BACK TO THE FUTURE: Sno-Cone Songs, Sherbert Pants, and other Fashion Faux Pas of the ’80s Stones

Two years of pandemic-induced living room listening, as well as a lively interview I recently did with a publication on the topic of the Rolling Stones’ iconic tour across America in 1972 (have a listen here:, inevitably sent me jack flashing through my back pages of Stones shows I’ve attended as a fan, reviewed as a critic, or listened to on bootlegs over the years. Eventually, my random pulls from the digital and vinyl vault brought me to this time machine relic.
While most of us may prefer to forget the band’s ’80s output (1981’s”Tattoo You” not withstanding), for those who came of age in the video-dawning decade, the ’80s brought a few grins — as well as a fashion faux paux or ten. Speaking of fashion cluelessness, I was in my junior and senior years of high school while “Tattoo You” was all over the radio, but was still dressing like it was 1975. Not the ironic retro-chic version of 1975 that we now embrace from this vantage point five decades on, mind you. Nope. Not me. I was living the full-on reality of the off-brand JC Penney version of 1975.
Anyway, in that vein, here’s an oldie but a goodie: a review of an unofficial CD that became the springboard for a meditation upon the parachute-panted decade from whence it sprang. I wrote this piece originally for Collectors Music Reviews, a cool site dedicated to documenting and evaluating a variety of rare, fan-issued live CD titles.
Funny how back at the dawn of the ’80s, the punks, goth kids, and New Wavers thought the Stones were dinosaurs from a prehistoric age, lumbering toward the conclusion of their two-decade run after having outlasted everyone else from the black-and-white TV generation. Little did any of us know that unlike the T. Rex, the beasts of burden weren’t even at the halfway mark. Last week, their singer turned 79 years old and is stepping on stages around the world. As for me, I’m sadly missing my 40th (!) high school reunion this weekend, but, whenever possible, still trying to pull off dressing like it’s 1975. I guess we all have our ways of trying to beat back time.


The Rolling Stones – Vedi Napoli E Poi Mori

Naples, Italy, July 17, 1982

DISC ONE (75:28): Take The A Train, Under My Thumb, When The Whip Comes Down, Let’s Spend The Night Together, Shattered, Neighbours, Black Limousine, Just My Imagination, Twenty Flight Rock, Going To A Go Go, Let Me Go, Time Is On My Side, Beast Of Burden, You Can’t Always Get What You Want.

DISC TWO (58:53): Band Introductions, Little T&A, Angie, Tumbling Dice, She’s So Cold, Hang Fire, Miss You, Honky Honk Women, Brown Sugar, Start Me Up, Jumping Jack Flash, Satisfaction, Fratelli D’Italia (national Anthem of Italy)


Mick Jagger, master of subtlety


Ahh yes, the  Big ‘80s.  Madonna and Men At Work. Hairspray metal and the acid-washed mulletheads who loved it. Shoulder pads and parachute pants. Members Only jackets and “Flashdance”-inspired off-the-shoulder sweatshirts (yikes, they’re back!). Not our best fashion moment as a nation.

The two-month, 36-date European tour launched by the Rolling Stones in May 1982 featured at least one sartorial upgrade to the color-coded U.S. tour that had commenced the year before: gone was singer Mick Jagger’s canary yellow parka, blazing white, knee-pad reinforced American football pants, and all that melon sherbert-influenced stage wear. OK, so there were still the pairs of Candyland colored football pants (usually now striped), and the ‘80’s MTV-inspired car-and-guitar stage design that looked as if it had sprung from an Eddie Grant video.

I know we’re talking about aesthetics and the fashions of the times here, and not the quality of the music per se. But attitude and image, in rock & roll, if not everything, is certainly a good chunk of it. And we always struggled to reconcile the dark princes of “Sympathy For The Devil” and “Gimme Shelter” with the empty calorie sno-cone sweeteners of “She’s So Cold” and “Let Me Go.” The Stones’ attire in 1981 and ‘82 made the cartoon caricature the Stones were in danger of becoming a little too vivid, and obvious (please leave us with our illusions, dammit!). The pinks and pastels didn’t help either.

Another unfortunate leftover of the hugely successful and mostly satisfying ‘81 tour was the presence of the previous year’s nostalgic holdovers, Eddie Cochran’s jittery “Twenty Flight Rock” and Smokey Robinson’s feel-good party anthem, “Going To a Go-Go,” each of whose desired effect was to showcase the Stones’ early rock & roll and soul roots. Ironically, neither really suited the group’s approach to rhythm and groove.

But the boys were still riding high on the worldwide smash of 1981’s “Tattoo You” and still not too far removed from their last bona fide masterpiece, 1978’s “Some Girls,” a snarling and savvy  retort to punk and disco that simply could not be matched by the lukewarm attempt to follow-up on the formula with 1980’s “Emotional Rescue.”

In contrast to the ‘81 U.S. tour, a number of whose shows were captured by professionally mixed radio broadcasts, genuine soundboard recordings that circulated among collectors, and even the band’s own official “Still Life” LP (whose title unintentionally but accurately reflected the stiff, bloodless performances therein), the European tour that followed received scant attention by the collectors’ community.


Bill ready for his post-show jazzercise workout at Del Boca Vista.

For that reason, and in spite of its less-than-ideal sound, “Vedi Napoli E Poi Mori” (the translation is the old adage: “See Naples And Then Die”), a new “no label” double-disc release documenting the complete July 17, 1982 Rolling Stones’ show in Naples, Italy, makes for an interesting issue of a little-heard show and tour.

