Mick Jagger was anticipating the questions before they were even raised. "I know you guys will ask, 'Will this be the last tour?' or 'How much money are you going to earn?"' he said with a grin. "But I won't preempt you completely."
Jagger and his fellow Rolling Stones, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Ron Wood and Bill Wyman, were addressing more than 300 reporters, photographers and television-crew members at a press conference in New York City's Grand Central Station to promote the band's new album, Steel Wheels, and tour, the first by the Stones in eight years.
Indeed, it took just minutes for the "last tour" question to come up. "Thank you!" Jagger said gleefully. "Who was that?" He then noted that he first heard the question in 1966 (His answer was no, this would not be the band's last tour.) And while the Stones weren't asked how much money they would get, they were asked if they were doing it for the money. "That's the Who," answered Wood.
Very much aware of the other big veteran rock tour of the season, Jagger and company didn't pass up any opportunity to rib their fellow countrymen. Jagger pretended not to hear several of the questions and suggested giving Pete Townshend a hearing aid if the Who is inducted into the Hall of Fame next year. Later, when the Who's Tommy was mentioned, Jagger said coolly, "We don't do opera."
Defining the kind of show the Stones are planning, Jagger noted that the band was not planning "a historical tour" for North American audiences. "I don't see it as a retrospective or a farewell or any thing like that," said Jagger. "It's the Rolling Stones in 1989."
The American dates of the tour — which begins September 1st in Buffalo — will be sponsored by MTV. Described as a "promotional arrangement" by tour promoter Michael Cohl, whose Concert Productions International (CPI) is presenting the shows, the MTV deal includes an agreement by the Stones to provide a taped performance for MTV's Video Music Awards Show, in September.
MTV, whose logo will be on the tickets and posters, will also air tour updates and behind-the-scenes reports, as well as a special on the tour. Canada's Labatt Breweries, which owns forty-five percent of CPI, will sponsor the Canadian dates. A separate documentary about the album and the tour is being made by Lorne Michaels in association with the BBC. It will be broadcast early in the fall. There is also talk of a pay-per-view special, but nothing has been settled.
Prior to the Stones' arrival at Grand Central, Cohl announced the first leg of the twenty-seven-city tour, which will include dates in Cincinnati; Cleveland; East Troy, Wisconsin; Philadelphia; Pittsburgh; Raleigh, North Carolina; St. Louis; Toronto; and Washington, D.C. Tickets for most of these shows have already gone on sale, with additional shows to be announced in the coming weeks. Living Colour is confirmed as an opening act, with other acts to be announced later. Keyboardists Chuck Leavell and Matt Clifford will round out the Stones on the road. Neither Jagger nor Richards plans to do any of his solo material onstage.
The three-hour-plus show, featuring new songs, from Steel Wheels as well as classic Stones material, is expected to reach some 3 million people. The average ticket price for the tour, which will continue through December, will be $28.50. "There may be one or two markets where it's marginally higher, or one or two where it's marginally lower," Cohl said, responding to rumors that tickets would be more expensive in some cities. "But there aren't going to be any $35 tickets." Tickets are limited to six per person.
Rolling into Grand Central on an antique caboose, the Stones were in classic irreverent form. Richards looked only slightly uncomfortable when asked if, were he an eighteen-year-old rock fan, he would rather spend his money to see a twenty-seven-year-old band in a stadium or a young up-and-coming band in a club. "It would depend on who they are," said Richards. Wyman, on the other hand, had no qualms about the Stones' staying power. Someone asked if the band's energy level would be the same as it was twenty-five years ago. "Ask my wife," replied the newlywed.
The band also treated the audience to a "free sample," as Woody put it, of "Mixed Emotions," the first single from Steel Wheels. Jagger, who had stripped down to his undershirt, turned on a boom box he had brought along and, holding it up to the mike, played a tape of the song.
When someone mentioned the much publicized fighting between Jagger and Richards, Mick strolled over and hugged Keith, remarking, "We don't have fights — we just have disagreements." Keith meanwhile muttered, "We both gave up masochism." As the band's fifteen minutes drew to a close, Jagger prepared to take his leave. "Just one more question," he said, "because my mascara is running."
The band is currently rehearsing in Washington, Connecticut, at the recently closed Wykeham Rise School.
This is a story from the August 24, 1989 issue of Rolling Stone.