These shows do mean a lot to us. And they better be good as well. We’ll get our fair share of attention—unless she has another baby or something.
—Mick Jagger, in England
If William Arthur Philip Louis, the future Prince of Wales, was soaking up all the ink in London late last month—along with the Falklands aftermath, a crippling tube strike, England’s World Cup team and Wimbledon—Mick Keith Charlie Ron Bill, the once and future Kings of Rock, weren’t concerned. The Rolling Stones were home for the first time in six years, as part of their eight-week European tour.
There were two sellouts at 72,000-seat Wembley Stadium, northwest of London. Before the second show, on a breezy fall-like Saturday evening, the backstage area outside the stadium became the scene of an unprecedented Stones family gathering of parents, spouses, lovers, children and assorted relatives. The tumultuous homecoming marked the band’s 20th intact year, even though back in 1962 the scruffy punks seemed destined to enter an institution rather than become one. The Stones also are proving to be the only remaining band that can sustain the classic “American-sized” summer tour in Europe. “As long as we’re at it,” Jagger recalls thinking after the band’s ’81 U.S. tour, “why not do Europe?”
Doing it they are—jetting in a lavishly customized Boeing 707, with two complete sets (lights, sound, stage) leapfrogging in 28 semis so the Stones can play any number of consecutive dates. A crew of 130 sets up the stage and keeps order. Tour director Bill Graham says he got a good price for the one million balloons needed to open and close the 40 or so shows.
In rock, the Stones seem now to rule by divine right. There are no other claimants to the throne: Their U.S. tour last fall grossed upward of $50 million. Their 1981 Tattoo You LP was No. 1 in the U.S. for nine weeks; their new live LP from that ’81 tour, Still Life, is headed straight for the top, and release of the concert film, directed by Hal (Coming Home) Ashby, is planned by fall. This must also be the first Stones tour ever not rumored to be their last. As Keith Richards puts it, “We gave the Argies a good bashin’, and when you win a good war, it gives you a boost in morale. We’re even doin’ well in soccer, and the Prince was born and all that crap. Last year was amazing for us, so let’s enjoy this year while we can. It is kind of a new feeling for us to be the band that can do no wrong.”
Jagger limbers up before Wembley. At Gatwick Airport earlier in the week he had delayed the band’s chartered flight to Newcastle to watch the World Cup tie between Scotland and the U.S.S.R. on TV. He’s gone from gauzepajamaed ’70s androgyny to carbohydrate-loading jogging jock. “It’s a long run across that stage,” he says. “I can’t see doin’ it at 38 without being in reasonably good shape.” His voice is maturing, he’s breathing from his diaphragm. “I run three to five miles every other day. My father tells me that’s enough for what I do. I do some weights.” He twists his face impishly. “That’s enough for me. I’m never goin’ to be Mr. Universe at 132 pounds.”
Joseph Jagger, Mick’s dad, is a retired phys ed instructor. He and Eva, Mick’s mom, are milling about with other family members outside Wembley. The atmosphere is relaxed, congenial. Graham’s people have put out the big spread. Dozens of champagne bottles in one tent. The smells of chicken, lamb chops and bangers (spicy sausages) waft off an open grill. Shepherd’s pie and salads. A bar under another tent. Cold fish, cheese, crackers and fresh fruit in a van. The warm gentility of a summer lawn party is sound-tracked by the stinging blues noodling of Keith and Ronnie Wood from the tuning van. Mr. Jagger, a spry man with twinkling eyes, is proud Mick has found fitness at mid-life. “He produces so much energy night after night, it’s great—and you’ve got Charlie Watts thumping out such a beat.”
Keith’s son, Marlon, 12, is spending his summer on tour with his dad. Keith’s mom, Doris, has brought his daughter, Angela, 10, whom she has raised in her London home for six years. (Keith and the kids’ mom, Anita Pallenberg, split years ago; she lives on Long Island.) Mrs. Richards had enjoyed a BBC interview with her son the night before. Keith, 38, had told the interviewer, “Thank God for the Mounties,” who busted him in Toronto in 1977 and indirectly set his heroin rehabilitation in motion. “It’s a shame,” she says, “those 10 years he was on it. I never knew what was going on. I could never get through to him. He’s great now. He wants us all around.”
Traffic to Wembley is so clogged the bus ride from the Stones’ nerve center, a hotel in London’s swanky Knights-bridge, takes almost two hours. Rain streaks the large windows. An elderly man sits silent on the bus, puffing on a pipe, sipping a can of beer as he gazes out. Stocky, short, he seems incongruous, except he is “laminated”—his official all-access tour pass dangles from a clasp on his jacket. “I’m Keith’s dad,” he says softly. A retired London plant foreman, Herbert hadn’t seen his son for 20 years until May. He says like everyone back then, he figured the boys would live out their rock dreams, then find real jobs: “I always told ‘im he should get something else under ‘is belt first. But he done all right, eh?”
