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The Rolling Stones: Mick Jagger and Keith Richards' Uneasy Truce

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The subject was business, not insults. When Jagger and Richards sat down for their first tentative peace talks in May 1988, they didn't discuss who said what about whom or who was going to apologize first. Instead, Jagger and Richards talked, quite seriously, about the possibility of a 1989 Rolling Stones tour.

Their subsequent truce begat Steel Wheels, but it is the current tour that actually set the truce in motion. And it is the tour that will yield the biggest instant dividends – the $65 million to $70 million that the Stones have been guaranteed by Toronto promoter Michael Cohl for an estimated fifty to sixty dates in the United States and Canada, mostly in huge open-air stadiums.

It was Jagger's refusal to tour behind Dirty Work in 1986 that predicated his split with Richards, and he still stands by that decision. "I was completely, 100 percent right about not doing that tour," Jagger says firmly while swigging on a large bottle of Evian water in a lounge adjacent to Olympic's Studio 2.

Photos: Rare and Intimate Pictures of the Rolling Stones

"The band was in no condition to tour," says Jagger. "It's as simple as that. The album wasn't that good. It was okay. It certainly wasn't a great Rolling Stones album. The feeling inside the band was very bad, too. The relationships were terrible. The health was diabolical. I wasn't in particularly good shape. The rest of the band, they couldn't walk across the Champs Elysées, much less go on the road.

"So we had this long bad experience of making that record," Jagger continues, "and the last thing I wanted to do was spend another year with the same people. I just wanted to be out."

"I was really pissed that he wasn't really into the album," Richards counters. "I wanted to go on the road after we finished it. And I didn't get a clear answer until the record was finished. Which was basically 'Screw off.'"

Yet touring was the first thing they agreed on when it came time to make amends. "When Keith and I sat down originally and talked about going on the road, playing together," says Jagger, "I never thought that it would be problematic. I think Keith thought making an album and going on the road with it was a huge deal, that we could never really do it. Historically, he was quite correct. We'd never made an album in less than a year.

"I thought, 'Let's get it all done in a year,'" Jagger says. "Then we've done it. We've proved we can make a record, we've proved we can tour. We can do it and still be up for it, not be bored with it all. A year's only a year. So we just have to put up with each other for a year."

The tour itself has been a year in the making. Michael Cohl, a veteran promoter who runs Concert Productions International and also controls Brockum, one of the world's biggest rock-merchandising companies, was aggressively chasing the Stones about promoting a tour as early as last fall. He offered to handle the entire tour and give the band a fat guarantee, taking 100 percent of the financial risk in return for potentially big net profits along the tour route. (The average ticket price for the shows is $28.50.) The Stones finally agreed to the deal last March, after passing on a counteroffer by longtime Stones promoter Bill Graham to operate as a salaried tour director working in conjunction with local promoters in each city.

Along the way, the Stones retained the services of Cliff Burnstein and Peter Mensch of the highly successful management firm Q Prime (Def Leppard, Metallica) as tour and recording consultants. Burnstein and Mensch offer the Stones their extensive experience working with platinum rock acts on the road and promoting those acts at radio stations and in retail. (Burnstein and Mensch were forbidden to be interviewed about the tour.) Cohl, in turn, struck a deal with Labatt's Brewery for sponsorship of the Canadian dates, while MTV climbed aboard as a media sponsor for the American shows, contributing a reported $1.5 million in television exposure. As Rolling Stone went to press, an official American sponsor for the tour had not yet been announced, though offers from a number of major. American been companies were being evaluated.

"Really, the deal came to us," Jagger says of Cohl's mega-dough package. "Then it had to be refined. You have to give things in return, and you don't want to give too much in return." Jagger, a wily negotiator who was actively involved in shaping the Cohl deal every step of the way, neatly evades discussing any of its financial particulars. But he vigorously defends the staggering pay-back the Stones are getting for the tour, which averages more than $1 million per show, including profits from merchandising sales and a prospective pay-per-view cable-television special that's planned for December.

"Of course, we're doing it for the money, as well," Jagger says flatly. "We've always done it for the money. People get highly paid in rock & roll. That's why it's so attractive. It's like boxing. People don't do boxing for nothing. They start off doing it because they hope to get to the top, because when they get to the top, they'll make lots of money. I mean, that's America.

"But also, to my mind," continues Jagger, "it has to be done in a good way where it doesn't rip people off. It's got to be good value for money. You shouldn't charge less than everyone else. You can charge more than everyone else, but you also have to give them more than everyone else."

Jagger takes the business of the Stones very seriously; he's been assuming de facto management responsibilities ever since the 1969 tour. One of Keith Richards's principal gripes, in fact, was that Jagger had become more concerned with the business of the Stones in recent years than the business of actually being a Stone. "I don't really think Keith's interested in anything but music," Jagger says. "But he realizes there's things to be done, decisions to be made. It's a huge fucking business. And that's the money everyone will take home."

"Mick needs to do that," Richards says with a wry grin. "He's a workaholic. Me, I like to know what's going on. But I don't need to wake up in the morning and make phone calls and say, 'Okay, what's been happening since yesterday?' Mick does enjoy that, checking the telexes and fax machines. And more power to him. He's good at it.

"One of my points before was that he had his hands on everything," says Richards. "Mick, nobody can do everything. And also, you're wasting the big gun. If you're dealing with these people all the time, they get to know you too well. One of the Stones' greatest strengths in doing business was that we never said a word. I remember when Allen Klein renegotiated our record contract, we sat there in front of this board of directors and did not say a word. That's one of the greatest weapons the Stones have, this fear we inspire."

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