and Chapman were never considered to be part of the band. They had basically been auditioning. Charlie played a few times and the band went through a few other drummers until Charlie decided to join full time. Keith, Brian or Mick never referred to Taylor or Chapman as being 'Stones'.
Bill Wyman joined in December 1962 after another of Brian's adverts. Charlie Watts committed to joining in January 1963. We now have the completion of the full six Stones.
We take the first recorded date of the band being created as that first gig July 12 1962. Now, I wonder, I just wonder....
As a 50th anniversary - are they going to surprise us and perform live somewhere on July 12 2012....? Then there is the added temptation of 50 performances in their 50th year. The 50 x 50 tour?