30 Years Ago: Mick Jagger Kicks Off First Solo Tour
The eight-show tour marked the first time that any member of the Rolling Stones had visited the country following the group’s aborted 1973 tour, scrapped due to drug-related visa problems. Despite the 15-year absence from the country, the Rolling Stones' dedicated Japanese fans apparently held no ill will toward Jagger. The dates -- which consisted of four performances in Osaka, two in Tokyo and two in Nagoya -- sold out in a matter of hours. Over the course of the eight shows, Jagger performed in front of approximately 170,000 fans. Ticket prices for the performances averaged 6,500 yen each – approximately $50 in 1988 dollars.
Of particular note on these shows were the band backing Jagger: On guitar, you had one of the generation’s best players, Joe Satriani. The opportunity came at a critical time for Satriani, as he noted in a 2013 interview with Ultimate Classic Rock, because his solo career wasn’t exactly a hot commodity.
“All of a sudden I get this call out of the blue and my tour wasn’t going very well," he said. "It was really rough. Two shows a night [in] small clubs, we were losing money and it was just insane. Then I get this improbable call and I get the gig, and I realize that I haven’t thought about playing these [Rolling Stones] songs in ages. Luckily, there was another guitar player in the band [Jimmy Ripp] whose position was to be Keith Richards, basically.
“So it took a little bit of pressure [off], and Mick said to me, 'Oh, just play however you want to play — that’s fine. Don’t worry about that. Just be yourself,'" Satriani remembered. "He was a great, unbelievable career booster and gave me carte blanche to use anybody on the staff to help promote the album anywhere we were in the world and it was really fantastic, and he gave me a solo spot in the show as well.”
Also in Jagger’s band at the time was future Living Colour bassist Doug Wimbish, drummer Simon Phillips (who had also played with Judas Priest and Toto, among others), along with a group of background singers that included Bernard Fowler and Carol Kenyon. Fowler’s relationship with Jagger began as a background vocalist on Jagger’s 1985 solo debut She’s The Boss. Since then, he's worked with the Stones on virtually every group and solo project, including the recent 50 and Counting Tour.
Naturally, early Japanese shows relied heavily upon the Rolling Stones catalog. Included in that were a number of songs like "Bitch" and "Gimme Shelter," which the Stones had not been actively playing live at the time. (The tour also featured Jagger covering the Jimi Hendrix classic "Foxey Lady.") But, by the time that Jagger’s tour found its way to Tokyo’s Korakuen Stadium, Jagger was performing only six songs from his two solo records -- leaving the balance of the 22-song set to his history with the Stones.
That served to underscore what an ominous time this was for the Rolling Stones. Tension between Richards and Jagger was high, namely because Jagger chose to focus on his solo career rather than undertake a Stones tour behind their 1986 record Dirty Work.
In a late-1988 interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Jagger didn’t rule out the possibility of reconciling with the Stones. Still, he admitted that even he wasn’t sure what the future held.
"If the Stones go on stuttering and not really starting, then obviously I'll have to ..." he said, trailing off. "Now that I've got the taste of playing onstage again, I'll carry on doing it. If the Stones start up again and everything is a great, fun, pleasurable success, then I won't do so much of it. Who knows?"
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