Rolling Stones on 50 Years of Music, Working Relationships, Sobriety

Exclusive: Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, Ronnie Wood, Charlie Watts.

December 13, 2012, 11:45 AM

Dec. 13, 2012— -- There is a scene in the new HBO documentary "Crossfire Hurricane" that takes us backstage with the Rolling Stones in the early 1970s, back when Mick Jagger would slither into a body suit, snort coke off a switchblade and with molten sexual energy, proceed to blow the minds of an arena packed to the sweaty rafters.

Watch Bill's exclusive interview with The Rolling Stones HERE

The laws of burn-out physics tell us that this level of atomic hedonism is supposed to either break a band or kill its stars young. But if you watched a 69-year old Mick Jagger bring down Madison Square Garden at Wednesday night's "12.12.12 – The Concert for Sandy Relief" in New York then you are reminded that this is the one band that defies the laws of physics. And for those eager to write off that energy as a two-song fluke, Mick invites them to order up Saturday night's worldwide pay-per-view presentation of "One More Shot," the finale of their golden anniversary mini-tour with special guests Lady Gaga, Bruce Springsteen and the Black Keys, which starts at 9 p.m. ET.

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If the first three shows in London and Brooklyn are any indication, Jagger will spend nearly two-and-a-half hours roaming a giant lips-and-tongue stage while Keith Richards (also turning 69 next week) lays down his collection of Hall of Fame riffs while 71-year-old Charlie Watts hammers away at the kit.

"How do you do it?" I asked Jagger, pointing out that if the Baby Boomers in the audience are willing to pay $700 for a ticket, imagine what they'd pay for his magic elixir or workout regimen.

"I don't really have much of a fitness regimen to be honest," he said. "It's pretty low-key. I mean, I do have one, but it's not horrendously awful or long or difficult.

"Just what I do, really," Jagger continued. "And then after that, you have a room full of people come over and go crazy and drink all your wine."

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Speaking of wine, this tour is an admitted test of willpower for guitarist Ronnie Wood, now sober for three years.

"Yeah, we hit them with clarity and focus now," Wood said. "Before it was eyes down and meet you at the end, you know? And, 'Oh no, how am I going to get out of this?' A little bit of that still goes on."

Long past his notorious battles with heroin, Keith Richards still enjoys a drink or three. But more startling than his survival is the band's willingness to work together after his 2011 autobiography "Life." The book spilled a fountain of bad blood, painting Jagger as megalomaniac willing to put personal business before the band and the brutally honest revelations cast serious doubt that the two could come back together in time for the 50th anniversary.

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"There was a time when I thought it wasn't going to happen," Wood said. But Richards reportedly apologized to Jagger and tells Nightline their relationship these days is "great."

"We're made to do this," he said. "It's when we're not working that it's a problem."

And maybe that is their secret -- work. When you are lucky enough to do what you love, retirement is a death sentence and no better fountain of youth than an arena full of adoration. Couple that with the fact that their blues heroes like John Lee Hooker were rolling onto stage well into their 80s and it makes sense that they dubbed this tour "50 and Counting."

"People say, 'well, why are you still together?'" Jagger said. "And I say, 'Well, because people like us. If people didn't like us, I'm sure we wouldn't be playing.' Of course, we love playing because we love playing music together. But you have to have both of the part of the equation."

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