With the exception of the late 20th century epidemic of Elvis sightings, speculation on the end of the Rolling Stones marathon career has become one of the longest running jokes in the entertainment business. And now, following the conclusion of the band's No Security tour at California's San Jose Arena on April 20th, the rumor mill will no doubt start to pump out fresh waves of reports on the band's demise.
I almost hate myself for asking, but could there be any truth to the latest predictions of the band's retirement? Perhaps. For starters, the most recent Rolling Stones release, the live No Security album, was by all means a flop in relation to other works in their catalog. According to a recent industry report, from sales monitor Soundscan, the CD sold a paltry 225,000 copies in the U.S. This is not exactly a robust figure in a climate where a million copies of a record reportedly only allows a band to break even.
Of course, the somewhat dismal showing of the No Security CD could have more to do with the diminishing popularity of the live format than with the Stones themselves. That is, how long can the public be expected to gobble up packages of re-released material for the sake of hearing a few whoops from the audience and the occasional blathering from a band member that accompanies these regurgitations of prior studio tracks. When asked if he had any reservations about the No Security package, Mick Jagger responded, "It would probably have been better not to put anything out at all. But there you go."
And then there's the backlash over the postponement of a string of British tour dates last year after nearly $200,000 of tickets had already been sold. Following a change in tax laws that went into effect in mid March, the Stones learned that they were about to get hit with a £12 million tax liability should they actually play the dates. Hence, they decided to hold off until the next calendar year. As you might expect, the reaction from English fans and press alike was decidedly negative. "It's a pity we didn't do the shows last year," Jagger commented. "It gave the British press a stick to beat us with."
Needless to say, giving rise to a population of scorned fans is not the most effective way to maintain a band's longevity. It's not the first time, however, the world's greatest, and possibly oldest, rock & roll band has received a spate of bad publicity and it probably won't be the last. It's also not the first time that the Stones have released a record that bombed. The infamous Satanic Majesties Request found its way to the cut-out bins way before the first wrinkle ever appeared in Keith Richards' wizened face. The band has been weathering these and other storms for some 35 years and it goes without saying, the Stones are an extraordinarily resilient bunch.
Of course, if you really want to dig you could look to Keith Richard's recent confession about dabbling in the hard stuff again (and we're not talking booze here) as a ominous sign of the band's direction. Of course, history quickly shows us that it takes a whole lot more than a small thing like heroin addiction (or a speeding locomotive) to hold Richards back. The man has proven to be somewhat invincible. A quick blood change and a nice hot shower and Keith's back on top. In fact, you could probably apply this statement to the Rolling Stones in general. They may slow down but they show few signs of stopping.
More Stones on NY Rock: