Stones' pounds 250,000 bid for sympathy with the public

THE ROLLING Stones, badly stung by criticism that they have snubbed their British fans to save paying tax, are planning to make a rare donation to charity in the hope of improving their public image.

The group have been badly stung by criticisms, from the Prime Minister downwards after their decision last year to postpone British live shows so that they would not have to pay UK tax on their earnings.

Tickets for the concerts went on sale in November 1997, and the Stones have earned pounds 250,000 in interest on the money sitting in the bank from those sales. A source close to the group disclosed yesterday that Mick Jagger will shortly announce that the entire sum will be paid to a British charity. Jagger has hinted that this summer's postponed shows could be the last time the Stones will play a major gig.

The group has suffered a series of setbacks since they made their tax- related postponement last year: There has been bad publicity surrounding Mick Jagger's divorce proceedings with Jerry Hall and his statement that they were never officially married in the first place. Sales for this June's postponed Wembley shows are lower than the group might have expected. Nearly 40,000 of the 220,000 tickets for the four shows remain unsold. Thirty thousand ticket holders demanded refunds last year after the concert postponements.

And the Stones' latest live album No Security has barely dented the public consciousness at all. It sold a staggeringly low 20,000 copies in Britain and peaked at number 62 in the album charts. The previous album Bridges To Babylon, released before the postponements and the divorce case, enjoyed huge sales worldwide.

In an interview in the latest edition of the music magazine Mojo, Jagger said: "It's been fun but it's not going to last for ever. We've been touring for a really long time, and you do get to a point where you think, `Well, this is enough.' You can't spend your entire life on the road."

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