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A Prince Among Stones
That Business with the Rolling Stones and Other Adventures
Prince Rupert Loewenstein
A strange book - paternalistic to the point of condescension. Loewenstein is widely credited for getting the Stones finances in order and making them the multi-millionaires they are today. But it's as if Bill Gates or Warren Buffett's fathers wrote a biography of their sons - inevitably it would be top-heavy with the contribution the father, minimising the roles of others, of the son's own talents, and of sheer luck of being in the right place at the right time. That's the impression I got from this book - Mick and Keef rarely portrayed as anything but children who need to be cajoled into line.
L makes several attempts to explain why he doesn't like the Stones' music, invariably coming to the same conclusion as everybody who was over 30 in 1960 - pop music is rubbish and classical music is the only stuff worth appreciating. Never manages to examine the obvious point that everyone tends to prefer the music they grew up with - in his case, pre-war high society, operas and classical music. And, apparently never noticed the difference between the restrained, passive nature of classical music vs the high emotion, get-up-and-dance-and-sing passion of rock music audiences. So right to the end he is baffled.
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"Call me old-fashioned," Sir Mick Jagger complained recently, "but I don't think your ex-bank manager should be discussing your financial dealings and personal information in public." Coo, hoity, toity! This wasn't Jagger's attitude when he first met Prince Rupert zu Loewenstein-Wertheim-Freudenberg in 1968 - he was enchanted to meet someone who could open so many gilded doors. They must have seemed like different species then - Prince Rupert, an urbane, cultured aristocrat who hated rock music and went to work in a bowler hat. But Loewenstein was fascinated by Jagger and Jagger by him, and they forged a business partnership that kept the Stones rolling for more than 40 years.
Born in 1933, to a branch of the Bavarian royal family, Prince Rupert had the sort of disrupted childhood that would send most people screaming into therapy. He only discovered his parents were divorcing when a classmate read it in a gossip column. But, looking back, he realised that he had seldom seen his parents together. His mother, a sculptor, lived mainly in Paris; his father, who described himself as a psychologist and writer (on the strength of one self-help book), lived mainly in England and America. He was a serial philanderer whose girlfriends included the actress Googie Withers.
When war broke out, his mother installed Prince Rupert, aged six, in a villa on the Riviera with a gardener, maid and cook and went off to London. As the Germans advanced and the servants began panicking, Prince Rupert took them all to stay at the Hotel Martinez in Cannes, and asked the concierge to track his mother down. She sent friends to take him to Paris and he managed to catch the last civilian flight out of occupied France. His mother met him in London, but then bundled him off to stay with various English friends. He says these upheavals were good preparation for later life with the Stones because "I was psychologically able to cope with the incessant round of different countries, people and mores. It had been the way I was brought up".
He went to prep school, which he hated, then to St Christopher, Letchworth, the progressive Quaker boarding school that produced our own AA Gill and dear Michael Winner. Not learning much there, he went to a tutor in Cambridge to cram for Oxford entrance and won a scholarship to Magdalen to read history. At 18, he faced being called up by the British, German and Spanish armies (he happened to have been born in Mallorca) but luckily none of them wanted him because he was asthmatic.
In the course of this chaotic upbringing, he realised that he badly needed to understand money. His parents were useless, lurching from debt to debt.Once, when he was 14, his mother sent him to an art gallery to sell a Balthus portrait for £40. The gallery readily handed over the money, which he took back to his mother in the Ritz bar where she spent it on lunch. But he realised the painting was worth far more than £40. The gallery readily handed over the money, which he took back to his mother in the Ritz bar where she spent40 and that this was not a sensible way of carrying on. So, when he left Oxford, he joined a stockbroking firm and was soon put in charge of setting up new branches in Europe. He married a rich wife, Josephine, had three children, and spent several happy years swanning round the continent's great hotels.
But in 1963 he and two partners bought a small London merchant bank, which meant he had to work much harder. After five years, when his friend Christopher Gibbs introduced him to Jagger, he was growing restive. He and Jagger hit it off immediately and Jagger asked if he could explain why the Stones were permanently broke though their records were selling millions. Loewenstein read the contracts and realised it was because all their money was going to their manager Allen Klein, who kept most of it, and what little remained was taxed at 83%. His advice was, "Drop Klein and out", and he persuaded them to go into tax exile in France. He got them a new contract with Atlantic to replace Decca and eventually - though it took years of lawsuits - ended their involvement with Klein.
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He also changed their touring arrangements. Hitherto tours had been seen purely as record promotion but he realised that they were potentially huge money-earners in their own right. He persuaded them to dump Bill Graham and sign with a new promoter, Michael Cohl. And he imposed new disciplines. He told them it was not his business if they wanted to take drugs, but if they risked arrest by carrying them across borders then they put the whole tour in jeopardy. Ditto if they or their staff ever accepted money in brown envelopes, they could be done for tax fraud. He instituted a hierarchy of different passes to weed out the hangers-on, and used his knowledge of papal audiences as a model for the Stones' meet'n'greets.
By 1981, he was so busy working for the band that he left his merchant bank. His City friends thought he was mad but he was bored with banking and intrigued by the Stones, even though he hated their music. He preferred opera - but he could see Jagger had "star quality as a performer that transcends the banality of the medium". Most of his dealings were with Jagger, but he also got on well with Keith Richards and was able to steer them through the rocky patch in the 1980s when they threatened to go off on solo careers. He extricated Jagger from his marriage to Bianca (she said, "I want to kick him where it hurts - IN THE MONEY!") and later, though more regretfully, from Jerry Hall. He admired Hall because she got Jagger off drink and drugs by the simple expedient of telling him they were damaging his looks.
Towards the end of the book, Prince Rupert reveals that, all the time he was working for their Satanic Majesties, he was also working for various Catholic charities, taking parties of pilgrims to Lourdes and ending up as President of the Order of the Knights of Malta. Both his sons became priests. But he deliberately kept this side of his life separate and never discussed religion with the Stones. He believed that "the group has always been saucy but not satanic".
A few years ago, after Richards fell out of the coconut tree and Charlie Watts suffered throat cancer, the Stones' insurer told him that the group would have to go "on the Pavarotti pile". This meant they could not be insured for more than three concerts in advance. Prince Rupert thought they should prepare for retirement and found a corporation willing to buy their rights for a vast sum, but Jagger refused to sell and "that was one of the factors that precipitated my departure". He left the Stones in March 2008, after almost 40 years. He says that they enriched his life: he most certainly must have enriched theirs. This book is far more than a footnote to the Rolling Stones; it is an elegantly written account of how two cultures came together.
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