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26 Years Ago: Mick Jagger Kicks Off His First Solo Tour

With the future of the Rolling Stones’ in limbo, their iconic vocalist Mick Jagger kicked off a solo tour of Japan on March 15, 1988 in support of his second album, ‘Primitive Cool.’

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 towards 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 this generation’s finest virtuosos, Joe Satriani.  In a 2013 interview with Ultimate Classic Rock, Satriani recalls getting the call to play with Jagger at a time when 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. 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.’ 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, 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 their current ‘50 and Counting’ Tour.

Naturally, each of Jagger’s 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 twenty-two song set to his history with the Stones.

The year was an ominous time for the Rolling Stones. Tension between Keith 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 but 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 says, 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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