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

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There is probably nothing I can do better these days than sit in an expensive hotel for days on end, exhort and abuse room service until the corridor outside my door looks like an African safari, and send phone call after phone call into the ethereality otherwise known as the Rolling Stones organization and wait for those phone calls to come home and roost. When the silence on my end of the phone becomes cryptlike, I figure it's time for some action. I mean, when Keith Richards kicked me off the tour in Dallas because he didn't like Rolling Stone's reviews of the band's shows and album, I told him he was kidding and he bought that. And when I arrived in Los Angeles at the Westwood Marquis, an elegant little hideaway far from the usual rock & roll hotels, and Peter Rudge kicked me off the tour, I told him he was full of shit and he bought that. But I've been through every all-night movie and my twenty-eight or thirty outgoing phone calls are still flying around in the Stage-Two Smog Alert that is L.A.'s air tonight. I need some kind of human contact.

A mere four phone calls fetches me up Paul Wasserman, the Stones' A-1 press agent, who is wisely hiding out at home.

"Wasso, I'm sitting for two days in my seventy-dollar-a-day hotel room here, which it will puzzle my boss as to the need for same luxurious surroundings, and I can't raise anybody on the phone higher than the Stones' baggage handler. What gives? Did my five-day deodorant give out? Is it my breath? My drumming?"

Wasserman draws a deep breath before replying: "Well, Mick and Keith are so pissed off by the reviews in Rolling Stone that they won't talk. I have never seen Mick so livid. I tried to explain it, but they think it's a grand plot on Rolling Stone's part. It's the theory of the carrot and then the stick. Mick especially is furious. Right now you have no interviews and no ticket for tomorrow's show. That was a collective decision. Ciao."

Well. At least now I know where I stand. In quicksand. Time to smoke out the enemy.

Mick and Keith are locked away behind double-security layers. I lay for Rudge in the hotel bar. At 1:45 a.m. he passes by and I snag him. Security chief Jim Callaghan trails him into the bar.

I signal the bartender to set us up. "All right, Peter, what the hell is going on?"

Rudge hyperventilates for a moment. "We — want — assurance from your boss that he won't hatchet your story."

"That's crap and you know it."

"No, no, no. Rolling Stone has a vendetta against us. These reviews prove it. If Rolling Stone wants to go up against us, let 'em. They don't know our power. We'll start with the scoreboard in the stadium tomorrow. You wanta be up on that scoreboard in front of 50,000 people? We'll do it."

I signal for another beer. "Peter, what's wrong here? This is the worst kind of paranoia I've seen. When I was busting my ass to do a story on Keith on trial in Toronto, you wanted me there."

"Paranoid? Who are you calling paranoid?" Rudge snaps his head around and at the same time signals for Callaghan to throw out the mystery girl who'd been arrested outside Keith's door the night before and who has suddenly shown up beside Rudge at the bar.

"Furthermore," Rudge says, "Mick said he might sue over the use of the name 'Rolling Stone.'"

"Tell that to Muddy Waters," I say. Meanwhile, I'm stuck with the check. Another ten dollars I won't see again. Good money after bad.

"Peter," I call out, "I'll be at that show tomorrow."

"I know that," he throws over his shoulder.

There is not much reason to go to another big Stones outdoor concert, other than to go to it, so I go. There is not much reason to go. It is not very good. Jagger's heart is not in it. Nor is the heart of the great beast in the pit — the audience in the red dust of the infield of Anaheim Stadium.

Later, back at the hotel, I buy drinks for Wasserman (thirty dollars more down the drain) and he says, "It looks bad. Mick has decided to kick you off the tour."

"He's playing before 760,000 people on this tour and I'm the one he has to pick on?"

"He won't listen to me. You can try to call him. Good luck."

I run to a house phone and call Mick's room. Jerry Hall answers. Talk about "Some Girls," I think: Bianca's also in town now and Marsha Hunt's trying to sue Mick to get her child support raised from seventeen dollars a week to $2300 a week.

Mick gets on the line shouting, "You're off. I'm not pissed at you personally, I'm fucking pissed off at Rolling Stone. I got real mad at this vicious shit that was printed. I've given all this great access. This is the end. No more interviews."

"But, Mick, I've always been fair to the band. I didn't write those reviews. Besides, you said you ignore reviews."

"I know that. I don't mind criticism, real criticism, but I don't expect this kind of bitchiness. I can smell it. It stinks. Rolling Stone will always say, 'the Stones are great' for four weeks and then knock us down. Set you up and then knock you down. That cunt of a boss of yours."

"Well, Mick, does this mean you want me to leave?"

"Fuckin' right! I've known Rolling Stone a long time and gotten on with a few people. I don't trust many people, you know. I trusted Rolling Stone and they let me down. I like you and I'm sorry it's you that's here and not those critics. There ain't gonna be no more."

"Does this mean, then, that you're breaking relations?"

"Right! No more access. I like you and I'll talk to you but not for Rolling Stone. This is goodbye for Rolling Stone. I'm sorry it's you that has to suffer for it. Goodbye."

I fall asleep on the plane back from L.A. and have a dream: I have been up all night finishing my story; I hand it in. The editor calls me into his office: it is Charlie Watts, wearing a green editor's eyeshade. "This piece isn't bad," he says, waving his blue pencil, "but it needs a little work. Maybe you did it too fast. Or maybe," he pauses, "maybe we're all getting a little too old for this work." And then he quotes from St. Matthew: "Verily, I say unto you, there shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down."

This is a story from the September 7, 1978 issue of Rolling Stone.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

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