50th Anniversary

The Rolling Stones’ 50th Anniversary: Classic, Vintage Photos

It's been half a century since the Stones' first gig, and though it's only rock 'n' roll, it's felt like so much more.

Pierre Fournier, Sygma / Corbis

Pierre Fournier, Sygma / Corbis

On July 12, the Rolling Stones celebrated 50 years since a 19-year-old Mick Jagger, his childhood friend Keith Richards, and the brilliant but ill-fated Brian Jones (along with pianist Ian Stewart, bassist Dick Taylor, and drummer Tony Chapman) played their first gig together at London’s Marquee Club under the name “Mick Jagger and the Rollin’ Stones.” Within just a few years, the group of “pretty, thin, long-haired boys” (as bassist Bill Wyman called them) became the wild, sex-oozing, gas-station-pissing anti-Beatles of the swinging London scene.

The Stones didn’t actually release their first single—a harmonica-blasting, revved-up cover of Chuck Berry’s hit “Come On”—until 1963 when drummer Charlie Watts joined, but celebrations for the band’s 50th anniversary are already underway. Famed street artist Shepard Fairey unveiled an updated version of the Stones’ iconic Tongue and Lips logo in June and the group gathered at London’s Somerset House this week for a photo exhibit celebrating that first gig, for which the band was paid only 30 guineas in 1962. A documentary spanning all 50 years of Stones history is being put together and rumors of a 2013 tour are also floating around. “This is our story of 50 fantastic years,” said the band in a 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.”

They’ve had their legendary, rock-legend highs and their nasty, nearly band-breaking lows, but the Stones are still kicking—and hip-thrusting, dancing, and generally rocking their way into music history. There’s no sign of them stopping either. Keith Richards, when asked if he sees himself ever writing another song with Mick, answered emphatically, “Oh, yeah. I have no doubt”—to the glee of Stones fans everywhere.

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A Born Performer

Even Mick Jagger knows he was born for the spotlight. In the 2003 book According to the Rolling Stones, Jagger is quoted as saying, “I was always a singer. I always sang as a child. I was one of those kids who just liked to sing. Some kids sing in choirs; others like to show off in front of the mirror. I was in the church choir and I also loved listening to singers on the radio—the BBC or Radio Luxembourg—or watching them on TV and in the movies.”

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Bigger than the Beatles

New York policemen struggled to restrain scores of screaming Rolling Stones fans in June 1964, the month that the Stones embarked on their first U.S. tour. Bassist Bill Wyman remembers the tour as “a disaster” because of incidents like the band’s appearance on TV variety show The Hollywood Palace, where snarky host Dean Martin rolled his eyes at their performance, made fun of their long hair, and sarcastically remarked to the audience, “Wasn’t that great?” The opinion these girls apparently had of the Stones, however, prevailed, and the band appeared on the career-launching Ed Sullivan Show in October to much teenage screaming and pandemonium.

Terry O'Neill, Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Packed and Ready

A year earlier, in London’s West End, Keith, Bill, Charlie, Mick, and Brian walked the streets with suitcases in hand. Though the Stones are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year, Richards has said that he considers 1963 to be the real first year of the band’s history. “The Stones always really consider '63 to be 50 years, because Charlie didn't actually join until January,” Richards told Rolling Stone magazine. “So we look upon 2012 as sort of the year of conception. But the birth is next year.”

Terry O'Neill, Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Like an Awkward Stone

Stones guitarist (and frequent songwriter) Keith Richards applies his creativity to finding the most uncomfortable position possible to sit on this chair in London in 1964.

Ted West, Hulton Archive / Getty Images


Keith appears distracted by Brian’s Elton John–esque jacket in this photo of the band leaving for New York for their fifth U.S. tour in June 1966.

AP Photo

Welcome to the Land Down Under

A rogue female fan tears barefoot across the tarmac at Melbourne Airport toward the plane which contained the just-arrived Rolling Stones. Despite the valiant effort, cops eventually got her behind the barricade again, along with the rest of the approximately 1,500 teenagers, 40 policemen, and 25 security guards there in January 1965 for the band’s arrival.

David Farrell, Redferns / Getty Images

Moves Like Jagger

Don’t let his dress shirt and tie fool you—Mick oozes sex and drives the crowd wild during the Stones’ performance on ABC’s British pop-music TV show, Thank Your Lucky Stars.

Terry O'Neill / Getty Images

The Sex Life of a Rock God

Apparently this is the face of the world’s greatest lady-slayer. Just this week, unofficial biographer Chris Andersen appeared on Extra and revealed that, in his lifetime, Mick Jagger has reportedly bedded nearly 4,000 women—and “that might be kind of a low figure.” According to Andersen, Jagger even sought help from a sex-addiction therapist, but ended up seducing her too.

Andre SAS, Gamma-Rapho / Getty Images

The Stones Roll to Europe

The Stones take in Paris sights together from a balcony in June 1965. The band would return again in 1967 on a tour of Europe amid much personal tension. During a trip to Morocco, Keith left with Brian’s girlfriend Anita Pallenberg and the couple ended up staying together for 12 years, well after Brian’s death in 1969.

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Die-Hard Aussies

You might be hard pressed to find anyone these days looking so happy about being crushed. Like the girl at Melbourne Airport in 1965, these Aussie fans prove that no barrier will come between a girl and her Stone.

Peter Kemp / AP Photo

A Tribute to Brian

Only two days after drug-troubled member Brian Jones was found dead in his swimming pool at Cotchford Farm, the Stones were booked to play a free concert in London’s Hyde Park in July 1969. Nearly 250,000 people showed up to watch Jagger, Richards, Watt, and new guitarist Mick Taylor play the concert debut of songs such as “Honky Tonk Women.” In honor of Brian, Jagger read excerpts from “Adonais” (a poem written for John Keats by a friend shortly after his death), and stage hands released hundreds of white butterflies. The Stones opened the concert with a rendition of one of Jones’s favorite songs, Johnny Winter’s “I’m Yours and I’m Hers.”

Bettmann / Corbis

The Zurich Affair

Utter chaos and pandemonium broke out during a Rolling Stones concert in Zurich, Switzerland, in April 1967 when a few fans tried climbing onstage with the band. One fell, resulting in a fractured skull. The tumult snowballed and eventually devolved into hundreds of fans smashing furniture and setting off smoke bombs. Fifteen arrests were made and 10 were injured. After an incident like this, it’s easy to see why Richards would start (hilariously) wielding his guitar like a weapon against stray fans who wandered onstage—even years later, during a 1981 concert.

Pierre Fournier, Sygma / Corbis

Even Rock Stars Rest

A rare, quiet moment in Mick Jagger’s dressing room in Paris during their concert at the Olympia Music Hall, March 1966.