No matter what kind of music you like, you
have to give credit to the Rolling Stones' current tour as a magnificent
entrepreneurial accomplishment. By the time the tour concludes in a few
weeks, the band is expected to have made in excess of $100 million-not bad
in a year during which other major corporations (and the Rolling Stones are
a corporation) have seen their profits dwindle or disappear entirely. Even
if you're a senior executive of some multinational conglomerate and you
don't like Mick Jagger's voice-or have never heard it-you ought to salute
his management skills and business savvy. The guy could probably run General
As the tour winds down, though, I find myself
thinking not so much about the music, or even about the $100 million, as I
do about the two Ronnies. Time and happenstance can change so many things.
In 1972 there was a British rock band-one of
the best bands I have ever heard-called the Faces. On assignment for Rolling
Stone magazine I went out on tour with them. There was a certain tension in
the band-the lead singer, Rod Stewart, was developing a following of his
own, and his growing fame was threatening to break the band up, which it
On this tour, though, the band was terrific,
and following a concert in Clemson, S.C., a day of rest had been built into
the schedule. Behind the hotel was a lake. Four of us went out in the
afternoon sun and sat on a wooden dock, passing a bottle of brandy back and
forth. There was Stewart, and there were two guitar players from the
band-Ron Wood and Ronnie Lane.
After a while we went back to the hotel
parking lot and divided into teams. We kicked a soccer ball around. It was
Stewart and myself against the two Ronnies. We played until it got dark.
I think about the two Ronnies now; at the
time they knew that the Faces would probably disband. Undoubtedly they
wondered what would happen to them after Stewart went out on his own. Things
couldn't have ended up much more dramatically different for them, it turns
A job opening developed in another band. If
you are employed by, say, General Foods, maybe you're always on the lookout
for a job opening at, say, Coca-Cola. It works the same way in music. The
Rolling Stones had a sudden opening for a guitar player. Ron Wood applied
for the job and got it. Not a bad career move-from the Faces to the Rolling
Stones. That's where he is now, and if you've been following the current
tour you've seen pictures of him on stage.
And Ronnie Lane? I saw a picture of him the
other day, too. After leaving the Faces, Ronnie Lane developed multiple
sclerosis. The picture showed him sitting in his wheelchair. He has lost the
use of his legs, and at the age of 43 weighs 110 pounds.
That's the way life works. Always has-forks
in the road, and the direction is not always yours to choose. It just seems
all the eerier when it happens to rock and rollers, who live in a boys'
world but who are not exempt from life's eternal puzzles. The two Ronnies,
full of brandy and full of energy, playing soccer in the parking lot of a
South Carolina Holiday Inn. . .now one's a Rolling Stone, and perhaps the
other is following the news of the tour.
Might as well end this on a not-so-somber
note. There is a wonderful photo that was taken when the Rolling Stones
first came to the U.S. in 1964. Young and desperate for publicity, the band
members walked out into the middle of Michigan Avenue during a visit to
Chicago. They just stood there until someone took their picture. It was one
way to get noticed.
The other night I was looking at a menu from
a gourmet Chinese restaurant in Chicago. Most of the entrees-Yu Hsiang Pork,
Szechwan Shrimp-bore traditional Oriental descriptions. But one caught my
It was called Beggar's Chicken. "Mick
Jagger's favorite!" the menu said. "Our version is prepared with a
rock cornish hen. An unsusual and unique flavor with many tasty bones to
pick. Last time Mick Jagger dined with us he had two servings."
Who knows. Jagger and his friends certainly
don't have to stand in the middle of traffic anymore in order to be noticed.
The restaurant using his name on its 1989 menu is probably not all that much
different from all the restaurants that, in 1959, displayed framed glossies
of Frank Sinatra on their walls. Everything changes; nothing changes.