Still, Jagger concedes, "You can only push it so far. We used to try and sound like Howlin' Wolf. But we never actually sounded like Howlin' Wolf, because it's always going to sound like the Rolling Stones. You can run 89 loops, and it still sounds like the Rolling Stones."
"I start to feel good about records," Richards says, "when I realize I can toss away the rule book. When I heard Mick's 'Juiced' demo, I knew there was a path to follow here. Then, by the time I got to the studio with 'Flip the Switch' and 'Low Down,' I started to hear how the band was playing: 'OK, from now on, I'm following this thing. I'm not trying to lead it anywhere. Just sit on its tail and hang on.' "
Jagger feels much the same way about the Stones' imminent world tour. The itinerary, so far, is a mere 10 months long — short compared with the year-plus standards of the '89-'90 Steel Wheels/Urban Jungle and '94-'95 Voodoo Lounge tours — and Jagger has been paying close attention to the sagging U.S. summer-tour season, particularly the soft ticket sales for U2's PopMart shows. "We're being quite conservative about the market," he says. "If it doesn't work out, we won't do so much."
Jagger actually saw the second date of U2's PopMart tour in San Diego and admits to being a bit underwhelmed. "I love Bono, and I like the band and the records," he insists. "But having said all that, I don't think they really performed as large as I thought they should. You have to transcend the production. OK, if you're Bono, you don't want to be like me, running up and down the fucking thing all the time. But it's one way to get people's attention, y'know? 'There he is! It's him in yellow!'
"Listen: It's theater; it's large; it's entertainment," Jagger goes on. "I think it's possible that U2 are not really a stadium act — in their hearts. They always seem to be apologizing. I never want to apologize for spending $10 million, say, on the Steel Wheels tour. It's not an apology that you're out there and it costs 50 bucks. The Rolling Stones never apologized. We were always out there with a good show for market price.
"And, really, I always try and get out there and make sure that we're keeping their attention, working the audience, whether you're in a club or a theater or a stadium. You can't just stroll through it. I wish you could, sometimes — when it's the second night in wherever, it's 41 degrees, and it's raining. But you really have to push it.
"The lemon has become the thing against which, in my world, all things are measured," Jagger notes with a wry laugh, referring to the giant spangled lemon in U2's show. "We have the same designer [Mark Fisher]. It's also a financial thing. There's me, turning to Mark, going, 'You realize that's a two-lemon gag.' "
Nevertheless, the Stones are going back into stadiums with a stage that Richards, with understated relish, describes as "pretty interesting. I'm sworn to secrecy. But I can promise you that it even astounded us — and we're pretty used to these mad ideas now."
This is a story from the September 4, 1997 issue of Rolling Stone.
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