Should anyone ever wonder again why Mick Jagger attended the London School of Economics? In all of rock history, no cash flow compares to that of the 1981 tour of the Rolling Stones. In less than three months Jagger and the Stones divided all America into two economies: the two million people who saw one of their 46 concerts and the 224 million who wish they had. The grosses, at a time when rock was otherwise moribund, were a spectacular $35 million. The Stones sold $5 million in T-shirts alone during the first 14 days of the tour. In New York, 3.5 million mail applications flooded in for the 100,000 $15 seats available, and scalpers routinely extorted $250 a ticket. Previous Stones tours, although successful, seemed almost lackluster by comparison. This was a generational rite where being part of the audience was as important as seeing the show. Sadly, the warm response was due at least in part to the loss of John Lennon; many fans may have wanted a chance to see dagger and his durable group defy rock’s baleful mortality rate. (The fear is real: In a frightening incident before a Seattle Kingdome concert, dagger’s bodyguard disarmed a woman carrying a revolver who was later arrested.) The 38-year-old dagger, always the group’s electrifying focus, may finally have revealed his true genius this year: He is rock’s Croesus, the head Stone in all matters musical and monetary whose current reading is a biography of financier Bernard Baruch. Before the tour’s end, he paused with Carl Arrington of PEOPLE to take stock of his extraordinary journey.
Did you ever feel in physical danger during the tour?
I felt it every time I got into the cherry picker we used at the end of each concert. There is an element of danger just getting into it. Otherwise I had security to keep people in line, to keep them moving and happy and to break up fights. Your personal security begins with how the crowd is behaving. If people want to get onstage, for instance, you don’t have security.
How have your audiences changed?
At the stadiums, the audiences were very, very young, some kids around 12. I think that’s because teenagers like outdoor shows. They can get away from their parents, maybe get loaded and have a good time. They didn’t know the old songs. They know the last three albums, and that’s it. A lot of people at the stadiums had never seen the Stones before. But when we played indoor arenas, people were older and had seen us before. They were the ones who could afford to pay scalpers.
Are you satisfied with your performances?
We listened to tapes after our shows. We knew when things didn’t go right. We could be pretty raggedy, especially during the first part of the tour. Later we knew what we were doing.
How important was your costuming?
I chose the football pants to wear this tour because they are easy to work in. It was sort of an accident—I went into a sports store, and they fit better than anything, and they only cost 20 bucks. In Dallas I wore the Dallas Cowboy colors. People dig that, and it has a good look for outdoors where you’ve got to wear bright colors or people can’t see you. You can’t be too subtle in a situation like that.
Did Tina Turner really teach you to dance?
I learned a lot from Tina Turner, but I thought me Mum taught me to dance.
How real is your onstage persona?
It’s an act, just like any other role. But it’s also a genuine part of me. That’s how I am when I perform. I try not to let that interfere with my life. I am not trying to be a star.
It doesn’t seem as if you have to try…
Well, it’s just what I’ve learned over the years. I went over to a park the other day to run. Now that gets you down to earth. You’re just a guy in the park. And you’re just running with a lot of other people. And your feet are on the ground, you know? I am not in my room thinking about being a star and reading all of my newspaper cuttings. I don’t have anyone who is my slave. I like to be as self-sufficient as possible. Otherwise you start becoming too big. There’s just too many people sitting around saying, “Mick, Mick, Mick, what is it that you want?” I don’t have that. There’s never people to light my cigarettes. I don’t want to be closeted off from the world.
Was there a point when you did?
Yeah. But then I decided it was a stupid thing to do. That was back around 1970, I guess. You just get more reflective as you get older. Obviously, if you believe what you read about Elvis, it didn’t work like that with him. He really believed his own myth and wanted to live it 24 hours a day.
Albert Goldman’s biography says Elvis once spent $16,000 to fly to Colorado to get a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich.
Well, I wouldn’t want to do that, but then I don’t particularly like peanut butter and jelly.
How did you keep fit during the tour?
