The Rolling Stones. Picture: Supplied

'There comes a point," the unmistakable voice of Mick Jagger chuckles down the phone line, "when you've been around for so long that you become this thing that nobody wants to get rid of.

"It's like your granny's old chair," adds the 70-year-old singer poised to become a great-grandfather next year. "You don't dare throw it out, she might be offended. There's a bit of that."

For most of the 51 years since they played their first gig at London's Marquee Club on July 12, 1962, the Rolling Stones have seemed part of the rock'n'roll furniture. For many of us, Jagger's arch lyrics and immortal guitarist Keith Richards' effortlessly cool riffs have always just sort of been there. And like your grandmother's trusty Jason Recliner, they've never stopped rocking.

Built around the Glimmer Twins, the mighty Stones emerged in the first flush of blues-inspired British rockers, riding to glory as the devilish yin to the Beatles' more mum-friendly yang. They survived drugs, sex scandals, violence and the death of original member Brian Jones - all before the end of the 1960s.

While the Fab Four folded in 1970, the Rolling Stones creatively flourished and then cashed in - again and again - both during the lucrative golden age of the recording industry and as ageing tourists derisively dubbed the Strolling Bones since way back when bassist

Bill Wyman was still part of the group.

Next year, two years on from kicking off the 50 and Counting tour to mark half a century since that first gig, the Rolling Stones will return to Australia - and play their first show in Perth since 30,000 fans rolled up to Perry Lakes Stadium in 1995.

Speaking from Los Angeles, where he has just arrived to check on the filming of the James Brown biopic he is producing, Jagger says - "granny's old chair" analogies aside - he's the worst person possible to analyse the English rock legends' longevity. "There is a certain amount of living in the moment," he says. "It's not like 'I've got to get my 200th cap for England' or something.

"That's not what you're in it for. You think 'This is going to be a great tour of Australia. Everyone's so great down there. Let's go and let's do the best we can'. I take every tour at a time, I suppose."

For the record, the Australian dates are not the continuation of 50 and Counting, which grossed more than $US126 million ($138.3 million) from shows in North America and the UK. "We've done that and we're moving on," Jagger states.

Reviewing that 1995 gig at Perry Lakes (where front-row seats were $93 a pop), _The West Australian _'s Ron Banks wrote: "The Rolling Stones - on what must surely be their final tour of Australia - have taken rock into the realms of the unrepeatable . . . I don't think we'll see again such a show that can carry three generations of fans because no other group carries the historical baggage of three decades of performance."

The Stones have added another generation of fans and two decades of performance since Banks called time on the Stones' touring days nearly 20 years ago.

"Those guys always get it right," laughs Jagger, who insists he gets no satisfaction from proving the doubters wrong. "It's like the predictions of football games or the Ashes series. They're forced to make these predictions and you can never get it right."

Speaking of predictions, the cricket-mad Jagger - chatting two days before the start of the current Ashes series - struggles to choose a winner but reckons it is going to be closer than the previous series in the UK, where England won 3-0. "I'm not going to tell you that England will walk away with it," he says, "because I don't think they will."

Jagger trains like a top sportsman, carefully planning his preparation for each tour. "You do a certain amount of gym, a certain amount of endurance and a certain amount of dance plus a certain amount of singing," the swivel-hipped septuagenarian explains. "Then you have to combine them all and hopefully you can last out a tour."

The Rolling Stones' last shows of this year were at London's Hyde Park on July 6 and 13, 44 years after their famous gig at the same venue just two days after Jones' death. The gigs have been released on a new DVD, Sweet Summer Sun: Hyde Park Live, which shows the indefatigable Jagger covering an incredible amount of territory, keeping the crowd's focus while Richards, guitarist Ronnie Wood, drummer Charlie Watts and touring bassist Darryl Jones hold down the sound.

How does he do it? Or more to the point, after he does it, how does Jumpin' Jack Flash feel?

"Sometimes you feel completely knackered and other times I feel, like 'Yeah, I wanna go out'," he says. "You shouldn't come off and be exhausted, I think. You should come off and have something left."

Jagger is incredibly hands-on, whether it's carefully tailoring the set list for a particular venue or event, or helping to create the set for the next tour.

"I like doing all the stage-design stuff," he says. "The business thing, if you just ignore it, that's not every clever. I think I'm not particularly obsessive with it, I just like to keep my eye on it, that's all."

Arguably the greatest frontman in the history of rock'n'roll likes to tweak the set list each night to ward off potential boredom for himself and the fans, especially those following the Stones from gig to gig.

In addition to playing with former members Wyman and Mick Taylor (who is slated to join the band Down Under), the 50 and Counting tour saw the Stones share the stage with fellow veterans, including Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Bruce Springsteen and Tom Waits, as well as members of the new guard, such as Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Arcade Fire's Win Butler and young guitar gun Gary Clark Jr.

"Some artists do the same show every night, exactly the same numbers," Jagger says. "Good luck to them - if that works for them, that's fine - but we like to change it somewhat so that you keep yourself on your toes as much as anything else."

Does he favour songs that he still feels a connection to, ones where he can recall what prompted their creation in the first place?

"Oh, not really," he says in Mickensian tones. "You might. You're performing them now and for this group of people. You just put what you feel now into it, you know, not what you felt when you wrote it."

The Perth Arena date in March will be the Stones' fourth visit to WA. Even if Jagger did half the drugs he's rumoured to have done in the band's early days, he retains an incredible memory. He recalls playing at the WACA Ground in 1973 and even remembers some details of the first trip to Perth in 1965 to play three shows at the 2200-capacity Capitol Theatre in the city.

Back then, the Stones took second billing to Roy Orbison on the Big Beat Show, which also featured New Zealand mods Ray Columbus and the Invaders.

While the Capitol was demolished in 1967, there is no nominal expiry date for the Rolling Stones. Just the next gig, maybe another tour and even perhaps one more album - although they've only released two of those since they last played in Perth.

There is no blueprint for these pioneers, who started out as a scrappy rhythm and blues band and continue to forge fresh territory.

"It's still too early for me to talk about the Stones' legacy," Richards said last year as the band prepared for the 50 and Counting tour. "We haven't finished yet. There's one thing we haven't achieved, and that's to really find out how long you can do this."

The Rolling Stones play Perth Arena on March 19. Visit frontiertouring.com /rollingstones for ticketing and other information. The Sweet Summer Sun - Hyde Park Live DVD is out now.

The West Australian

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