Questions arise over Keith Richards' health as Rolling Stones' hoped-for 2012 tour is scuttled

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A hoped-for 50th anniversary tour by the Rolling Stones could still happen, but it won’t be in 2012.

“The Stones always really considered ’63 to be 50 years,” band co-founder Keith Richards tells Rolling Stone magazine, in reference to the year that drummer Charlie Watts joined the lineup. “We look upon 2012 as sort of the year of conception, but the birth is next year.”

The real reason, however, might be health problems for Richards, as questions have arisen about his ability to withstand the rigors of a world tour. Richards was taking daily medication at one point to prevent seizures, and underwent brain surgery in 2006. A fall from a coconut tree while on holiday in Fiji led to bouts of memory loss. He has continued smoking, even as other members of the group kicked the habit. There have also been reports of debilitating arthritis in his hands. Who knows what else years of serious drug use did to his body?

Richards tells Rolling Stone: “We’re just not ready. … 2013 is the new goal. I have a feeling that’s more realistic.” He also added that original bassist Bill Wyman, who left the band in 1992, might be “up for” a few reunion dates.

The Rolling Stones have apparently asked for proposals from promoters AEG, Live Nation and longtime Stones promoter Michael Cohl. A possible solution might involve longer, single-city stands similar to the recent residency by Prince in Los Angeles. A multi-night stand has also reportedly been discussed for New York City.

Here’s a look back at our recent thoughts on the Rolling Stones. Click through the titles for more …

ONE TRACK MIND: KEITH RICHARDS, “TAKE IT SO HARD” (1988): After Tattoo You, the Stones were inconsistent, overly glossy and losing their world-renowned edge. By 1987, theyp seemed headed for breakup. Richards’ response to this predicament was the most logical one: Assemble his own band. The resulting Talk Is Cheap, returned Richards’ focus and found him for the first time in a long while playing what he wanted to play and not what the crowd expected to hear. Which means it isn’t a period Stones album, and in a lot of spots, isn’t the Stones at all, but is an expression of Keef’s fondness for rockabilly, soul and even funk.

ROLLING STONES – SOME GIRLS: LIVE IN TEXAS ’78 (2011): The full-on, balls-out Some Girls was perfectly uncluttered — no horn section, no guest stars like Billy Preston. That gives this subsequent live set from the summer of 1978 a chance to build off the record’s latent energy, rather than fruitlessly try to match it. Instead, this is a stripped-down wonder: no digital movie screens, no huge scaffolding for Mick Jagger to prance on, no big light show. Just a band playing.

GIMME FIVE: ROLLING STONES IN THE 1990s: There was no reason to believe that the Rolling Stones, 30 years into their dangerously debauched rock career, would make anything worth a damn out of the 1990s. A band that made its name on skirt chasing and drug taking was softening into middle age. No one would have been surprised if the Stones simply ground to a halt. Only, they reformed in the wake of Richards’ successes with Talk Is Cheap, and by the middle part of the next decade, the Rolling Stones were in the midst of a small very-late career resurgence. Here are five arguments for continuing your Rolling Stones collection into the 1990s.

ROLLING STONES – A BIGGER BANG (2005): I listened to A Bigger Bang expecting a lot of the generic glossy pop of their more recent output. Instead, the classic mid-period Stones sound is back. That sound is updated, for sure, and Mick’s voice is deeper. But Jagger’s swagger is back. Keith Richards (who actually sings with some effort on a few tracks) and Ronnie Wood are playing together as well as ever. And Charlie Watts can still lay down some mean rhythms. The results sound like the same band who put out Let It Bleed and Sticky Fingers, even if it’s not up to par with those classics. And at this point, that’s plenty good enough for me.

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