The Rolling Stones machine is in motion once again. After playing a surprise club gig in London and three warmup dates in Scotland, the group officially began its summer tour of Europe on June 2nd in Rotterdam, Holland. By the time the Stones reached Paris for a pair of shows at the 70,000-seat Hippodrome d’Auteuil on June 13th and 14th, they had played before roughly half a million people. And when the forty-four-date tour ends on July 26th – Mick Jagger‘s fortieth birthday – nearly 2 million fans will have passed through the turnstiles, making this the biggest European rock tour ever.
Even so, it’s been a pretty low-key affair. In Paris, for instance, fewer than a dozen kids, some of them munching Big Macs from a nearby McDonald’s, waited for the Stones to arrive at the hotel where they were staying, just off the Champs Élysées. And it’s been that way for the entire tour. All the action is onstage. All the interest is in the music. No scandals, no outrageous behavior. As was the case on last fall’s U.S. tour, the Stones are maintaining a low-profile, clean-cut image, and the media are eating it up.
Major magazines in every European country have done cover stories on the group, but so far there have been only two real interviews. A reporter for the Hamburg-based Stern magazine asked Jagger if he ever made contact with the public by, say, riding the subway. “Wait a minute,” Jagger sneered. “What has riding a subway got to do with reality? That’s only something people do ’cause they don’t have money.” And in Paris Match, Jagger revealed that as a teenager, he didn’t get along with his parents; that he can walk the streets of Paris, London and New York without being bothered by the public; that he always carries a gun; that he owns a château in the Loire Valley; that he trains hard to keep in shape; and that he loves his ten-year-old daughter, Jade.
Deemed equally newsworthy have been the tour’s logistics and statistics. Two teams of sixteen trailer-trucks are crisscrossing Europe, carrying stage sets and equipment through eleven countries. The stage is the same one the band used on its U.S. tour: sixty-four feet wide, with eighty-foot ramps stretching out from the right and left sides, it features massive scrims painted with postmodernist pastel renderings of cars, guitars and record albums. The group is traveling with an entourage of sixty-eight – the same as in America – and the Stones themselves have chartered a Boeing 707 to get around in.
The band’s entire show, which is again being run with clockwork-like precision by promoter Bill Graham, remains virtually unchanged from the American tour. When the gates of the Paris race track opened at 10 a.m. on Sunday, June 13th, 70,000 eager fans, who seemed to range in age from fifteen to forty-five, were on hand. The concert started promptly at one o’clock, and the opening acts, George Thorogood and the Destroyers and the J. Geils Band (both veterans of the Stones’ U.S. dates), drew hearty responses – despite a sudden rainstorm that was drenching the audience.
When the sun reappeared, the field was a sea of mud – the crowd had used the track’s protective tarpaulins as shelter from the storm. But at 4:30, when Duke Ellington’s “Take the ‘A’ Train” wafted from the loudspeakers and a voice announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, the Rolling Stones,” the miserable conditions didn’t seem to matter. The Stones tore into “Under My Thumb,” and it immediately became clear that it had been worth the six-and-a-half-hour wait.
As the Stones went through essentially the same set they had perfected in the States – twenty-six tunes, including “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” “Time Is on My Side,” “Start Me Up,” “Let It Bleed” and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” – the audience crowded up to the barriers in front of the eight-foot-high stage, and tens of thousands of hands were raised to clap along with the songs. From the field, one could see hundreds of tiny figures straining to get a glimpse of the festivities from the windows of the luxury apartments overlooking the race track.
The band, augmented by Allman Brothers keyboardist Chuck Leavell and sax players Bobby Keys and Gene “Daddy G” Barge (a sideman on Gary U.S. Bonds’ early records), seemed to get better and better as the show progressed. Jagger, dressed in red-and-white-striped tights, pranced up and down the stage, tossing asides to the crowd in barroom French. Keith Richards and Ron Wood pumped out the group’s trademark licks and huddled together at one mike to share their occasional vocals, while the sturdy rhythm section of Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts kept everything rolling.
There were a few surprises, such as a cover version of the Big Bopper’s “Chantilly Lace,” which never really got off the ground. But for the most part, it was a repeat performance of the Stones’ U.S. extravaganza – and everybody loved it. By the time Jagger rode out over the crowd in the cherry-picker crane, the roar of the fans was deafening. As the group left the stage with a last merci, a tape of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture blasted out, and the fireworks began. Four minutes later, as the fireworks reached a climax, six bright-yellow pickup trucks snaked out of the park and headed up the boulevard toward the center of Paris. The audience was still cheering.
Yet it wasn’t the old music and mayhem. And, unlike the American tour, it may not even be music and money. Even though the tour is causing the band’s new live album to sell briskly everywhere the Stones have played, and even though the group’s gross should come close to the American tour’s $40 million (in Paris alone, the ticket gross exceeded $2 million), Jagger is telling the press that he and his mates will be lucky to clear $250,000. “We never make money here,” the poor boy claimed, citing the astronomical expenses incurred on the European tour.”This time it’s music, music, music.”
This story is from the July 22nd, 1982 issue of Rolling Stone.