Chinese food. Japanese food. Otherwise lots of carbohydrates. Before I jog I just eat toast. Normally I jog a half hour and do a lot of stretching exercises. I’m not so serious about running that I time the miles, but I would if we had a two-week layoff. I do things like 40-yard dashes, and that’s real useful. I do weights wherever I can conveniently use them. I do sit-ups to keep the body toned up. I get as much sleep at night as I possibly can. On tour I usually get from six to 10 hours a night. I don’t drink any hard liquor. I do drink too much beer, but it’s the only thing that keeps me calm. Otherwise I’d be so hyper, man. But no drinks before the show. No drugs. Lots and lots of water because it all comes out. You’ve got to replace your fluids.
What about your movie career?
I just spent three months in Peru making Fitzcaraldo with Werner Herzog. Now I’m financing a concert film from the tour. It’s being directed by Hal Ashby. If The Last Waltz grossed $5 million, and it wasn’t a very good movie, we could gross at least that. I am supposed to be working with Hal again next year on the movie version of Gore Vidal’s Kalki. There’s a very important girl role for somebody like Goldie Hawn, but she’s too expensive.
Weren’t you offered a part in Ragtime?
It was never offered to me officially. I just read about it in the newspaper. Actually, Ray Stark offered me a part in Annie, but I didn’t think it was for me. But, boy, it was a lot of money.
How do you invest your own money?
I’m investing quite a bit of money in the concert film, which I think is a pretty sure thing. But I don’t play the market. I’m not always on the phone trying to figure out deals, even though I was trained at school to do that. I mean, it doesn’t give me a buzz if I make a half-million dollars on pork bellies.
What’s your life in New York like ?
I can’t even remember because being on the road makes you forget all of that. Also in the last few years we’ve been recording in Paris so I’ve been living there for four or five months every year. They give us a good tax break and we get a cheap rate on the studio. Very few people bother you. That’s why I like New York—because there is anonymity. I go to a lot of shows. I play guitar and piano. Read a lot.
Who are your friends?
They are not famous or anything and would not want to see their names in print. It’s not that I dislike famous people. Some of them are real nice. I like Jack Nicholson very much. But he’s not a New Yorker, so we only see each other occasionally. Pete Townshend [of the Who] is one of my closest friends. Most of my N.Y. friends are just ordinary people with day jobs. One is a brain surgeon.
Where do you live in New York?
It’s a rented apartment and there’s not a lot to say about it. The furniture is rented. All of my stuff is in France. I also have a beach house in the Caribbean. I bought the French one in November and paid $200,000—that’s still quite a lot of money even though it isn’t $14 million like Kenny Rogers spent. He’s happy with his, and I’m happy with mine. The house in the Caribbean cost $50,000—but it’s nice just to walk out on the beach. I’ve also got to spend some time in England. I need to keep up my accent.
How good a father are you to Jade?
I need more practice, but I think I’m pretty good if I’m there. If I’m not there I’m not very good.
How does she react to being Mick Jagger’s daughter?
I think it is kind of disorienting for her because she thinks I am special or something. You try to keep them as normal as possible because they can think they are special, too, because they’ve got a famous father. You have to tell them they’re not different from the other kids in their class. If they are good at their work, then they might be different, but that’s what they have to concentrate on.
How much is Jade like you and how much is she like Bianca?
She’s reasonably extraverted, and she’ll probably be a very good cook. She got that from me. I’m a pretty good cook…as opposed to her mother. I can cook Chinese and French and English food. I do that once or twice a week. I give dinner parties.
Does anything interest you as much as rock ‘n’ roll?
Nothing interests me more. More than sex or anything else. But I also love traveling. Earlier this year I went to India with Jade, and we went pony trekking in the Himalayas for a week.
How often did your girlfriend, Jerry Hall, join you on the road?
She came to Dallas because it was her hometown. Fifty of her family came to the show, and they were all in the press box. I never went up there, but apparently they were a-hootin’ and a-hollerin’ and carryin’ on something unbelievable.
If you were to think of the Stones as a family, what member would you be?
How long can you keep doing this?
I am sure that in four years I can do what I am doing now—probably better if I train hard. I mean it is not very old to be 38. My father was running competitive three miles when he was 38.
Do you worry about being so famous?
No. Fame is like ice cream. It’s only bad if you eat too much.