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The Rolling Stones American Tour 1981

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Title: The Rolling Stones American Tour 1981  
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Subject: The Rolling Stones Irish Tour 1965, 2000 Light Years from Home, Waiting on a Friend, Anybody Seen My Baby?, Hang Fire
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The Rolling Stones American Tour 1981

The Rolling Stones American Tour 1981
Tour by The Rolling Stones
Associated album Tattoo You
Start date 25 September 1981
End date 19 December 1981
Legs 1
Shows 50
Box office US $52 million ($134.89 in 2015 dollars)[1]
The Rolling Stones concert chronology
US Tour
American Tour
European Tour

The Rolling Stones' American Tour 1981 was a concert tour of stadiums and arenas in the United States to promote the album Tattoo You. It was the largest grossing tour of 1981 with $50 million in ticket sales. Roughly three million concert goers attended the concerts, setting various ticket sales records.[2]


Initially, lead singer Mick Jagger was not interested in another tour, but guitarists Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood were, as were elements of the press and public, and Jagger eventually relented.[3] As with previous tours, the American Tour 1981 was promoted by Bill Graham.

In mid-1981, the band began rehearsals for the tour at Studio Instrument Rentals (SIR) at West Worcester, Massachusetts on 14 September.[4] Though billed as Little Boy Blue & The Cockroaches, word got out and some 11,000 fans pushed and shoved outside the 300-person venue.[4] The Mayor of Boston stopped the notion of any further public rehearsals, saying "The appearance here of Mr. Jagger is not necessarily in the public interest."[4]

The tour's elaborate and colorful stage was the work of Japanese designer The J Geils Band were received well, but the third act, a still somewhat unknown Prince barely got through two songs before being booed off the stage.

The 1981 Tour was the largest grossing tour of not only 1981, but for several years to come. The tour grossed $50 million in ticket sales when the average ticket price was $16. Roughly three million concert goers attended the concerts. The Stones set many ticket sales records that remain to this day unbroken. The ticket sales for Philadelphia's JFK Stadium shows received nearly 4 million request via post cards for tickets (a ticket selling method used at the time to prevent scalping); requests for the five arena shows in the New York metropolitan area were in the millions.[2] The New York Times stated that, "The tour is expected to be the most profitable in the history of rock & roll; its sheer size has been staggering...ticket requests for these shows ran into the millions..."[2] The tour indeed did turn out to be profitable: the Stones were estimated to have reaped about $22 million after expenses.[7]

The 1981 Tour also was an early milestone for the rock tour industry by selling advertising rights to Jōvan Musk.[8] Jōvan paid $1 million to put their name on Rolling Stones tickets.[9] This attracted considerable attention in the business media, as Jōvan's image of a pleasant fragrance was at complete odds with the Stones' bad boys image.[10] But the Stones behaved well on tour, and rock tour corporate sponsorships soon became the norm.[10]

In another marketing first, the 18 December performance at Virginia's Hampton Coliseum was broadcast as "The World's Greatest Rock'n'Roll Party," on pay-per-view and in closed circuit cinemas.[11] It was the first such use of pay-per-view for a music event. Guitarist Keith Richards memorably hit a manic fan who ran onstage with his guitar.

Another notable performance during the tour was the 14 December performance at Kansas City's Kemper Arena. Previous Stones lead guitarist Mick Taylor joined the band for a large part of the performance.[11] Ronnie Wood was not happy with Taylor's appearance, however: "[He was] bulldozing through parts of songs that should have been subtle, ignoring breaks and taking uninvited solos."[7] Other guests during the tour were Tina Turner (who would sing "Honky Tonk Women"), Lee Allen, Chuck Leavell, and Sugar Blue.[11]

In general, there was less backstage madness on the 1981 Tour than on many previous outings.[2] This was largely due to Keith Richards having overcome his well-known drugs and alcohol problems;[2] The New York Times wrote of Richards that, "He looks healthy, he is playing brilliantly and his backup vocals are often so lusty that they drown out Mr. Jagger, who is working harder to hold up his end of things as result."[2] This was the last tour to feature Ian Stewart on piano and the last tour that did not feature extensive backup musicians and singers onstage.

Several of the concerts throughout the tour were captured and selected songs were released on the 1982 live album Still Life (American Concert 1981).[12] A Hal Ashby-directed concert film was also made from the tour, Let's Spend the Night Together, which grossed $50 million.[12] Possibly due to the film most of the shows on this tour ended up being professionally recorded. To bootleggers there are currently 35 of the regular 50 shows from this tour in which more than half of the concert is available directly from the soundboard.

This was the last tour of America The Stones would do until 1989.

