'Yeah, well, we've gone into it quite deeply, and it seems to be a cool idea,' says Mick Jagger. 'I mean, it's unusual and all that, but we've never been afraid to do the unusual. Apparently we don't have to die or anything, which well suits me.'
The thinking behind the deal is apparently that as Britain has often led the pop music field in the past 30 years, it seems only right and proper for the nation to have some tangible memoir of that era.
'We could easily have erected a statue or instituted a non-stop light show on Marble Arch or had a Beatles song playing on the answerphone at Heritage,' says Brian Wilmacky, Under- Secretary of State for Heritage. 'But we decided to be brave and buy the real thing. We went to Mr Jagger and he seemed agreeable to the suggestion. Or, in his own words, 'Well, yeah, OK, why not. Or to put it another way, why not?'.'
Independent pop valuer Chris Mountebank says that now is a very good time to buy a group such as the Stones. 'I mean, there are far cheaper Sixties groups around, but almost all of them are defunct.
'You could probably get Herman's Hermits or Gerry and the Pacemakers for a few hundred quid, but what would you actually get? A few middle-aged men and a second-hand van? Not much more. With the Stones you get living history. A group that is actually still playing.
'OK, so they aren't young any more. In fact, they're probably a lot older than anyone else of the same age, and they do look like the Mount Rushmore of rock, but they're still an active band, that's the main thing. Also they aren't playing much any more. But on the other other hand they weren't playing a lot in the early days either. Just stealing black American music and passing it off as their own.
'I can remember years ago cynics saying that a rock 'n' roll star could never keep going till his fifties, that by definition a rock star was a young person who would either have to retire or blow up by the age of 30, but I reckon the Stones have put paid to all that. Of course it's ironic that the blues musicians whom the Stones copied so shamelessly in the early years all managed to keep going till their seventies and eighties and nobody ever bought them for the nation. But nobody ever said that life was fair.'
One unconfirmed aspect of the deal is that when physical deterioration becomes marked, the Rolling Stones will, one by one, be subject to cryonics - that is, they will be put into a deep-frozen state so that they can be revived at any time during the next century. Brian Wilmacky was noncommittal over this.
'Yes, well, of course, it would be wonderful to have Mick Jagger around in the year 2020, but if we put him into the deep freeze now that would deprive us of him till then, so it's swings and roundabouts, isn't it? Do we have him now in his maturity? Or do we have him later in his maturity? I think on the whole we'll just let the Stones boogie on for their natural span, don't you?'
Mick Jagger is completely unambiguous on the subject of
'No, well, yes, I'm totally against deep freezing. It keeps meat fresh, yes, but it loses the vital vitamins, know what I mean? On the other hand, if the rest of the group are for it, well, that's cool. But I think it may be too late for Keith to be frozen.'
When it comes to deep freezing a top rock 'n' roll band, there might be unforeseen complications. It's only a thought, but what would happen if the Rolling Stones were given the deep- freeze treatment and did wake up late in the next century and it was then found that they had drugs on them or, even worse, had drugs in their bloodstream which they might have ingested before being frozen? Would they then be judged by 21st-century law for something they had done 50 years earlier?
Brian Wilmacky thinks there would be no problem.
'Oh, I think you can take it that they would all be given a drugs test before being frozen.'
Mick Jagger is no less positive.
'Yeah, crazy, right, nice one. Yeah . . .'