EIGHINGER: Once known as "the Bad Boys of Rock," the Stones are now treasured icons

Posted: Dec. 4, 2012 5:12 pm Updated: Jan. 2, 2013 9:15 am

The bad boys of rock and roll -- the Rolling Stones -- are winding up their 50th anniversary tour in the next few days.

Fifty years! Five-oh. That's five decades. For crying out loud, the Beatles broke up 42 years ago, and the Stones still show no signs of slowing down.

The Associated Press reports the four living members of the Stones' average age is almost two years older than the average age of the Supreme Court, which AP reminds was once referred to as the Nine Old Men. (For the record, the average age of Mick, Keith, Charlie and Ronnie is almost 69. Drummer Charlie Watts is the oldest at 71, guitarist Ronnie Wood is the kid at 65.)

In recent years, I've found it interesting how we now embrace the Stones as a world treasure. Fifty years ago they were Public Enemy No. 1.

For those who have been around since the early 1960s, you may remember the famous Stones-Ed Sullivan feud in 1967 over the lyrics of the song "Let's Spend the Night Together." Sullivan and show censors wanted Mick to change the words to "let's spend some time together." Mick agreed, but, then he rolled his eyes at the camera during that part of the performance, which infuriated Sullivan. The Stones were banned from America's favorite Sunday night TV show for two years.

From the website:


The Rolling Stones have been the bad boys of Rock "n' Roll for five decades. The Beatles on Ed Sullivan started the British Invasion, and the Stones elevated it. They were the antithesis of the Beatles. While the Beatles were cute and beloved by teenagers and their mothers, the Rolling Stones were wild, edgy and somewhat threatening. Where the Beatles tried to avoid controversy, the Rolling Stones seemed to revel in it.


First of all, I don't remember many mothers wanting their daughters to marry a Beatle either, but I understand what the author was trying to convey. The Stones never tried to paint themselves as any sort of collective white knight. Not even close.

For the most part, the Beatles sang of love, wistful dreams and other elements that by today's standards would be catalogued as borderline cheesy. The Stones' image was continually redefined by, if nothing else, album titles such as "Let It Bleed," "Sticky Fingers," "Goats Head Soup," "Voodoo Lounge" and "Exile On Main Street."

While John and Paul stood eloquently in front of microphones and sang the trademark Beatles love songs, a Rolling Stones performance was always quite different. Mick would be suggestively prancing all over the stage and Keith would be playing guitar somewhere behind him, usually with a glazed look covering his face and a cigarette dangling from his lips.

While the Beatles provided "The Long and Winding Road," the Stones gave us "Mixed Emotions" with the memorable opening:


Button your lip baby

Button your coat

Let's go out dancing

Go for the throat


As a parent throughout much of the Stones' career, I was always worried for the safety of my children, thinking that somehow Mick and Keith, in particular, would take over the world and anarchy would rule.

Nowadays, I watch the Stones and simply smile. I think, for most of the past 50 years, the world has been their stage and they have taken us on this crazy ride -- with a nod and a wink -- and we have bought into it hook, line and sinker. The band's 1974 hit "It's Only Rock "n Roll (But I Like it)" may have told us all we need to know -- it's "only" rock and roll, but with it the Stones created a distinctive aura, not to mention a black-hat image, that has survived 50 years.

Maybe it's because I'm older, too, but the Stones no longer scare or intimidate me. They're just a bunch of old guys playing songs I have grown up listening to -- for 50 years.

It's only rock and roll, and I like it.




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