“Mick and I just celebrated five years together,” says model Jerry Hall, 26, towering over Eva Jagger, who was escorting relatives from Sydney, Australia. Hall’s Ford Agency tries to book modeling jobs close to the band’s dates. “Mick just bought a ranch next to mine outside Dallas. We have 600 acres now. He’s the greatest boyfriend in the world. He’s so understanding.”
The Rolling Stones gather no rock tour dross. One freakout, a hefty, hysterical girl, had to be subdued by bobbies under the Wembley bleachers. The head of security once landed choppers in the Borneo jungle for the English Army. But there is no goon squad brutality; this is the Chateaubriand of backstage beef. Jagger is aware of potential dangers but shrugs, “Onstage, what can you do? Pray and keep your powder dry.” Celebs pop in and out. John McEnroe arrives from Wimbledon and plays bassist Bill Wyman at Ping-Pong under a tent. Mac wins a close one with nary a tantrum. John Entwistle of The Who comes by. Ex-Stone Mick Taylor is around. Michael Caine, a friend of Wyman and Astrid Lundstrum, his Swedish-born woman, arrives with Mrs. Caine, Shakira, and daughter Natasha, 8. “It’s family day, innit?” Caine says. “This is my girl’s first rock concert. Now she’ll want to go backstage and meet the stars every time.” Wyman, 45, is the most diversified Stone, most against-type offstage. On a train barreling up to Newcastle, he lists his non-Stones interests: a book of photos he did on Marc Chagall, near whom he lived in southern France before recently relocating in London; astronomy (“I can see the rings of Saturn and the moons of Jupiter”); archaeology (“The only digging I do is to get up the potatoes”); a solo rock career; film sound tracks; a projected Broadway musical; an “accurate” journal of his years as a Stone. His life beyond Stonedom has made him “feel serene in myself. Things have been so good for me the last two years.”
Onstage, Jagger’s antics suggest rock satire. Not even a frigid, set-long drizzle in Newcastle’s ancient soccer stadium can slow him down. A chest of hot water is placed onstage for guitarists’ stiffening hands; steam comes off the shirtless, lager-slogged torsos of fans. Jagger’s stage persona fuses graceful T’ai Chi gestures, lurid, queenish facial taunts, an aerobic sort of burlesque and, in parts, someone undergoing electroshock treatment. He’s been reading up on human behavior under the influence of stage fright. “The normal person,” he says, “if you pushed him in front of 100 people, much less 6000, would freak. The whole body chemistry changes out there. Touring is a logistical nightmare—a nightmare. But I love tours. The adrenaline starts to charge when I go and you just have to learn to control it. You certainly don’t need drugs to go on. You really need them sometimes to come down. It takes me five hours—with a few beers. Then I don’t get up until four and a half hours before the next show starts and work up to that peak again.”
On an off-night Keith Richards awakes at 7 p.m., having gone to bed for the first time in three days at 10 a. Within an hour his hearty British breakfast is capped with a tall vodka. Such lesser evils faze no one anymore—not after Richards’ decade on killer junk. Eyeliner gives him a dark, wicked glare. But there’s a wry gentleness about him now too. Keith, in London, is the only Stone staying in a hotel. Mick and Ronnie Wood have rented country homes; Charlie Watts, 41, and Wyman, who moved back from France when the Thatcher government lowered the tax on income to 60 percent, stay in their homes.
Richards’ room is 17 floors over gleaming rows of Georgian town houses. Bathed in stark late evening light, the view is nearly worth the $1,100-a-day tariff for the suite. Staying off, not getting off, junk, Richards says, was the hard part. “When I used to see dealers back on the street, they’d ask, ‘Hey, y’wanna taste?’ and I’d just watch their faces when I could say no. I get a perverse kick out of that. That worked for me.”
What also worked for him was Patti Hansen, the onetime supermodel (now at it again after debuting as an actress in 1981’s They All Laughed). They’ve been together two years. “She took me totally away from all those connections,” he says. “Yeah, she’s made a difference, all right.”
Hansen, standing 30 feet from Keith, is tucked in the scaffolding offstage at Newcastle. She was 9 when Satisfaction was recorded. The Stones are doing You Can’t Always Get What You Want, and Keith is ripping out power chords from his guitar the way some men yank a cord to start a lawnmower. With every gyration and slash onstage, Patti responds with her own writhing, crouching with fists clenched to her neck, squealing, moaning, whooping. When the band stretches out for its mesmeric solo breaks, no more satisfying rock ‘n’ roll moment is imaginable. The telekinetic link between Keith and Patti seems so tight that when he draws on the cigarette dangling from his teeth, one assumes the smoke could sail from her mouth. “I’ve been to so many shows,” she screams over the thundering sound powered from 24 coffin-sized amps stacked behind the Stones’ soaring scrim. “This is one of the few times I really feel like I’m going home with Keith Richards, not just Keith. This band, they’re…they’re so immortal.”