The Rolling Stones have just unveiled dates for a summer tour of North American stadiums. The run kicks off May 8th at SDCCU Stadium in San Diego and wraps up July 9th at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. They toured the U.S. just last year and rarely repeat countries in consecutive years, but they grossed $177.8 million across just 17 sold-out shows in 2019 and it’s hard to imagine them leaving any tickets unsold this time around, either.
The Stones came to America for the first time in 1964. Their visit began June 5th, 1964, at the Swing Auditorium in San Bernardino, California, and wrapped up with two shows at New York’s Carnegie Hall 15 days later. This was before Mick Jagger and Keith Richards came into their own as songwriters and the set was largely made up of covers like “Walking the Dog,” “Not Fade Away,” and “Route 66.” It was also the height of Beatlemania, and the Stones were very much seen as a second- or even third-tier act with young fans.
Things picked up a bit when they returned to America in October of that same year. Their cover of Jerry Ragovoy’s “Time Is on My Side” came out as a single the prior month and became their first Top 10 hit in the States. They played larger venues like Cleveland’s Public Hall and, more importantly, made their debut on The Ed Sullivan Show where they performed “Time Is on My Side.” Here’s video of the historic appearance. The young fans in the audience weren’t shrieking quite as loud as they did for the Beatles earlier in the year, but they weren’t exactly sedate either.
The life expectancy of a pop act back then was about 18 months, and many didn’t even make it that far. If you’d told an industry insider the day of the Ed Sullivan Show appearance that this band would be not only still be touring 56 years later, but packing football stadiums and grossing about 10 million dollars a night, they would have thought you’d gone insane. Aliens landing and abducting President Johnson at the next State of the Union address would have seemed more likely. But it’s 2020 and the hottest ticket of the summer will once again be the Rolling Stones even though Charlie Watts will be 79 before the tour is over.
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Every Stones tour during the past couple of decades has seemed like it might be their last, but they just keep bouncing back, whether Watts gets cancer or Jagger undergoes heart surgery or Richards falls out of a tree in Fiji and lands on his head. This is a band that can’t be killed. Their 60th anniversary is coming around in 2022, and it wouldn’t be the least bit surprising if they commemorated it with another tour.