With typically impeccable timing, the Rolling Stones brought their cash-making musical caravan to England last month, just as the country was in the midst of its greatest wave of national self-esteem since the end of World War II. Hyperpole? Consider: a smashing military triumph in the Falklands, a respectable showing at the World Cup soccer championships in Spain and, best of all, the birth of a ruddy-cheeked royal heir.
Not even a week of rain and a subway strike could spoil the party, and in this carnival climate, Britons clutched the band to their collective bosom.
Such chauvinistic gush may have been lost on the Stones themselves; indeed, Bill Graham and his production crew referred to the entire European tour as JABES – "just another break-even situation" – but it only served to fuel the enthusiasm of the more than 140,000 people who poured into Wembley Stadium on June 25th and 26th to see the Stones come home for the first time in six years. JABES, indeed.
The crowd didn't resemble an American stadium-sized rock audience at all. There was barely a soul under twenty-five, and many of those who packed into the grounds of the outdoor arena looked as though they'd stepped straight out of a guide to Swinging London, circa 1970. No New Romantics here, and certainly no punks. Just a solid, mildly drugged-out Sixties and Seventies bunch, the kind of people, as one observer noted, you just don't see anymore.
The scene backstage seemed more apropos of a high-school play than a concert by the world's greatest rock & roll band. John McEnroe showed up one afternoon and wound up challenging bassist Bill Wyman to a game of ping-pong. Michael Caine, Christopher Reeve, the Police and the Who's John Entwistle also made appearances, but most of those milling around the celebrity compoundwere decidedly unflashy and looked old enough to be someone's parents. Which, of course, they are.
"Each performance is different, and I promise I never tire of it," said Mick's mom, Eva Jagger. "I just have a hard time keeping up." Jagger's father, resplendent in an electric-green sports jacket, had weightier things on his mind. "I think the sound here is far better than at Madison Square Garden," he opined. "Don't you?"
Ron Wood's father rolled up in a wheelchair to watch – for the first time – his son perform. He sat in the Royal Box and, when offered binoculars, insisted he could see his son "loud and clear, thank you."
Doris Richards, Keith's mother, reassured reporters that her son was "so very, very shy, you know. Such a mommy's boy. He was too sensitive to be a Teddy boy."
No wonder that the local media eagerly lapped up the Stones' new wholesomeoness. When the Daily Mail reported on the band in Aberdeen earlier in the tour, its tone was almost one of relief: Thank God it's the Stones and not some Oi band. Keith gave a TV interview to the BBC – filmed in a Parisian bar at one in the morning – during which he thanked the Canadian Mounties for arresting him and thereby getting him off heroin. Richards also appeared greatly flattered at one report that had compared the Stones to Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra. Maybe that's why the British music press all but ignored the preconcert hoopla, believing that the Stones were no more relevant to their readership than Princess Diana and her baby.
As for the shows themselves, all who coughed up the nearly twenty-dollar tariff expressed satisfaction with the sound and quality of the playing. A huge video screen mounted above and slightly behind the stage brought Jagger's antics to the back rows. But, curiously enough, it was Wyman who drew the loudest applause of the day when introduced; his single, "(Si Si) Je Suis Un Rock Star," was a hit in the U.K. last year.
After Saturday's show, Prince Rupert Lowenstein, the Stones' financial adviser, threw a party for the band at Tokyo Joe's, a snazzy restaurant. But the Stones boycotted the bash when, for some reason, invitations were not extended to the J. Geils Band, their opening act. Instead, some band members trooped off to their own celebrations. Richards threw a small soiree for his family in his hotel room, and aunts, uncles and nieces, as well as son Marlon and paramour Patti Hansen, scarfed down strawberries and ice cream. "No white lines," quipped a room-service waiter, "only white wines." Keith played cassettes of Vivaldi and, later, a tape he'd made with saxophonist Bobby Keys. On it, Richards crooned his way through such standards as "Nearness of You" and "Over the Rainbow."
During the Stones' stay in the mother country, Mick Jagger hung out with some of girlfriend Jerry Hall's pals, among them photographer David Bailey and designer Anthony Price. In his off hours, he relaxed by watching TV broadcasts of soccer and cricket matches at his rented country house outside London. Jagger kept a low profile throughout, but backstage, he may have summed up the Rolling Stones' entire English tour. "Hey," he told well-wishers, "we always play better in the rain. But we're home, you know. No problems here."
This story is from the August 5th, 1982 issue of Rolling Stone.