This really could be the last time. I don't know.
But one thing's for sure, the Rolling Stones will be going out with a flourish if it is.
Of course, people have been speculating about the Stones' retirement plans since their 1969 American tour, their first after all the screaming teenagers from the Beatles/Stones' friendly rivalry grew their hair out, got high and started to actually listen to the music.
This Stones fan and student is happily soaking in the increasing number of media reports and announcements that suggest their much-anticipated 50th anniversary celebration is about to hit full stride. I've got my Google alerts all set up.
Recent reports that the band will play two shows at London's 02 Arena in November and two more at the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn before the end of the year — for a cool $25 million — are just the latest in a flood of activities to mark the band's silver anniversary, which should span this year and next.
They first played as the Rollin' Stones on July 12, 1962 at London's Marquee Club, where they gathered this past July for some group photos. It's fitting that two of the members of that first incarnation — singer Mick Jagger and guitarist Keith Richards — would want to commemorate it with some live gigs this year. They've hinted as much in press interviews.
These silver-haired legends (well, not Jagger and Ron Wood, who still dye theirs), have suggested but not confirmed that they'll mark their anniversary with a tour next year since drummer Charlie Watts, the other holdover from the classic lineup, joined in January 1963, a month after bassist Bill Wyman, who quit the band in '93.
My guess is they won't do a conventional Stones tour, where they open with a secret club gig, play big stadiums and a few arenas over a two-year period. I'm not sure Jagger's 69-year-old body, finely tuned as it is, or 68-year-old Richard's knotty, arthritic fingers can handle the rigors of another marathon tour along the lines of the 2005-2007 "A Bigger Bang" global trek.
Let's not forget the wear and tear on currently sober guitarist Wood, 65, as infamous these days for his long benders as he's famous for prickly guitar slinging, or that Watts, 71, survived throat cancer eight years ago.
Speculation in the press that the band will go a different route, possibly multiple nights in a handful of cities, seems likely. It's not as physically demanding and, in keeping with the Stones' ability to turn their shows into the musical equivalent of a major sporting event, it will add to the special nature of the performances. Tickets should be sky-high.
How close they'll come to us, and when, is anybody's guess, but stops in Texas, Arizona or Colorado and California seem likely.
Meanwhile, the band's celebration rolls on.
"The Rolling Stones: 50," an exhibit of photos at London's Somerset House that opened July 12, ends its run Sunday, a week later than planned due to turnout. An accompanying photo book, "The Rolling Stones 50," comes out Oct. 16 in the States.
That's almost a month before "Crossfire Hurricane," filmmaker Brett Morgen's documentary on the band, including new interviews and footage from their April rehearsals in New York, will air on HBO. The film, which debuts on Nov. 15, purports to chronicle their journey and attempt to explain just how this mottled bunch of old millionaires have kept it together all these years.
"When we got together, something magical happened, and no one could ever copy that," Wyman is quoted as saying in the doc. Wyman, by the way, took part in some rehearsals with the band, as did departed virtuoso guitarist Mick Taylor, so don't be surprised if they make spot appearances on the Stones' forthcoming shows.
"Crossfire Hurricane" debuts days after the obscure tour documentary "The Rolling Stones Charlie Is My Darling — Ireland 1965" comes out in various configurations, including a box set, on DVD and Blu-Ray on Nov. 6. It's the latest from the archives of ABKCO, the company that owns most of the Stones' music from the 1960s.
There's more, of course. It wouldn't be the Stones without all kinds of merch, music and videos to peddle, but the bonanza for fans is the wealth of previously bootlegged treasures coming out of the band's deep vaults.
They include "Muddy Waters and the Rolling Stones: Live at the Checkerboard Lounge 1981," the now legendary show by the legendary blues pioneer that featured guest shots from Jagger, Richards, Wood, late Stones' boogie woogie keyboardist Ian Stewart, guitar ace Buddy Guy, harpist Junior Wells and others when the Stones were in town for a show on their "Tattoo You" tour.
The 16-song video, released by Eagle Vision, is a bit of a disappointment. Waters, who was 68 at the time (two years before his death), was in good, gravelly voice and his guitar work, especially his slide playing on "Baby Please Don't Go," was surprisingly supple. But he's more like the guest in a show that was taken over by others, not the Stones so much, but Wells and obscure Chicago guitarist Lefty Dizz, who drag out the last quarter.
Jagger, in his bright red warmup suit, is annoyingly self-conscious, in a don't-know-what-to-do-with-himself sort of way, as is Dizz's desperate attempts to be let into this exclusive club. He shares the stage, but doesn't measure up.
Better is the shorter, 11-song companion CD, which skips Muddy's bands two warmup songs, sticks to the meat of the program and accentuates the music, particularly Muddy's teacher-student exchanges with Jagger. It also better showcases the musical highpoint, an accelerating and incendiary guitar dance between Guy and Richards on "Next Time You See Me." Priceless.
Plus Dizz is a lot less annoying when you don't have to watch him.
While the Stones continue their new policy of reissuing previously bootlegged live recordings, including a limited edition box set of their 1973 Brussels show that tops out at $1,500, they've reportedly cut some new songs in Paris.
Personally, I'd love to hear them cut a new studio album, their first this decade, to see what they can come up with, but we'll probably have to settle for a couple of new songs on a planned hits collection. Called "Grrr!," it will come out in four configurations, including 50-song 3CD and 80 -song 4CD versions, on Nov. 13. The cover, an ape with the Stones' famous licks logo, will come in 3D versions.
The new songs are called "Gloom and Doom" and the aptly titled "One Last Shot."
Will it be their last time?
I don't know, but I do know I've got to figure out how to get to one of those Brooklyn shows.