The Rolling Stones’ 1989 Steel Wheels tour was the biggest of their career, a string of dates that arrived at a point in time that they could create their perfect backstage environment—which sometimes got a little too comfortable.
We’re dipping into the Far Out Magazine vault to look at one of the more ludicrous tour stories, one that resulted in one show being delayed as guitarist Keith Richards needing to spend more time adhering to one of his many vices. Something which on this occasion was, of course, Shepherd’s Pie.
Following the release of their 1989 record Steel Wheels, The Rolling Stones set out on a mammoth world tour in support of the new material. It arrived as their first string of live dates in eight years—and they were hell-bent on making it worth the wait. The tour kicked off in Philadelphia on 12th August 1989 and wouldn’t finish for over 12 months when they played the final of four sold-out dates at London’s Wembley Stadium.
The tour was promoted by Michael Cohl who made his name buying the concert shows, sponsorship, merchandising, radio, television, and film rights to the Steel Wheels dates. It became the most financially successful rock tour in history at that time and reminded everybody who the kings of live shows really were.
After being away from the road for such a long period of time, the tour kickstarted the second chapter of The Stones’ career where they would perform live infrequently unlike the early years. However, when they occasionally did return to the stage, you knew it was an event that was unmissable.
Due to the huge finances involved in the touring plans, literally nothing was off-menu for the band backstage and with the group usually performing at each stadium for multiple nights they quite rightly wanted to make themselves feel at home wherever they went. Keith Richards had requested for there to be a traditional English pub at each stop which the catering staff were tasked with creating for the guitarist.
His dream boozer that followed him everywhere on the tour was complete with a jukebox, cricket bats and traditional pub grub. However, just three stops into the mammoth run of dates, there was an incident involving Richards and a Shepherd’s Pie which nearly ground the Toronto show at the CNE Stadium to a halt.
When Richards arrived late to the pub for his feed, he discovered that the Shepherd’s Pie that he’d been eyeing up and was looking forward to had been eaten by somebody else. A hangry Keith then remarkably refused to go on stage until the staff had mustered him up another pie.
Jagger was justly furious and was worried that they might have to pull the concert altogether but, thankfully, the catering staff managed to fulfil his specific culinary demand. “It’s now famous, my rule on the road,” Richards wrote in his autobiography Life. “Nobody touches the shepherd’s pie till I’ve been in there. Don’t bust my crust, baby.”
Keith Richards is a man of simple pleasures and home comforts but he’s also an A-list rock star who can do anything he wants. This exploit couldn’t be any more of a quintessentially English rockstar demand which must have bemused the life out of the Canadian catering staff who had Richards turn his nose up at their poutine.