Yesterday I had lunch with my friend Pete Rudge whom I’ve known for 45 years, ever since we first encountered one another backstage at a Who gig in 1970. He was their tour manager in those days but in truth he was doing pretty much everything a bona fide manager does, Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp having more or less abdicated their responsibilities for day-to-day administration of the group’s affairs.
Pete went to on become the tour manager for The Rolling Stones, then set up a business in New York and manage Lynyrd Skynyrd, and along the way I worked for him for a while. Then it all went pear-shaped after the LS plane crash, details of which can be found elsewhere in two consecutive postings on Just Backdated, the first linked below: http://justbackdated.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/lynyrd-skynyrd-1977-part-1_28.html
These days Pete manages Il Divo, amongst others, which explains why he was in London to meet with Pete Townshend to discuss marketing plans for the classical version of Quadrophenia that was released earlier this week. Clearly delighted to be working with Townshend again, Pete hasn’t changed much, still full of energy, full of great stories, an old school rock biz pro who’s seen pretty much everything in his time.
In July 1973, just before I took up my post as MM’s US editor, I interviewed Pete Rudge about what it was like to organise a Rolling Stones’ tour, a bit of a challenge in anyone’s book. Here’s the story I wrote, in two parts, today and tomorrow, and bear in mind that we were talking in 1973.
Pete Rudge, photographed in 1973 by MM's photographer Barry Wentzell.
“The Royal Family have rung up asking for a quote on their next official tour of the Commonwealth,” joked Pete Rudge after he’d spent the best part of two hours explaining how he’s managed to get The Rolling Stones on the road this autumn. Whether or not Rudge has the skill to organise a Royal tour is debatable, but a tour by The Rolling Stones – rock’s equivalent of royalty – doesn’t fall that short in terms of security, travel problems and general organisation. And while there’s a man in charge of each particular aspect of the tour, Rudge is the commander-in-chief, a kind of Field Marshall who is answerable for everything if things go wrong.
The whole tour is being set up from the office of 5-1 Productions in New Bond Street. 5-1 is Rudge’s own company, recently formed, and named after a football score line. Wolves, you see, beat Arsenal 5-1 one day last season, and Rudge, a loyal Midlander, never misses a Wolves match if he can help it.
Fast talking, shrewd and fiercely hard when it comes to negotiating business, Rudge’s rise in the world of rock and roll has been nothing short of sensational. A Cambridge graduate in history, he left college to work for Kit Lambert and Track Records. It wasn’t long before he was running The Who’s tours in Europe and the US, and soon other top acts were clamouring for his services.
While retaining his contacts with The Who, he managed the Stones’ massive US tour last year and took them to Australia last winter. He’s turned down offers from T. Rex and The Faces, and maintains that this latest Stones tour will be his last. In the future he’ll just be the group’s manager and someone else can do the hard work.
“The first thing I do when a group tells me they want a tour organised is to work out with them how long it’s going to be and how much money they will earn,” he says “There are two reasons for doing a tour. It’s either to promote an album or it’s an event. In the case of the Stones it’s both, though we may be taking them behind the Iron Curtain and in this case it’s an event and money is secondary.
“But on a Stones tour money is important. The Rolling Stones haven’t toured Europe for some time, which makes it an event, but at the same time it has to be economical. Fortunately with the Stones we can rely on at least 99 per cent sell-outs, so we can afford to spend money on things that other groups might not be able to afford.
“Hopefully, the Stones are about the best group in the world, or at least the best known, so we have to spend money to make them appear the best. We can afford to spend money on lighting and sound, and we can afford the services of the best road crew available. We’re having sound and lighting men flown in from all over the world to make up the crew on this tour. Also we can afford to have someone like Billy Preston on the tour as a supporting act whereas in most cases Billy Preston would be topping the bill himself.
“And at the end of all the spending we have to work out that there’s a reasonable amount left over for the five boys in the group. A group can make far more money sitting at home writing songs than they ever will going out on the road. But we all think this will be a good tour, like the American one last year. Other groups are still trying to beat that one.”
Ticket prices and audience comfort weigh heavily on Rudge’s mind as in these areas the Stones are more susceptible to criticism than any other band. “A group like the Stones, just because they are the Stones, will be more liable to criticism if something isn’t right. When you have any regular top twenty group charging £2.50 a seat, it gets overlooked by most people because they are not that well known. The Stones are like the Prime Minister. Anything they do will be closely scrutinised by would-be critics.
“The worst thing with so many groups when they go on tour is that they want everything. This is just pointless and a waste of money. We are in a commercial business and we want to earn money. The Stones have the right to earn money, but not at the expense of the public or at the expense of the people who work for them.”
There is a 20 page contract to sign on the Stones’ forthcoming tour. While the bulk of the contract includes relatively mundane and obvious clauses about billing, stage size and facilities that the promoter of each concert must provide, there are intriguing clauses too.
A promoter, for example, must provide at least 50 of his own security men at each concert, he must provide a make-up room with at least 12 towels and bars of soap, there must be no discrimination on grounds of sex, religion, race or age when it comes to selling tickets, there must be a doctor available 24 hours a day, there must be five limousines provided (at the promoter’s expense) for the benefit of the group, the promoter must provide 10 dozen red roses for the group and supply a complete list of first class restaurants in the town together with details of which restaurants provide a private room.
Even more interesting is an accompanying note which details the refreshment requirements in the dressing room. Each promoter is advised to supply two bottles of whisky, two bottles of bourbon, two bottle of tequila, three bottles of iced white wine, one bottle of brandy, one bottle of vodka, one coffee liqueur, a gallon of apple juice and orange juice and a supply of mixes, cokes and ice. Fresh fruit, cold cuts, good cheeses, and Alka-Seltzer are also on the list.
A note with this list of requirements adds ruefully that, “It would be very strange to see Keith Richards on top form without the company of a good tequila.”