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The Rolling Stones: The Road Ain't What It Used to Be

Has the band lost that touring magic?

September 7, 1978
Mick Jagger and Keith Richards Rolling Stones
Mick Jagger and Keith Richards on the Cover of Rolling Stone
Photo by Lynn Goldsmith

And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was . . .

-Daniel 12:1

Your last story was all fucked up," Stones tour manager Peter Rudge was yelling at me as we suffered along in a Terminal cab en route from Dallas to Fort Worth. "How's that?" I yelled back over the sound of the cab's air conditioner, wheezing away in an unsuccessful attempt to combat the 105 degree temperature. But it wasn't the heat that had Rudge on edge. It was the usual Rolling Stones tour insanity. And it could only get worse, I realized with a sinking feeling.

Stones tours have a manic quality unequaled in rock, with an ever-present current of madness that could be unleashed at any moment. The anticipation of some dark unpredictability was doubly high on this tour as show dates were added and dropped left and right. If Rudge was any barometer of the Stones' mood — which he usually is — the band was a coiled spring.

"Who said you could come on the tour anyway?" Rudge rattled on in his clipped, British tones. "Your story [RS 270] was wrong. You said Mick [Michael Jagger, a well-known socialite] was opposed to the tour. We started planning it January 2nd in Barbados; we must have had reservations on a hundred small halls.

"For the small shows, we pick two or three halls in each city and then decide on the right one. The promoters don't know until three or four days before the show who's playing. A show this size tonight, 2500 or so, won't pay the hotel bill, won't even pay for the drinks. But if the Stones won't do the small dates, who will? We had to tour and this is part of it."

We passed the Six Flags over Texas amusement park, and Rudge's eyes popped at the sight of the parachute ride: "How much is that? That's the way to put the band onstage. Can I buy that?"

"I doubt you could afford it, buddy," said the cabbie. "What line of work you in? Show business?"

"You might say that," Rudge replied. "I have a little group playing tonight in Fort Worth."

When we pulled up to the Will Rogers Memorial Center, the cabbie turned to Rudge and asked, "Which hall, the big one or the little one?"

"The little one," Rudge said. "Maybe someday we'll get to the big hall."

"That's right," said the cabbie. "That's what it's all about. Keep on pushin.'"

Rudge borrowed ten dollars from me to pay the cabbie: "Sorry about that," he said. He kept the receipt.

As we walked past a statue of Will Rogers, I said, "Well, Peter, it's too bad Will Rogers never met you."

"Eh, what's that mean?"

"Nothing. Just an old American folk saying."

"Oh, Look at this: the kids are quiet, no fuckin' riot for you."

He was right. The Fort Worth police had things well in hand. Ticket scalpers, whose prices had peaked earlier at $400 a ticket, were noticeably absent.

100 Greatest Artists of All Time: The Rolling Stones

Inside the auditorium, Rudge swung into his full managerial pace. That's a physically discernible persona he dons when it's time for him to publicly become the Rolling Stones Tour Manager, a persona not unlike Captain Bligh mainlining pure caffeine. Rudge ran onstage and pointed to the wooden ridges at stage front. "Paint those black," he shouted. "We're filming tonight and I want it looking good." The audience started filing in and Rudge raised his voice, to no one in particular: "Put some music on." "There is music on," I pointed out. "Well fuckin' turn it up then. What is this, a fuckin' funeral march?" He was rubbing his hands with glee: "We're gonna have some fuckin' fun tonight."

He ran off to greet five Atlantic Records executives who ostensibly had flown in to meet with the band about releasing "Far Away Eyes" as a country single.

"Peter," I asked, "are you really serious about that?"

"Sure, we're gonna prove the Stones can be country. That's why I asked Doug Kershaw to play tonight. Callaghan! Why don't we give this fiddle player, Kershaw, a pass so he can come backstage and work on 'Far Away Eyes' with the band? Good idea, wot?"

Kershaw walked into the Stones' dressing room with eyes as big as saucers: "Man, I was supposed to open in Dallas tonight, but how can I turn this down? This's it." He got out his fiddle, and he and Ron Wood and Keith started on "Far Away Eyes." Bill Wyman smiled: "I went to see Kershaw in New Orleans and had to get him on with us. What an incredible show tonight: reggae with Peter Tosh, Cajun country and rock & roll with a little blues thrown in."

Mick Jagger, with Jerry Hall in tow, walked very slowly into the dressing room, took a look at all the people — including record-company executives — who were sitting around drinking his liquor, and kept on walking, executing a slow figure eight right out of the room. He looked at me and through me, literally not seeing me. His eyes were unfocused, his cheeks sunken. He went and hid in the guarded tuning room.

The Stones hit the stage at Will Rogers Auditorium at 10:58 p.m. to a sustained ovation. Jagger, suddenly transformed into a dervish, was shouting, "Awright, the fuckin', amazin' Rollin' Stones!"

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