Thursday, February 16, 2006

Stones prove they're great

There was some grousing about the Rolling Stones half time performance at the Super Bowl earlier this month. They're too old, they don't represent the musical tradition of Detroit, the sound was bad, etc.

But, actually, the National Football League couldn't have done better. They booked the "world's greatest rock 'n' roll band." They can prove it, too. Judging by their revenue from compact disc and ticket sales in the U. S. during 2005, the Stones are tops. According to a tally generated by Forbes Magazine using data from Soundscan (CD sales) and Pollstar (ticket sales), the Stones earned $168 million last year. The Irish rock band U2 took second place with $150 million.

Regarding the age factor, however, it can't be denied Mick Jagger is 62. But, the Stones vocalist has lost little of his ability to command the stage. Band mates Keith Richard, 62; Ron Wood, 58; and Charlie Watts, 64; demand attention, too. The sound at Ford Field was poor and 12 minutes probably isn't enough time to fire up a crowd.

The Stones filled that brief time with "Start Me Up," a huge hit from 1981; "Rough Justice," the opening track from their new album; and "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," their number one smash dating from the pre-Super Bowl days of 1965. They probably didn't spend much time rehearsing, either. After all, they've been playing two of those songs for decades.

"Satisfaction," came early in the set list when my wife Sue and I saw the Stones at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing on Sept. 9, 1994 during their Voodoo Lounge World Tour. Almost everything about the show was huge: the stage, the crowd; the songs, the special effects, the lighting. Put your index finger about an inch away from your thumb and that's how tall Jagger and the boys were, however. But, there was a video screen, so the show could be enjoyed even by those in remotest parts of the stadium.

Your core Stones were joined on stage by keyboardist Chuck Leavell, who was a member of the Allman Brothers Band, and bass player Darryl Jones. Bill Wyman, the Stones' original bassist quit the group prior to this tour.

Just like nearly everyone else in the crowd, we were excited to hear the Stones perform our favorite songs live. They tore through their hits "Honky Tonk Women," "Brown Sugar," "Street Fighting Man," "Miss You" and tracks from Voodoo Lounge, which won a Grammy for best rock album. They played two dozen tracks in all and capped off the night with "Jumpin' Jack Flash," amid explosions and fireworks.

The memorable concert tour took dozens of people to pull off, including --although we didn't know it at the time--someone from the Upper Peninsula. Marquette's Chuch (pronounced Chooch) Magee was their road manager. Magee started his career as sound engineer for Ron Wood's 1974 release "I've Got My Own Album to Do." He then did Stones tours as a guitar and drum technician. In 1989 he was named by Performance Magazine as "Road Technician of the Year." Then, in 1994 a readers poll recognized his leadership of the world's "Best Road Crew."

On July 18, 2002 Magee, 54, was attending Stones rehearsals in Toronto when he suffered a fatal heart attack. The Stones were devastated to lose someone in their inner circle and showed it.

The veteran British band flew into Sawyer International Airport outside Marquette to attend the July 24 funeral services. Arriving at 2 p.m., they hit the bar at the Landmark Inn, ordering designer coffees. By 5 p. m. they were at Messiah Lutheran Church for the memorial service. There, they played and sang "Amazing Grace" for their friend Chuch. They left shortly after, seeking no publicity, even though they were to begin a world tour in just a few weeks.

Actually, the word "amazing" is an ideal word to describe the Stones. Even after all these years they continue to prove they're still the "world's greatest rock 'n' roll band."

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