As the Rolling Stones embark on their 50th-anniversary tour, it’s easy to imagine Mick Jagger writhing and gyrating to “Satisfaction” until the end of time. But the Stones — and all other rock and jazz giants of their storied era — will eventually leave the stage. When that happens, a series of interviews by former Boston disc jockey Joe Smith will come to represent a crucial source of information on the 20th century’s cultural history. The Chelsea native deserves praise for donating his tapes to the Library of Congress, as does the library for its plans to make the interviews easily available to researchers and the public.
As a recent Globe story noted, Smith taped more than 200 interviews with the likes of Jagger, Ray Charles, Paul McCartney, David Bowie, and Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler and Joe Perry during the mid-1980s. Well into their music careers even then, many of these artists were more forthright with Smith, who’d become a top music-industry executive, than they might be with journalists. (Jagger, for instance, admitted that his band hadn’t made a good album since 1972.)
The need to document rock’s earlier days is especially clear today, as once brash, disreputable stars have matured into genteel cultural institutions. As an Associated Press story noted last week, the Rolling Stones today are, on average, older by two years than members of the US Supreme Court. That’s all the more reason Smith’s interviews with musicians of their vintage belong nearby, at the Library of Congress.