Tour band

Additional musicians:

Tour set list

The usual set list was:[11]

  1. "Under My Thumb"
  2. "When the Whip Comes Down"
  3. "Let's Spend the Night Together"
  4. "Shattered"
  5. "Neighbours"
  6. "Black Limousine"
  7. "Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)"
  8. "Down The Road Apiece" (played 26-27 September; 3, 5 & 9 November)
  9. "Mona" (played only 26 September)
  10. "Twenty-Flight Rock"
  11. "Going to a Go-Go" (first played 3 November)
  12. "Let Me Go"
  13. "Time Is on My Side"
  14. "Beast of Burden"
  15. "Waiting on a Friend"
  16. "Let It Bleed"
  17. "Tops" (Played 25 & 27 September, and 3 October)
  18. "You Can't Always Get What You Want"
  19. "Little T&A"
  20. "Tumbling Dice"
  21. "She's So Cold"
  22. "All Down The Line" (Only Played 18 Times)
  23. "Hang Fire"
  24. "Star Star" (Only Played 10 Times)
  25. "Miss You"
  26. "Honky Tonk Women"
  27. "Brown Sugar"
  28. "Start Me Up"
  29. "Jumpin' Jack Flash"
  30. "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" (played 25 September; 3 & 11 October until end of tour) [Encore]
  31. "Street Fighting Man" (played from 25 September-9 October and 26 October) [Encore]

For the first dozen or so shows most of the set list was moved around to find the most comfortable feel for the concerts.

Worcester show

  1. "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love"
  2. "Mona (I Need You Baby)"
  3. "Under My Thumb"
  4. "When The Whip Comes Down"
  5. "Shattered"
  6. "Neighbours"
  7. "Let It Bleed"
  8. "I Just Want To Make Love To You"
  9. "She's So Cold"
  10. "Hang Fire"
  11. "All Down The Line"
  12. "Honky Tonk Women"
  13. "Start Me Up"
  14. "Sympathy for the Devil"
  15. "Jumpin' Jack Flash"

Irregular Songs

Beyond the first five shows "Tops" and "Mona (I Need You Baby)" were not played (though neither were ever played on the same night, they did not occupy the same location in the set list). Up until the shows in New Jersey "Down the Road Apiece" and "Street Fighting Man" both made a few appearances. "Star Star" was added into the set for every gig in between and including Boulder and both Orlando shows (with the sole exception of the second show in Boulder). "All Down the Line" was played 18 times in the first 24 regular gigs. The six exclusions were the first 4 regular shows and the 2 first shows in November.[6]

Tour dates

Date City Country Venue
Pre Tour Concert
14 September 1981 Worcester, Massachusetts United States Sir Morgan's Cove (music nightclub)[13]
USA 1981
25 September 1981 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania John F. Kennedy Stadium
26 September 1981
27 September 1981 Buffalo, New York Rich Stadium
1 October 1981 Rockford, Illinois Metro Center
3 October 1981 Boulder, Colorado Folsom Field
4 October 1981
7 October 1981 San Diego, California Jack Murphy Stadium
9 October 1981 Los Angeles, California Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
11 October 1981
14 October 1981 Seattle, Washington The Kingdome
15 October 1981
17 October 1981 San Francisco, California Candlestick Park
18 October 1981
24 October 1981 Orlando, Florida Tangerine Bowl
25 October 1981
26 October 1981 Atlanta, Georgia Fox Theater
28 October 1981 Houston, Texas Astrodome
29 October 1981
31 October 1981 Dallas, Texas Cotton Bowl
1 November 1981
3 November 1981 Louisville, Kentucky Freedom Hall
5 November 1981 East Rutherford, New Jersey Brendan Byrne Arena
6 November 1981
7 November 1981
9 November 1981 Hartford, Connecticut Hartford Civic Center
10 November 1981
12 November 1981 New York City, New York Madison Square Garden
13 November 1981
16 November 1981 Cleveland, Ohio Richfield Coliseum
17 November 1981
19 November 1981 St. Louis, Missouri Checkerdome
20 November 1981 Cedar Falls, Iowa Unidome
21 November 1981 Saint Paul, Minnesota Civic Center
23 November 1981 Rosemont, Illinois Rosemont Horizon
24 November 1981
25 November 1981
27 November 1981 Syracuse, New York Carrier Dome
28 November 1981
30 November 1981 Pontiac, Michigan Pontiac Silverdome
1 December 1981
5 December 1981 New Orleans, Louisiana Louisiana Superdome
7 December 1981 Largo, Maryland Capital Center
8 December 1981
9 December 1981
11 December 1981 Lexington, Kentucky Rupp Arena
13 December 1981 Tempe, Arizona Sun Devil Stadium
14 December 1981 Kansas City, Missouri Kemper Arena
15 December 1981
18 December 1981 Hampton, Virginia Hampton Coliseum
19 December 1981


  1. ^ Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–2014. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved February 27, 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d e f  
  3. ^ Sandford, Christopher (2003). Mick Jagger: Rebel Knight.   p. 276.
  4. ^ a b c Sandford, Mick Jagger: Rebel Knight, p. 278.
  5. ^ a b Loewenstein, Dora; Philip Dodd (2003). According to the Rolling Stones. San Francisco: Chronicle Books.  
  6. ^ a b  
  7. ^ a b Sandford, Mick Jagger: Rebel Knight, p. 282.
  8. ^ Peter Newcomb (1989-10-02). "Satisfaction Guaranteed".  
  9. ^ Brenner, Reuven (1987). Rivalry: In Business, Science, Among Nations.   p. 84.
  10. ^ a b Jacobson, Michael F.; Laurie Ann Mazur (1995). Marketing Madness: A Survival Guide for a Consumer Society.   p. 107.
  11. ^ a b c d "American Tour 1981". Rocks Off Setlists. Retrieved 2006-07-18. 
  12. ^ a b "The Rolling Stones: Biography".  
  13. ^ "Photo Gallery: The Rolling Stones".  

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