Stone groovy: Dish from a 'Bang'-up summer

Sure, the concerts are the main event on the Rolling Stones tour, but there have been plenty of "sideshows" since the concert was announced in May. Here, plucked from various media sources, are some highlights from the Summer of Stones.


*On May 10, in a scene repeated in select cities all over America, local officials announce that the Rolling Stones are coming to town. In Charlottesville, the smallest city on the "Bigger Bang" tour, the calm chief executive of UVA, Leonard Sandridge, helms the proceedings– while a live video feed of the band plays and a giant tongue banner waves from the Lincoln Center in New York City. Some at the press conference find the juxtaposition amusing.

"They have Leonard Sandridge– Mr. Sedate– with this giant Rolling Stones tongue behind him," laughs frequent television commentator and UVA prof Larry Sabato.


*In early August, controversy erupts when Newsweek reveals that one of the songs on the forthcoming album is titled "Sweet Neocon," an unveiled attack on George W. Bush and his administration. "You call yourself a Christian, I call you a hypocrite," goes one verse. "You call yourself a patriot. Well, I think you're full of sh**!" That's too much for two Virginia Beach residents who are so upset that they start a petition to change their street name, Jagger Court, according to WTKR News.


*Mick Jagger also criticizes British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his policy in Iraq during a September 11 interview with El País in Spain. Jagger is "shocked" by Blair's attitude toward Iraq, and expresses doubts the Stones will ever perform in Baghdad.


*Just a day later, in an interview with the New York Post, Jagger reverses and says that he'd "absolutely" be willing to perform for the hard-working troops in Iraq– if they'd have him. "To be honest," Jagger notes, "the troops would probably be more interested in seeing a lot of pretty girls than us."


*In mid-August, just a week before the tour begins, another dust-up flares– this time in Germany. Time magazine reports that the odds-on favorite in the upcoming government elections, Angela Merkel, is playing the Stones 1973 hit, "Angie," at her campaign rallies. And the Stones are not happy with that news. Merkel, however, is undeterred, despite the famous line in the song: "Angie, you're beautiful, but ain't it time we said good-bye?"


*The opening night of the concert tour is marred by a bizarre incident involving Claire O'Leary, 20, of Westport, Connecticut, who climbs into the rafters of Boston's famed Fenway Park only to fall 35-40 feet to the seats below. According to the Boston Globe, she suffers two broken ankles and a broken wrist, but amazingly, no one else is injured in the August 21 incident. Police file an application to bring criminal charges for disturbing a public assembly. Security is increased for the second Fenway show two days later.


*On September 8, the Rolling Stones donate $1 million to Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, according to a band release.


*A letter by the Rolling Stones receives "no satisfaction" at an English auction house in early September. The letter, signed by all five original Stones, including the late Brian Jones, brings a high bid of just £950, according to BBC News, far below the expected £4,600. It's a thank-you letter to British police for providing security at a 1964 concert in London. As most Stones fans know, the band's security choice led to tragedy five years later during the infamous 1969 free concert at the Altamont Speedway, outside of Oakland. California. There, the Stones hired the Hell's Angels to provide security with knives and pool cues. Violence escalated near the stage, and Gimme Shelter filmmakers caught footage of the Hell's Angels stabbing a concertgoer to death.


*Following the two tour-opening Rolling Stones gigs in Fenway Park, the Boston Red Sox order 40,000 square feet of sod to repair damage to the turf, according to the Boston Herald. The field is in shape for the August 26 game against the Detroit Tigers.


*In August, the commercial-friendly band agrees to a deal with the National Football League that will put Stones songs and images into NFL football broadcasts. On September 1, the Detroit Free Press reports that the Rolling Stones will perform at the Super Bowl halftime show in February. The Super Bowl, the 40th of the ratings-topping sports event, will kick off at Detroit's Ford Field.


*Three weeks before the official album release, the band begins selling three tracks from A Bigger Bang through iTunes and other official download sites. Fans can download "Rough Justice," "Streets Of Love," and the bluesy rocker, "Back of my Hand." British newspapers report that the whole album– not just those three songs– was illegally posted online before its official release date of September 6.


*In its early September review of the new album, E! Online gushes: "The combined age of the Rolling Stones is now something like 245, which puts them ahead of current rock hell-raisers My Chemical Romance by, oh, about 199 years. But you wouldn't tell listening to A Bigger Bang, the band's 22nd studio album and best in nearly as many years."


*The music magazine whose name bears an eerie resemblance to the band from Britain cranks up the rhapsodizes: "Let's just get this out of the way: A Bigger Bang isn't a good Rolling Stones album considering their age. It isn't a good Rolling Stones album compared to their recent work. No, A Bigger Bang is just a straight-up, damn fine Rolling Stones album, with no qualifiers or apologies necessary for the first time in a few decades.


*Reviews of the concert come in equally strong. The Hollywood Reporter gives a thumbs-up to the September 13 Stones show at Madison Square Garden. "The Stones," according to reviewer Frank Scheck, "made the vast arena feel as intimate as a club."


*"Stones can't displace hip-hoppers." That's the headline in the September 15 L.A. Times, which notes that A Bigger Bang debuts at number 3 on American charts. Kanye West's Late Registration, in its second week on the charts, holds the top spot with a new deluxe version of 50 Cent's March release, The Massacre. According to Billboard, A Bigger Bang sold 129,000 copies its first week, slightly below industry estimates of 135,000-150,000 copies.


*No "sticky fingers" here. In a feature published September 11 in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, brain surgeon Don Penney of Lawrenceville, Georgia, reveals that he plays rock songs at high volume while cutting open scalps. With the patient anesthetized and the reporter present, a surgical assistant begins cranking "Sympathy for the Devil."


*It's long since been revealed that Johnny Depp modeled his portrayal of Captain Jack Sparrow in Disney's rollicking Pirates of the Caribbean on Keith Richards, but in early September, blogs are agog over unattributed reports that Richards has backed out of the sequel– in which he was to play Sparrow's father. Neither Richards nor Depp publicly comments on the reports.