The Rolling Stones Impose High Ticket Prices for U.S. Tour

"Is that a lot?" says Mick Jagger

Mick Jagger Rolling Stones Live
RB/Redferns
Mick Jagger performing on stage circa 1969.
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LOS ANGELES—The Rolling Stones have returned to the United States for their first tour in more than three years.

It begins wth two evening shows at the Forum in Los Angeles November 8th, with tickets priced from $5.50 to $8.50. (This compares to a $7.50 top price for a Blind Faith concert in the same arena, a $6.50 top for the Doors. And in both those concerts, tickets started at $3.50.) In arranging this show, a previously-set hockey game between the Los Angeles Kings and the New York Rangers was rescheduled – at the request of the man who owns both the Forum and the Kings.

Acts appearing at the concerts here will include Terry Reid, who will appear on all the dates, and the Ike and Tina Turner Revue. Negotiations were continuing to have Ike and Tina, B. B. King and Chuck Berry join the Stones in several other cities.

Promoters of the L.A. concerts said the gross for the evening would exceed $275,000 if the Stones filled the 18,000 seats in the Forum both shows. Similar grosses, on a per show basis, were expected throughout the tour, with the Stones getting guarantees of $25,000 a concert and up, against take home percentages running close to $60,000.

Although figures such as these are not unusual for tours by groups of this magnitude, they did bring strong criticism from, among others, Ralph Gleason in the San Francisco Chronicle.

"Can the Rolling Stones actually need all that money?" Gleason asked. "If they really dig the black musicians as much as every note they play and every syllable they utter indicates, is it possible to take out a show with, say, Ike and Tina and some of the older men like Howlin' Wolf and let them share in the loot? How much can the Stones take back to Merrie England after taxes, anyway? How much must the British manager and the American manager and the agency rake off the top?

"Paying five, six and seven dollars for a Stones concert at the Oakland Coliseum for, say, an hour of the Stones seen a quarter of a mile away because the artists demand such outrageous fees that they can only be obtained under these circumstances, says a very bad thing to me about the artists' attitude towards the public. It says they despise their own audience."

When Mick Jagger was confronted by this criticism at a press conference at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, he left the door slightly open to giving a free concert sometime during the 13-city, 18-concert tour, but his tone didn't seem too promising.

"There has been talk of that," he said. "I should think toward the end. We'll have to see how things go. I don't want to plan that right now, 'cause we're gonna be here some while. We've got time for all that. I don't want to say that's what we want to do or not do. I'm leaving it rather blurry. I'm not committing meself."

And about the ticket cost, he strongly indicated that if some people thought prices were high, they might have been a lot worse.

"We were offered a lot of money to do some very good dates – money in front in Europe, before we left, really a lot of bread. We didn't accept because we thought they'd be too expensive on the basis of the money we'd get. We didn't say that unless we walk out of America with X dollars, we ain't gonna come. We're really not into that sort of economic scene. Either you're gonna sing and all that crap, or you're gonna be a fucking economist. I really don't know whether this is more expensive than recent tours by local bands. I don't know how much people can afford. I've no idea. Is that a lot? You'll have to tell me."

The remainder of the press conference was typical. Someone asked that the question about ticket costs be repeated. Sam Cutler, the band's tour manager, repeated it, stumbling over the word ticket, saying "pricket." This prompted Keith Richards to lean over and give him a little kiss.

Following that it was just one kneeslapper after another.

Art Kunkin, editor of the Los Angeles Free Press, asked Jagger to comment on Timothy Leary's running for governor. "Isn't it a bit late for California to have a psychedelic governor?" Jagger asked back.

Rona Barrett, a television gossip columnist, asked her questions: "What time do you normally get up?" "Are you really an anti-establishment group or is it all a put-on?" And: "What do you think about fellow performers like Shirley Temple going into politics?"

Even when someone asked Charlie Watts if he were planning another book (a reference to his illustrated tribute to the late Charlie Parker) and Watts gave a simple "no" as his answer, everyone collapsed, giggling.

At the end of it, little had been learned, but everyone – perhaps especially the Stones – seemed to have had a good time. It was rather like watching Johnny Carson with a laugh-track borrowed from The Lucy Show.

Somewhat more seriously, Jagger did say there would be time while in Los Angeles to complete the group's next album, Let It Bleed, which, he said, was to be released within a month's time, before the Stones returned to England in early December.

All that had to be done, Jagger said, was to mix two or three songs and record one vocal that had been erased accidentally in London while he was making the film Ned Kelly in Australia. Recording was to be scheduled in the Elektra studio here, before the tour begins, pending settlement of a minor disagreement over studio time with the Doors, who were then using the studio for their next album.

Jagger also said that although the Stones' contract with London expires in 1970, there were no plans to form an independent record company. (There had been reports the Stones were meeting with at least one young Los Angeles record company executive to discuss this project.)

"No," Jagger said, "I don't want to become a weird pseudo-capitalist. The only reason for doing that sort of thing is to change the line of distribution, right? And if you don't change the line of distribution, there's no point. All you've got is a little holding company and the record company is still releasing your records. So unless you've got a fleet of lorries and sell records for half price, there'd be no point in doing it."

Other dates on the tour include the Oakland Coliseum, November 9th; San Diego Sports Arena, the 10th; Phoenix Coliseum, the 11th; Dallas Coliseum, the 12th; Auburn (Ala.) University, the 13th; University of Illinois, the 14th; and Chicago Amphitheater, the 16th.

The Stones then take a week off to tape an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, resuming the tour in Detroit's Olympia, the 21st. This will be followed by concerts at the Philadelphia Spectrum, the 25th; Baltimore Civic Center, the 26th; Madison Square Garden, the 27th and 28th; Boston Garden, the 29th; and the West Palm Beach (Fla.) Pop Festival, the 30th.

Before beginning the tour, the Stones had fully three weeks to ready themselves. Except for the planned few hours in the recording studio, this gave them ample time for vacationing.

Which is what they were doing immediately following their October 17th arrival in Los Angeles: splitting up, some staying in the Beverly Wilshire, others in private homes.

Charlie Watts was staying with his wife Shirley and daughter Serafina in a huge mountain-top home owned by the DuPont family high above the Sunset Strip, for example, while Jagger and Richards were staying with Stephen Stills in an estate near Laurel Canyon built by Carmen Dragon and formerly inhabited by Monkee Peter Tork.

It was the DuPont manse that was to serve as the group's West Coast headquarters and it was there the Stones gathered the day after their arrival for a meeting, then pushed all thought of business aside to make use of the home's sumptuous facilities.

During the day, friends, writers and Sunday hangers-on came by to watch Bill Wyman on the tennis court (wearing boots), knocking a ball around. "Sure, you can take pictures," he said, "but we're only amateurs." Inside the house, Charlie Watts was going through a large box of albums just delivered from a Sunset Strip record store.

Someone entered the 40-foot living room with a 180-degree view of Los Angeles and asked, "Is Mick here?"

"Be here later," came the listless reply.

"Catch you then."

In the kitchen the girl the Stones had hired to cook their meals was preparing bouillabaisse. She knew the boys had decided to go to a Japanese restaurant that night, and then on to the Ash Grove to see Taj Mahal and Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup, but she was afraid the food would spoil.

Someone else was picking out a tune on the piano.

Outside a mustachioed chauffeur in black snoozed behind the wheel of a Cadillac limousine.

The Rolling Stones were in town and everyone seemed to be waiting for something to happen.

This story is from the November 15, 1969 issue of Rolling Stone.

From The Archives Issue 46: November 15, 1969
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