To the fans who snatched up every single ticket for every single concert, the Stones had done nothing that would call for amends, but they were happy to have the band back nonetheless. With the death of John Lennon (and, earlier, Keith Moon of the Who) and the collapse of Led Zeppelin, the Stones were left holding the field as the last of the big Sixties acts still creatively intact. And who knew what tragic news the next several years might bring? "See them now" was an operative impulse throughout the tour. (For those unable to do so this time around, a tour movie, directed by Hal Ashby and shot largely at the Stones' concerts at Brendan Byrne Arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey, and Sun Devil Stadium in Phoenix, should be out before next summer. Ashby, who directed Harold and Maude and Shampoo, hopes to release the film in a seventy-millimeter, six-track-stereo format, which would make it the most elaborate rock & roll movie since Woodstock — and, given its commercial potential in Europe, where the Stones haven't played for years, perhaps the most profitable, as well.)
So what did it all mean? The Rolling Stones have embraced total respectability — they seem to exist on a plush, parallel universe all their own. But they have reached a point where they can consider branching out in whatever directions they desire. For Charlie Watts, this could mean something as innocuous as recording with a good-time jam band like Rocket 88 and not worrying about how it might reflect on the Stones. For Bill Wyman, miffed after years of disregard for his songwriting talents, it means composing film scores and recording more solo albums. And for Mick Jagger, obviously uncomfortable at being perceived as an aging rock star, it may mean making it — at long last — in movies.
Whether or not Jagger — or any major rock star — is capable of the convincing intimacy required of a screen actor remains to be seen. His past film roles in Performance and Ned Kelly offered few clues, and his last attempt, in Werner Herzog's Fitzcarraldo — for which he spent three very trying months in the Peruvian jungle — was all for nought, as the film was never completed. ("He was so disappointed, poor bloke," said Keith Richards.) But now Jagger has gotten serious: he's purchased the screen rights to Gore Vidal's novel Kalki, has commissioned Vidal to write a screenplay and hopes to begin filming the movie (under old pal Hal Ashby's direction) within the next eighteen months. One suspects that, at this point in his life, the film's success may mean more to him than all the Rolling Stones tours to come.
That there will be more Stones tours seems all but certain. For one thing, Keith Richards is unlikely to retire into some dainty dotage or otherwise hang up his rock & roll shoes. For another, the money is now too big to turn down — one of the many illuminations provided by the Stones' 1981 U.S. outing. A man who knows this well is Jay Coleman, president of Rockbill, Inc., the company that put the Stones together with Jovan and has arranged similar deals between Charlie Daniels and Skoal tobacco, and the Marshall Tucker Band and Ron Rico rum. The Stones' hookup with a multimillion-dollar corporation like Jovan and the band's new, acceptably adult image gladden Coleman's heart.
"There are advertising people my own age now who understand that music isn't something that is far to the left or that wants to bring down the government or any of that," he says. "They understand that it's a positive thing. On the other hand, you've got the artists, who finally are no longer fearful of recognizing the fact that music is a business. And they're not out there waving a flag against the Vietnam War, and so for them to associate themselves with a company doesn't necessarily mean that everybody's gonna think they've sold out.
"Rock & roll and Madison Avenue," Coleman says with a gratified sigh. "Their paths are finally crossing."
This is a story from the January 21, 1982 issue of Rolling Stone.
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