While casual Stones fans may be disappointed in the overall sound of an otherwise strong show (although we’re guessing there are not many *casual* Stones fans reading CMR reviews of the band’s unofficial oeuvre), for the completists and historically inclined listeners among us looking to fill tour or show gaps will likely find this package overall a good addition until a complete and genuine soundboard surfaces.

If  “Vedi Napoli” sounds vaguely familiar, that’s because it takes its name (and front cover artwork) from the original ‘80’s double LP that featured 19 of the 24 songs played that day. In addition to presenting the full concert and adding the missing songs from the old double LP, this new set restores (presumably) the correct running order of the set list, including the first four songs the Stones performed: “Under My Thumb”; “When The Whip Comes Down”; “Let’s Spend The Night Together”; and “Shattered.”


Dude, watch out for that matchy matchy pail.

The second disc also restores the previously missing “Jumping (sic) Jack Flash,” to its usual place, sandwiched between “Start Me Up” and “Satisfaction.”  The packaging is straightforward, attractive, and nicely done, with an inlay tray card array of  era-accurate color photos, and a two-sided insert that reprints the original LPs abbreviated running track order.

Given the timing and reappearance of this Naples date after so many years in absentia, “Vedi Napoli” may possibly have been sourced from “Listen Napoli And Then Die,”  which has been issued in recent years by the revived Idol Mind Production (IMP) label – a title we have not heard first-hand. That title also presented the complete concert as reportedly a soundboard recording (with several audience sources mixed in), plus a bonus “backstage jam” that is not included on this new no label release.


Where the hell is my Jack Daniel’s?

Other notable CD releases of the July 17, Naples concert are “Shattered In Europe,” a superior-sounding but incomplete mono soundboard issued by The Swingin’ Pig (TSP) label, and “Take Care Of You, and Thank You, Ronnie” from a revived version of the famous Trademark of Quality (TMOQ) label, also from a mono soundboard source.

“Vedi Napoli” purports to be from a very good stereo audience source, but to us it sounds more like a good mono audience recording. Still, considering its time, era and audience source, it is a solidly listenable concert, if a bit thin, with a narrowed range of instrumentation and flattened field of dynamics. Most notably, the rhythm section of Charlie Watts’ drums and Bill Wyman’s bass is distant, which robs the proceedings of depth  and gives it something of a tinny quality.  Both Keith Richards’s and Ronnie Wood’s guitars are decently present, but they don’t bite or punch as hard as they ought to.


Original wraparound cover slick for the album

Jagger’s presence is, however, clear throughout the mix, and his ripely energetic engagement with the audience carries much of the momentum and personality of the Stones’ performance (friendly or extended banter beyond his boilerplate “Hallo Cleveland! Are Y’all Ready Fo’ Some Mo’??!!!”  approach is a rarity with Mick).  Even if his occasional slip into a Southern drawl during the introductions sounds a bit strange and out of context. Who knows? Maybe he felt really homesick for Jerry Hall back in Texas (but we doubt it). 

Mick shines with swagger and style on older warhorses like “Tumbling Dice,” “Honky Tonk Women,” and “Angie” (the old gal was welcomed back for the ‘82 tour after seemingly being retired as a set list staple after the ‘75 Tour Of The Americas).  And speaking of gals, the “Some Girls” era, represented here by four songs (including a particularly engaging, inspired work-up of  “Miss You”), comes across strongly, as usual.


Keith Richards and Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones live in concert, 1982. (Photo by Denis O’Regan/Getty Images)

Jagger doesn’t fare as well on some of the newer material such as the twin trifles, “She’s So Cold” and “Hang Fire,” which, given their keys and quivery time-signature similarity, are played back-to-back.  “She’s So Cold,” especially, is a guilty pleasure studio creation of chilly, ersatz New Wave (pardon the redundancy of that descriptive term). But on stage in Naples and elsewhere, the tune sounds like a hurried, hammy afterthought that puts Mick’s lungs through the paces as he jogs, jumps, and cavorts in a live setting.


Mid-song sobriety test.

We’ve always found Jagger’s vocals on the ‘81 and ‘82 tours to be a bit hoarse, labored, and hollow – almost as though he was finding out the hard way on stage that, while finally pushing 40, he needed to learn how to strengthen and train his voice to have the stamina for the duration of a stadium set. Seventy-thousand seat coliseums, after all, require much more calisthenic movement, projection to the back rows, and the ability to navigate the cumulative miles of a massive stage.

Intentional or no, we always thought the Mick-on-acoustic-guitar-inclusions of “Waiting On A Friend” and “Let It Bleed” on the ‘81 tour was a stroke of energy-conserving genius, besides being bona fide musical highlights of those shows. (We’ve always wondered why the Stones opted to drop those numbers for this tour, unless it was meant to make room for the old girlfriend with the sadness in her eyes). Of course, after 1982, Mick would have seven full years to do wind sprints and figure all that out. And judging from the massively successful marathon tours the Stones mounted in the ensuing years, figure it out he did. Oh, and the ever-resourceful, ever-clever Mick also hit upon another good idea: he wisely ditched those Candyland-striped football pants.


A peacock for the ages


One comment

  1. Roxanne · · Reply

    The description of Bill Wyman suiting up for his post-show Jazzercise at Del Boca Vista is a riot. As ridiculous as he looks, Estelle Costanza would still get her eyes done for him, because she’s out there now. Little would we know that Wyman was only interested in little girls.


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