Call this the tale of two Virgins. A couple of acts that record for that label have been making some noise around town – separately, that is. One of them, singer/songwriter Ben Harper, is young and gifted and folk bluesy. The other, an exciting and rockin’ little combo by the name of the Rolling Stones, is also a bit bluesy and, shall we say, a good deal more mature. The 23-year-old Harper, whose vivid debut effort is entitled Welcome to the Cruel World, has been playing gigs at the Mint, the intimate L.A. blues spot where he first started making a name for himself. A few months back, Harper – who grew up in the Inland Empire, a suburb east of L.A. – put on a fine set at the third annual Gimme Shelter Homeless benefit at the Roxy, where he played alongside other local favorites, including Sam Phillips, T-Bone Burnett, Michael Penn, Victoria Williams and Peter Himmelman. After having the chance to open up for blues hero John Lee Hooker up North a while back, Harper is now about to head out on a U.S. club tour of his own. With memorable songs like “Mama’s Got a Girlfriend Now” and “Like a King,” he’s worth checking out.
Then there are the now Wyman-less Stones. Despite Mick Jagger‘s turning up to sing a bit at the Viper Room – the epicenter of El Lay hip – the Stones have otherwise managed to keep a relatively low profile while in town. They have kept busy in recent weeks toiling away at the A&M Studios on the old Charlie Chaplin lot, working with Don Was behind the board. The Stones and Was have been putting finishing touches on the band’s upcoming Virgin debut, with a release expected shortly before the steel wheels start turning for the band’s highly anticipated stadium jaunt (to open in late summer and go well into the fall). Keyboard whiz Benmont Tench of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers sat in during the L.A. sessions. One rumor currently making the rounds has it that the Stones will actually release two new albums – one before the tour and another sometime during the road trip.
This story is from the April 21st, 1994 issue of Rolling Stone.