A History of The Rolling Stones’ Tech Fails

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(Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

(Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

As if Rolling Stones fans haven’t already been expecting an announcement of tour dates for months, the band’s Twitter account has started teasing “big news” in the coming days. However, it is not your typical heads-up.

In their first tweet on Friday, the Stones asked fans to “get involved by downloading the uView app” and point their device (smartphone or tablet) at a creepy photo of a set of eyes. UView is Universal Music-created app that displays additional digital material, so one would expect, well, something additional. What fans saw after downloading the app and pointing it at the photo were the eyes blinking and a simple albeit unnecessary message: “keep your eyes peeled…” So glad I downloaded the app for that. (From the looks of uView’s app page, this isn’t the Stones’ first time utilizing it; it looks like there’s additional material to be seen via uView from last year’s Some Girls reissue.)

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No news from Mick Jagger and co. so far, and the band tweeted the same exact teaser again Monday. Fans have started to balk on Twitter and Facebook, but shouldn’t they be used to this sort of thing by now? This isn’t the first time the Stones have hitched their wagon to weak technology. In fact, they’ve experimented with new tech fads quite a bit – perhaps more than any other band through the years. In that sense, they’re the most forward-thinking legacy act, even if Stones fans don’t necessarily appreciate the digital effort. Sometimes they do cool things, such as being the first band to webcast a live concert in the mid-1990s. Other times, not so much. Let’s take a look at the Rolling Stones’ other tech fails through the years.

3-D TV Concert Movie, 1990

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The Rolling Stones’ live spectacle has been documented many times through the years, but never quite like 1990’s Steel Wheels concert tour film. The special aired on TV with a three-song set – “Paint It Black,” “2000 Light Years” and “It’s Only Rock N’ Roll” – enhanced by 3-D technology. It was cheesy, to say the least, with Jagger’s rump-shaking dance moves documented in 3-D glory and hokey space backgrounds flying toward the audience. Even worse: The 3-D glasses were only available through “participating retailers,” most notably 7-Eleven stores. Now, however, fans can buy 10-packs of the glasses on eBay for $15. But apparently the glasses weren’t even necessary to view the 3-D effects, according to Entertainment Weekly‘s review from 1990. The 3-D portion of the concert film is available on YouTube, so bust out those glasses after all these years and relive the tackiness.

Rolling Stones Voodoo Lounge CD-ROM, 1995

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From the Amazon description (you can still buy the game for $25.99): “Rolling Stones Voodoo Lounge CD-ROM is a music-based point-and-click adventure game. The player wanders around the Voodoo Lounge to solve mysteries and even meets the Rolling Stones in mysterious circumstances.”

Hot on the heels of Prince’s CD-ROM game Prince Interactive, this Windows/Macintosh game was released shortly after the band’s 1994 album Voodoo Lounge. But CD-ROM music games never caught on – not even as much as music video games, a la the Spice Girls’ Spice World dance routine game. Also, if the trailer is correct, the Voodoo Lounge game shows Jagger – in game form – peeing at a urinal. That’s one level we’d rather skip.

Phone Dial-In For European Tour, 2006

For the Stones’ A Bigger Bang European Tour in 2006, fans were able to call in and listen to a live audio feed of concerts straight from the soundboard. It cost $1.99 per seven minutes and was run through a company that seems to no longer exist (we wonder why), called Listen Live Now!. The band was touted as the first act ever to use this technology, but we’re not sure who convinced them that fans would spend $40 to listen to a two-and-half-hour concert while chilling on the phone.

Bootlegs Sold Exclusively Through Google Music, 2011-2012

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While not an apparent fail, this deal is a risky one because it was brokered when Google Music first launched late last year. The Stones are the biggest band on the planet – why would they need to partner with a new digital service to release official bootlegs? With stiff competition like iTunes and Spotify firmly cemented in the digital music space, Google Music wasn’t exactly expected to change the game. To this day, the service hasn’t caught on, yet the Stones continue to exclusive distribute their concert bootleg series through Google Music. It started with the release of 1973’s Brussels Affair bootleg last November, and has continued with bootlegs from three more shows: Los Angeles in 1975, Hampton, Virginia in 1981, and Tokyo in 1990. What’s even worse is that the Stones launched a fancy new archive site to sell the bootlegs, which is viewable in the US but not useable. Google Music remains the sole retailer.

- Jillian Mapes, CBS Local

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