The Rolling Stones American Tour 1981
|Tour by The Rolling Stones|
|Associated album||Tattoo You|
|Start date||25 September 1981|
|End date||19 December 1981|
|Number of shows||50|
|Box office||US $52 million ($135.35 in 2016 dollars)|
|The Rolling Stones concert chronology|
The Rolling Stones' American Tour 1981 was a concert tour of stadiums and arenas in the United States to promote the album Tattoo You. It was the largest grossing tour of 1981 with $50 million in ticket sales. Roughly three million concert goers attended the concerts, setting various ticket sales records.
Initially, lead singer Mick Jagger was not interested in another tour, but guitarists Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood were, as were elements of the press and public, and Jagger eventually relented. As with previous tours, the American Tour 1981 was promoted by Bill Graham.
In mid-1981, the band began rehearsals for the tour at Studio Instrument Rentals (SIR) at West 52nd Street and 8th Avenue in Manhattan's Hell's Kitchen, the site of the former Cheetah Club. The Stones pre-opened the tour with a warm-up show at the Sir Morgan's Cove club in Worcester, Massachusetts on 14 September. Though billed as Little Boy Blue & The Cockroaches, word got out and some 11,000 fans pushed and shoved outside the 300-person venue. The Mayor of Boston Kevin H. White stopped the notion of any further public rehearsals, saying "The appearance here of Mr. Jagger is not necessarily in the public interest."
The tour's elaborate and colorful stage was the work of Japanese designer Kazuhide Yamazaki. According to Mick Jagger, "Most concerts that took place outdoors at the time were played during the day, probably because it was cheaper, I don't know. So we had the bright, bright primary colours... and we had these enormous images of a guitar, a car and a record—an Americana idea—which worked very well for afternoon shows." Most shows later in the tour featured a cherry picker and the release of hundreds of balloons at the show's end. During the Los Angeles Coliseum stops on the tour, the band played a Friday and Sunday show and USC had a football game in between on Saturday. As a televised football game, viewers could see the full stage set-up and often field goals would land on stage at the East end zone. Two of the three opening bands, George Thorogood, and The J Geils Band were received well, but the third act, a still somewhat unknown Prince barely got through two songs before being booed off the stage.
The 1981 Tour was the largest grossing tour of not only 1981, but for several years to come. The tour grossed $50 million in ticket sales when the average ticket price was $16. Roughly three million concert goers attended the concerts. The Stones set many ticket sales records that remain to this day unbroken. The ticket sales for Philadelphia's JFK Stadium shows received nearly 4 million request via post cards for tickets (a ticket selling method used at the time to prevent scalping); requests for the five arena shows in the New York metropolitan area were in the millions. The New York Times stated that, "The tour is expected to be the most profitable in the history of rock & roll; its sheer size has been staggering...ticket requests for these shows ran into the millions..." The tour indeed did turn out to be profitable: the Stones were estimated to have reaped about $22 million after expenses.
The 1981 Tour also was an early milestone for the rock tour industry by selling advertising rights to Jōvan Musk. Jōvan paid $1 million to put their name on Rolling Stones tickets. This attracted considerable attention in the business media, as Jōvan's image of a pleasant fragrance was at complete odds with the Stones' bad boys image. But the Stones behaved well on tour, and rock tour corporate sponsorships soon became the norm.
In another marketing first, the 18 December performance at Virginia's Hampton Coliseum was broadcast as "The World's Greatest Rock'n'Roll Party," on pay-per-view and in closed circuit cinemas. It was the first such use of pay-per-view for a music event. Guitarist Keith Richards memorably hit a manic fan who ran onstage with his guitar.
Another notable performance during the tour was the 14 December performance at Kansas City's Kemper Arena. Previous Stones lead guitarist Mick Taylor joined the band for a large part of the performance. Ronnie Wood was not happy with Taylor's appearance, however: "[He was] bulldozing through parts of songs that should have been subtle, ignoring breaks and taking uninvited solos." Other guests during the tour were Tina Turner (who would sing "Honky Tonk Women"), Lee Allen, Chuck Leavell, and Sugar Blue.
In general, there was less backstage madness on the 1981 Tour than on many previous outings. This was largely due to Keith Richards having overcome his well-known drugs and alcohol problems; The New York Times wrote of Richards that, "He looks healthy, he is playing brilliantly and his backup vocals are often so lusty that they drown out Mr. Jagger, who is working harder to hold up his end of things as result."
Several of the concerts throughout the tour were captured and selected songs were released on the 1982 live album Still Life. A Hal Ashby-directed concert film was also made from the tour, Let's Spend the Night Together, which grossed $50 million. Possibly due to the film most of the shows on this tour ended up being professionally recorded. To bootleggers there are currently 35 of the regular 50 shows from this tour in which more than half of the concert is available directly from the soundboard.
This was the last tour of the United States the Stones would do until 1989.
