Hot Rocks

…what can a poor boy do,

‘cept to sing for a rock & roll band…

A couple issues back, Mick and Keith were on the cover of Fortune magazine. I know what you’re thinking. I’m going to launch into some sort of self-righteous flaying of the Glimmer Twins. But that’s far from the case. All that glimmers isn’t gold.


The reason for the cover story is, of course, that the boys make money. Lots of money. The kind of money that we wish we had. As Andy Serwer explains in the story, “Since 1989 alone, for instance, the band has sold more than 38 million albums at roughly $12 each, for gross proceeds of over $460 million.” Recognize: That’s gross. And it’s not like just Mick and Keith are getting all the money.

And let’s not underestimate the kind of problems that these guys have. You and I can pretty much live wherever we want to live. OK. Where we can afford to live. But that’s no difference from them. Once again, from Fortune:

“The whole business thing is predicated a lot on the tax laws,” says Keith. Marlboro in one hand, vodka and juice in the other. “It’s why we rehearse in Canada and not in the U.S. A lot of our astute moves have been basically keeping up with tax laws, where to go, where not to put it.”

You think it’s easy being rich? These poor guys had to move out of their homeland: Keith is quoted: “We left England because we’d be paying 98 cents on the dollar. We left, and they lost out. I don’t want to screw anybody out of anything, least of all the governments that I work with.” See, just as you and I have to worry about working with people in government—say, the people at the Department of Motor Vehicles—the Stones have issues, too. Maybe they’re in a slightly higher tax bracket, but no one can accuse them of not being sensitive.

Take ticket prices for the Licks tour. Once again, from Serwer’s story:

Jagger is happy to delve into the topic. “This is one element of the business thing that I try to really control as much as I can,” he says. “Pricing a concert ticket is very different from pricing a Lexus or toothpaste. It’s more like a sports event. And you are prepared to pay the market price. So if U2 or Madonna costs $100 (I’m making these up), you don’t want to be charging $200. I try to keep ticket prices within the market price range. It’s America. We’re not living in a socialist society where we’re all paid so low and no one can afford it.”

See, he knows that we’re all concerned with good oral hygiene. And that we’re not socialists. And while they won’t be pulling in the kind of money that previous tours made (Voodoo Lounge, ’94-’95, ~$370 million; Bridges to Babylon/No Security, ’97-’99, >$390 million), that’s not their concern. No, they want to make sure that not only do we have good grooming practices, but that we look good, too. Serwer notes that the tour will be chock-a-block full of purchasing opportunities of quality Stones wear: “Jagger tells me that there will be some 50 products—such as underwear by Britain’s Agent Provocateur and new, expensive items like shirts, jackets, and, yes, dresses.”

Do you remember how your grandpa always made sure that you were always wearing clean underwear? Just think of Mick and Keith just like that.

13 thoughts on “Hot Rocks”

  1. Everytime I hear about this kind of shit, it gets harder and harder to dig early the Stones. And it’s a shame, because early Stones are so damn good. Arrgh…

  2. I’m just loving that there was an enormous cardboard standup of them in my local eTrade office. Tour sponsors, ya know…

  3. I don’t hold it against them. I think in their heart of hearts they know that they’ll never be what they were 30 years ago. Whether they or the fans admit it or not, them’s the breaks. As long as nostalgic boomers keep buying the new albums and seeing the concerts though, why should the band give it up? It’s sort of a mutual lie they maintain with each other.

    Personally I wish they’d go away so I could try to maintime my image of them in all their washed-out glory. It gets harder and harder to think of them as the band from Madison Square Garden in 1969 (“you wouldn’t want my trousers to fall down, would you?”) as I read stories like this, but I try.

  4. sorry folks, but I can’t totally agree with complaints on this one. You say these sort of reports taint your image of the ‘early’ Stones? The quote about leaving their homeland to avoid paying 98 pence to the pound is in reference to a time in the early seventies when they decamped to france and made a little rock ‘n’ roll album some of you may have heard of… exile on main street – I don’t wish to beat people over the head with it but the ‘exile’ in exile… is TAX EXILE!

    is this the early Stones you find it hard to dig Shecky? or perhaps it was before that when they had no money despite massive success due to being screwed out of royalties and income by (mis)management and the tax office respectably…?

    and I want some Stones underwear too dammit!

  5. I don’t begrudge the Stones for making money. They certainly earned it. And certainly no one can dispute that they had a five or so year run that will probably never be surpassed. My beef is mainly with the product (records and live performances) they’ve been selling for the last 20-odd years. It’s sub-par, period. Charlie and Keith still sound pretty good musically, but Mick circa ’02 and Mick circa ’72 are worlds apart. From the live stuff of the past few years I’ve heard (Stipped excluded,) I’ve thought that they sound like a pretty good Stones cover band. Every musician should try to stay fresh and keep writing new stuff, but if it sucks, it sucks. It doesn’t matter whether they put out some great tunes back in the day.

    I guess I shouldn’t have said I wish they’d go away. That’s unfair. What I wish is that more of their fans fess up and admit that very little of what they do anymore is worth paying attention to. I mean, Christ, listen to Beggar’s Banquet straight through and then go see that obscenely produced live show and tell me it was worth a hundred bucks. There are plenty of fans who can do that, but I’m just not one of them.

  6. Come on, Elliot. Mixed Emotions is cool. I know you at least give props to the video. I know you liked Mick in his aerobics wear harmonizing with Keith on the one microphone, jumping around like an athlete.

  7. Okay, you got me there. Top 5 Stones songs, Stray Cat Blues, Sweet Virginia, Under My Thumb, Moonlight Mile, and Mixed Emotions.

    Wait a minute.

    Damn you Ryan and your seductive images of Mick Jagger in activewear. Damn you!

  8. If the Stones were to suddenly revert back to their old 60’s selves, and began writing songs about Iraq, corporate fraud, etc. could you really take it seriously ?

    Is any band or musician from the same era, when the Stones were at their creative peak, writing anything of any worth ? Robert Plant ? The Who ?

  9. Neil Young sort of was, up until recently. The album he did with Pearl Jam, believe it or not, contained some of his best music ever, particularly “The Ocean.”

  10. Let’s have some sympathy for the devil. Regardless of their age thay are a machine…music or money!To see Jagger doing what he does at almost 60 is a treat and/or novelty that I think is worth the price. Biological, aging, drug studies should be done on Richards.

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