Their current tour is called No Filter, but backstage at the Rolling Stones, a detente between two of the biggest egos in rock is being sustained by nothing less than a filtration device.
Keith Richards has taken to using a natty ‘smokeless’ ashtray that inhales stray cigarette smoke in an attempt to avoid upsetting his smoothie-chugging, yoga-practicing band mate Mick Jagger, who underwent heart valve replacement surgery in April, returning to the stage with The Rolling Stones in June this year.
The Telegraph reports that he says he obtained the new ashtray so as “not to bother Mick.”
Richards’ newfound consideration for his non-smoking co-star stands in stark contrast to several decades in which he has enthusiastically lobbed abuse at Jagger.
He publicly criticized Jagger’s decision to father his eighth child at the age of 73 saying: “It’s time for the snip – you can’t be a father at that age. Those poor kids!”
Tensions between the bandmates have been a feature of Rolling Stones legend since at least 1985, when Jagger released his first solo album, and then refused to go on tour in support of the 1986 Rolling Stones record “Dirty Work.”
Richards has referred to the ensuing years as “World War III.”
In Richards’ memoir, Life, he wrote that Jagger "began" to become "unbearable" in the '80s and as a joke the rest of the band started calling him “Brenda, or Her Majesty, or just Madam.”
As recently as November 2015, Richards told GQ that the singer’s solo work “had something to do with ego. He really had nothing to say.”
In February, Richards said giving up cigarettes was tougher than quitting heroin.
“Quitting heroin is like hell, but it’s a short hell,” he told Mojo magazine. “Cigarettes are just always there, and you’ve always done it, I just pick ‘em up and light ‘em up without thinking about it.”
Jagger, whose father was a physical education teacher, reportedly has a physical regimen that involves running eight miles a day, cycling, yoga, kickboxing, meditation, and ballet.
He is believed to have given up smoking in the late '70s, at a similar time to Stones’ drummer Charlie Watts.
Ronnie Wood gave up the smokes in 2016. The following year, he underwent a five-hour operation to have a growth removed from his lung.
Deborah Arnott, chief executive of U.K. charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) was quick to stub out any hope that the ashtrays might be beneficial, however. She told the Telegraph: “There is no evidence that smokeless ashtrays are effective at eliminating the harm caused by tobacco smoke, either for smokers themselves or the people around them.”
Cigarettes, however, have been formally recognized as part of the Stones’ shtick. When Richards lit up on stage at The London Stadium in Stratford, the local council said it would not be taking any action because, “Smoking on stage is permitted where the artistic integrity of a performance makes it appropriate for a person to smoke.”