The Rolling Stones
- Mick Jagger - lead vocals, guitar
- Keith Richards - guitar, vocals
- Ronnie Wood - guitar, backing vocals
- Bill Wyman - bass
- Charlie Watts - drums
- Ian Stewart - piano
- Ian McLagan - keyboards, backing vocals
- Ernie Watts - saxophone
- Bobby Keys - saxophone
The usual set list was:
- "Under My Thumb"
- "When the Whip Comes Down"
- "Let's Spend the Night Together"
- "Black Limousine"
- "Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)"
- "Down The Road Apiece" (played 26–27 September; 3, 5 & 9 November)
- "Mona" (played only 26 September)
- "Twenty-Flight Rock"
- "Going to a Go-Go" (first played 3 November)
- "Let Me Go"
- "Time Is on My Side"
- "Beast of Burden"
- "Waiting on a Friend"
- "Let It Bleed"
- "Tops" (Played 25 & 27 September, and 3 October)
- "You Can't Always Get What You Want"
- "Little T&A"
- "Tumbling Dice"
- "She's So Cold"
- "All Down The Line" (Only Played 18 Times)
- "Hang Fire"
- "Star Star" (Only Played 10 Times)
- "Miss You"
- "Honky Tonk Women"
- "Brown Sugar"
- "Start Me Up"
- "Jumpin' Jack Flash"
- "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" (played 25 September; 3 & 11 October until end of tour) [Encore]
- "Street Fighting Man" (played from 25 September-9 October and 26 October) [Encore]
For the first dozen or so shows most of the set list was moved around to find the most comfortable feel for the concerts.
- "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love"
- "Mona (I Need You Baby)"
- "Under My Thumb"
- "When The Whip Comes Down"
- "Down the Road Apiece"
- "Let It Bleed"
- "I Just Want To Make Love To You"
- "She's So Cold"
- "Hang Fire"
- "All Down The Line"
- "Honky Tonk Women"
- "Start Me Up"
- "Sympathy for the Devil"
- "Jumpin' Jack Flash"
Beyond the first five shows "Tops" and "Mona" were not played (though neither were ever played on the same night, they did not occupy the same location in the set list). Up until the shows in New Jersey "Down the Road Apiece" and "Street Fighting Man" both made a few appearances. "Star Star" was added into the set for every gig in between and including Boulder and both Orlando shows (with the sole exception of the second show in Boulder). "All Down the Line" was played 18 times in the first 24 regular gigs. The six exclusions were the first 4 regular shows and the 2 first shows in November.
|Date||City||Country||Venue||Tickets Sold/Available||Box Office|
|25 September 1981||Philadelphia||United States||John F. Kennedy Stadium||181,564 / 181,564 (100%)||$2,859,633|
|26 September 1981|
|27 September 1981||Orchard Park||Ralph Wilson Stadium||75,000 / 75,000 (100%)||$1,125,000|
|1 October 1981||Rockford||Rockford MetroCentre||—||—|
|3 October 1981||Boulder||Folsom Field||120,000 / 120,000 (100%)||$1,920,000|
|4 October 1981|
|7 October 1981||San Diego||Jack Murphy Stadium||70,000 / 70,000 (100%)||$1,050,000|
|9 October 1981||Los Angeles||Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum||—||—|
|11 October 1981|
|14 October 1981||Seattle||Kingdome||—||—|
|15 October 1981|
|17 October 1981||San Francisco||Candlestick Park||135,000 / 135,000 (100%)||$2,092,500|
|18 October 1981|
|24 October 1981||Orlando||Tangerine Bowl||121,000 / 121,000 (100%)||$1,887,600|
|25 October 1981|
|26 October 1981||Atlanta||Fox Theatre||—||—|
|28 October 1981||Houston||Astrodome||65,000 / 65,000 (100%)||$1,202,500|
|29 October 1981|
|31 October 1981||Dallas||Cotton Bowl||156,000 / 156,000 (100%)||$2,695,332|
|1 November 1981|
|3 November 1981||Louisville||Freedom Hall||18,210 / 18,210 (100%)||$287,540|
|5 November 1981||East Rutherford||Brendan Byrne Arena||61,035 / 61,035 (100%)||$943,782|
|6 November 1981|
|7 November 1981|
|9 November 1981||Hartford||Hartford Civic Center||—||—|
|10 November 1981|
|12 November 1981||New York City||Madison Square Garden||—||—|
|13 November 1981|
|16 November 1981||Cleveland||Richfield Coliseum||—||—|
|17 November 1981|
|19 November 1981||St. Louis||Checkerdome||18,770 / 18,770 (100%)||$302,313|
|20 November 1981||Cedar Falls||UNI-Dome||24,000 / 24,000 (100%)||$368,156|
|21 November 1981||Saint Paul||St. Paul Civic Center||—||—|
|23 November 1981||Rosemont||Rosemont Horizon||55,230 / 55,230 (100%)||$822,740|
|24 November 1981|
|25 November 1981|
|27 November 1981||Syracuse||Carrier Dome||—||—|
|28 November 1981|
|30 November 1981||Pontiac||Pontiac Silverdome||152,696 / 152,696 (100%)||$2,290,000|
|1 December 1981|
|5 December 1981||New Orleans||Louisiana Superdome||87,500 / 87,500 (100%)||$1,531,250|
|7 December 1981||Landover||Capital Centre||54,765 / 54,765 (100%)||$876,826|
|8 December 1981|
|9 December 1981|
|11 December 1981||Lexington||Rupp Arena||—||—|
|13 December 1981||Tempe||Sun Devil Stadium||74,637 / 74,637 (100%)||$1,287,488|
|14 December 1981||Kansas City||Kemper Arena||—||—|
|15 December 1981|
|18 December 1981||Hampton||Hampton Coliseum||—||—|
|19 December 1981|
- Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved November 10, 2015.
- Robert Palmer (1981-11-04). "The Stones Roll On, Refusing to Become Show-Business Slick". The New York Times.
- Sandford, Christopher (2003). Mick Jagger: Rebel Knight. Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-7119-9833-7. p. 276.
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