There is nothing written in stone about this, so let’s not get crazy. But when certain stories come in, I have a mandate to tell you what’s happening.
During this four-day Led Zeppelin reverie in London, my sources report the following: Michael Jackson is in talks with AEG Live’s Randy Phillips to go on tour for three months from March through May 2008.
Of course, this could be a total unfounded rumor. I saw Phillips a couple of times through the whole Zepisode, but we never discussed this matter. When I put in an official call to him Tuesday, there was no response. He may have been returning to Los Angeles.
Phillips, now the head of AEG Live, was for a long time partnered with Arnold Stiefel managing Rod Stewart, among others. He’s a nice guy and much respected in the industry.
But a Michael Jackson tour? Set to begin in March? There are many problems with this scenario, including issues like insurance for Jackson, who has a habit of not making dates.
There’s also the matter of Jackson not being in shape, of no musicians, dancers, choreographers and no exact concept.
Right now, Jackson’s publicist and manager are the same person, Raymone Bain. It remains to be seen whether she would be capable of handling those duties during an actual tour. Perhaps Jackson’s recent photo shoots for Italian Vogue and Ebony along with white-washed stories were the precursors of such a notion.
But the real impetus for Jackson to tour now, even with little preparation, is money. He is so deeply in debt and at such a crisis point in his finances that he and Bain may be using potential proceeds from a tour as leverage for refinancing his $325 million in loans.
The refinancing was due on Dec. 1. Not only did it not happen, but Jackson is now in default on $300 million secured by his Neverland Ranch.
But this also begs the question about to whom Jackson is already promised for tours. German promoter Marcel Avram won a legal case against Jackson in 2005 and since claims to hold the rights to any world tours. Prince Abdulla of Bahrain is suing Jackson for $7 million and may also stake a claim against proceeds from a tour.
"It’s the first time in my marriage where I said to my wife, 'I’m going and that’s all there is to it.'"
Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters was laughing a little, explaining to me the reaction he had when he heard Led Zeppelin would be playing their reunion show.
Grohl probably wasn’t the only one. In addition to the numerous celebrities I told you about Tuesday who were at Monday’s show, you can also add Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour and Steve Winwood.
Little by little new names come in, people who were seen grooving to 30-year-old music or just wanted to be there for an historic event. (It was Gilmour to whom Robert Plant shouted, after one song, "Was that all right, Dave?")
Tuesday night, while dining at The Wolseley on Piccadilly near Green Park, we heard that after the show, Mick Jagger and L'Wren Scott as well as Gilmour and several others stopped in for a bite on their way home. It makes sense. The Wolseley, a former car showroom, is certainly homebase for the A-list in London.
But backstage on Monday night, it was Grohl who held our attention as we discussed his surprise at receiving a Best Album nomination last week for the upcoming Grammy Awards.
"Every year we used to get nominated in the rock category," he said. "Then for our last album, we were like, OK, it’s our best album, we’re going to get lots of nominations. And we didn’t get anything! So getting a Best Album nomination this time was something else."
Grohl says initially, because they’d been shut out last time, he and the group turned down an invite to be an announcer at the early morning show last week.
"But then they said, you know, you should really come. So we thought maybe something was up." Indeed, all the artists who gathered for the announcement show received Grammy nominations that morning, even 18-year-old Taylor Swift.
Naomi Campbell’s "mugging" — her announcement directly to me, photographer Danny Clifford and Jeff Beck (if he was listening) — that she’d had her handbag and "two bloody phones" lifted — got a lot of pick up Tuesday. I thought it was hilarious that TMZ.com said they called Scotland Yard to see if Campbell reported the incident. Next they’re going to ring the FBI about Britney Spears’ missing underwear!
The guys who got the least amount of publicity from Monday’s show, the sung (but unsung, get it) heroes were the "support players" — Bill Wyman, Mick Jones and Paul Rodgers, not to mention the four R&B megastars who were Ahmet Ertegun’s true legacy: Sam Moore, Percy Sledge, Ben E. King and Solomon Burke.
Jones, for example, piloted Foreigner to more than a dozen top 10 hits for Atlantic Records during the group’s heyday. Yet he performed only one number, "I Want to Know What Love Is," on the show.
Rodgers, like Jones, is not in Jann Wenner’s ailing Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but his butterscotch voice is probably heard 'round the clock on classic radio, singing such hits as "Alright Now" (his group Free) and "Feel Like Making Love" (with Bad Company, his second smash hit group).
Wyman, meanwhile, was the true gentleman of the Ertegun memorial. His Rhythm Kings functioned as house band for all non-Zep activities. They played the main show and the after party. Wyman is self effacing and totally without ego. This is amazing! He’s an original Rolling Stone! And yet, there couldn’t have been a show on Monday night without him.
And then there was producer Harvey Goldsmith, who received sad news just as the show began: his father-in-law passed away. Nevertheless, Harvey and wife Diana proceeded on like nothing happened. They did not get to enjoy any of the kudos that would have been heaped on them at the conclusion. Our condolences.
Harvey is one of the good guys, his shows always run like clockwork. Everyone under his command is professional and friendly, from the security to the merchandise people. He makes these massive undertakings look easy. They’re not. American promoters (like those ridiculous people out in Newark we met at the Bon Jovi show) could take a lesson from him!
Oh, and here’s why Pete Townshend backed out of the show. He was originally announced as part of the lineup when the show was scheduled for Nov. 26. When it was moved to Dec. 10, Pete was gone. So, too, was Ronnie Wood. I don’t know about Wood, but this was what Pete wrote on his blog:
"I pulled out of the Ahmet Ertegun benefit the day I heard Led Zep were performing," writes Townshend. "They really don't need me, and I will probably perform at some future event for the Ertegun Foundation... If you are going to the show, have a great time. I am delighted Robert, Jimmy, John and Jason are back in black. I wish them well. I will be warming up mince pies."
I can’t resist: Maybe unlike some others, Pete won’t get fooled again!
Variety very nicely picks up a theme Wednesday from this column more than 10 days ago. The story: if the strike continues, who will attend the upcoming Golden Globes award show on Jan. 13 besides the 80 members of the Hollywood Foreign Press?
We asked this question already. WGA will picket the show. SAG members won’t cross the line if they’re nominated. Then what? And isn’t it interesting that there’s no word from the Foreign Press? Even though they’re not in the Guild, they are technically "writers." What a dilemma since they receive $6 million tax-free a year from NBC, aka "management" in the strike…