The Stones Keep Rolling On

by Lee Habeeb – For the 50th-anniversary tour, certain accommodations need to be made.

I hope I die before I get old,” wrote Pete Townshend in 1965. It turns out that the Rolling Stones don’t just refuse to get old — they refuse to stop touring.

The band announced, then postponed, and then re-announced new tour plans, assuring fans they’ll be on the road in 2012–2013 to celebrate their 50th anniversary.

But there’s a new twist: This tour will take into account the aging nature of the band, and of its fans. Indeed, the new tour, tentatively called the Steel Wheelchairs tour, was delayed because of technical and health issues involved in doing live events with such an old audience, and such old musicians. “This tour is different from others we’ve done,” the band’s promoter explained.

How different? For openers, the Steel Wheelchairs tour will not be playing big stadiums, but smaller arenas and theaters. “Half our fans are dead, and the other half are on Medicare,” the Stones’ business manager explained. “They can’t fill up stadiums they way they used to. Heck, they can’t make it up the stairs the way they used to.”

Dozens of other accommodations are being planned in order to make the experience “geezer friendly,” according to the tour spokesman. The concerts will begin at 5:00 p.m. sharp, with no opening acts, and there will be a half-dozen set breaks for naps and diaper changes.

There will be jumbotrons everywhere so fans can see the show, and lyrics will appear on the screens in large type so they can sing along. “It will be like one big karaoke night,” the tour’s marketing director revealed, “and you know how much old people love karaoke.”

The concession stands will not serve alcohol of any kind, and chili dogs, soft pretzels, and hard candies will be replaced with snacks that are denture friendly, and approved by the Irritable Bowel Syndrome Society. Pureed organic vegetables, baked chicken strips from free-range birds, fruit cups, and tropical-flavored Jellos are on the menu, according to a concert caterer. “The last thing we want to do is get the fans’ stomachs riled up,” she told me. “That would make for an unpleasant concert experience for everyone.” Extra portable toilets will be available in case there is a run on the facilities, she added.

Gone are old Stones sponsors like Budweiser. New sponsors include the Scooter Store, Metamucil, and AARP. The tour is still negotiating with a prominent catheter maker and with the company that produces The Clapper.

Health security is the tour’s overriding concern. Dozens of emergency kiosks will be scattered around the venues, staffed by an army of EMTs. There will be self-service defibrillators and oxygen tanks at every aisle.

Given the band’s age, no one expects there to be issues with groupies, the band’s personal concierge explained, let alone drugs — unless one takes into account the dizzying array of pharmaceuticals dispensed daily to the band. “Unlike the old days, when drugs were a problem for the guys, this tour will depend on drugs to go off without any problems,” the band’s pharmacist explained. “It’s like a Walgreens on wheels,” he added, describing the medical bus that will accompany the tour.

And there won’t be any need for the Hells Angels to protect the Stones from wild audiences. “This ain’t exactly Altamont,” a tour security adviser told me. “Think Woodstock, but filled with folks who live in The Villages.”

Departing from tradition, the Stones decided to announce their set list early. “We don’t want any surprises,” explained the tour’s medical director. “Old people hate surprises, so we hate them too.”

And then there’s the music. The tour’s artistic director explained that the musical selections reflect the real-life changes the band has experienced. “This is something the guys have been thinking about,” she told me. “Songs that made sense when they were younger — like ‘Satisfaction’ and ‘Street Fighting Man’ — don’t make sense now.”

“Who wants to hear a bunch of septuagenarians sing about sex and rebellion?” she added. “It’s really . . . gross.”

The Stones were inspired by the late Johnny Cash, who decided not to run from his old age, but to embrace it. So the Stones went into the studio and reworked some of their classics.

Here are a few of those reworked hits, with the old titles first, followed by the new ones:

“When the Whip Comes Down” / “When the Hip Goes Down”

“Brown Sugar” / “Brown Splenda”

“Start Me Up” / “Help Me Up”

“Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday” / “Hello, Blueplate Thursday

“(Hey, hey you) Get Off of My Cloud” / “(Hey, you kids) Get Out of My Yard”

“The Girl with the Faraway Eyes” / “The Girl with the Hairs on Her Chin”

“Midnight Rambler” / “Early Bird Scrambler”

“She’s So Cold” / “She’s So Old”

“Honky Tonk Women” / “Bingo Parlor Women”

“Waitin’ on a Friend” / “Waitin’ on the End”

A last-minute press release by the band ended with some heartfelt words from Mick Jagger. Gone was the Jagger swagger, replaced by humility and gratitude. “We’re as surprised as anyone that we can still perform,” read Jagger’s statement. “And even more surprised that anyone wants to watch us.”

— Lee Habeeb is the vice president of content at Salem Radio Network, which syndicates Bill Bennett, Mike Gallagher, Dennis Prager, Michael Medved, and Hugh Hewitt.

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8 years ago

I wonder if Mick is rethinking his sympathy for the devil.

Jan Achay
8 years ago

SPEAK FOR YOURSELVES!!!!!! We are not all old and falling apart! We are Stone fans to hear Stones music!!! Its called….feeling good and remembering good times past! Keep it comin’ Mick!

8 years ago

Perhaps a quote from a Stones song such as “I can’t get no satisfaction”, might have been more appropriate than a Pete Townshend quote?

Chuck Kreshok
8 years ago

The Stones were there for me growing up, And i’ll be there for them as I get old, Long live the Stones.

8 years ago

Frankly, I wish some of these old rockers had ever grown up as they aged. I wonder if Alice Cooper is still performing “I’m Eighteen (and I Love it)”?

For any of the old stuff I want to hear, I’ll stay home and listen to digitally remastered recordings while having pleasant memories rather than experiencing new discomforts.

Great satire, though!

Paul Yannucci
8 years ago

I am sixty-three years old and I wish people would stop making unsolicited decissions for me. I happen to like Satisfaction and I am still doing it. I have a wife twenty-one years younger than I and today my youngest daughter turns three years old. Let the Stones be the Stones and do what they do best. Thats the reason they have lasted so long and we still enjoy them. I hope to be able to see one of their shows when they come ato my area.

J. Tucker Neilson, MD, FACP
8 years ago

The Beach Boys just did a 50th anniversary tour and it was great. I think the stones, followed by every great survining sixties band is a must.

John Robben
8 years ago

Funny article, I still like hearing the 60s and 70s bands perform. However it’s interestign that you started the article about teh Stones with a quote from Pete Townsend of The Who, another great early rock n roll band.

R. Blake
8 years ago
Reply to  John Robben

That’s exactly what I was wondering, John.

Kent Cerrone
8 years ago
Reply to  John Robben

Maybe he just had a senior moment as well.

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