“If you start me up, I’ll never stop.” But the television cameras could be switched off after The Rolling Stones banned the BBC from broadcasting their eagerly anticipated Glastonbury festival set in full.
The BBC has held "constructive" top-level discussions with Sir Mick Jagger to try and overcome an impasse which threatens to undermine the corporation’s promise to deliver the most comprehensive Glastonbury coverage yet seen.
The Stones’ Pyramid Stage headline performance on the festival’s Saturday night, a coup for the organisers, was expected to provide the BBC with one of the television highlights of the Summer.
The rock legends’ greatest hits set was due to be broadcast live on BBC Two, Radio 2 and online to millions of fans who could not get tickets for the festival.
However the Stones, who last year distributed a sold-out New York show to fans in a $40 pay-per-view deal, told the BBC that the corporation would not be allowed to screen more than a sample of their performance.
The BBC was told that at best, they could show the opening four songs of the band’s set. Then viewers would be told that the band had demanded a “black-out” of the rest of their performance.
A BBC spokeswoman called her discussion with Jagger "absolutely business as usual for this stage of the festival", adding: "Our conversations with The Rolling Stones have been extremely constructive and are ongoing."
The corporation, which is screening 250 hours of live music from Glastonbury online and through its programming, has been locked in negotiations with the band in a bid to extend their “hit allowance”.
The band is planning to release its own live DVD from their current 50 and Counting… tour. But control appears to be the sticking point as much as finance.
“Mick agreed to do Glastonbury for the fans who are there, he didn’t sign up for a TV show,” said a source. “It’s not about money. This show will go around the world. If there’s torrential rain it will play havoc with their performance and they want to sound and look at their best. There’s a lot of factors out of their control.”
Torrential rain was blamed for an underwhelming headline performance by U2 in 2011.
With the event less than a month away, Mark Cooper, BBC head of music television, has personally sought to assure Jagger that he can guarantee the best quality sound and visuals for a performance which could introduce the band to a new, younger audience.
“We are having an on-going discussion with the Stones. I’m talking to Mick about it tonight,” Cooper told the Independent. “At this point I’m quite optimistic we’ll get a sufficient amount of music.”
Insiders suggest that mounting excitement over the Glastonbury performance has persuaded the Stones to relax their restrictions.
Instead of a set cut short after Gimme Shelter, the band is prepared to allow one hour to be broadcast, which should give viewers a glimpse of "Honky Tonk Women". Whether the living room audience will climax with traditional set closer "Satisfaction", is still a matter for negotiation.
Mr Cooper is sympathetic to the concerns of a veteran band whose public appearances are tightly controlled. “I understand it is a risk for them. They are stepping out of their comfort zone,” he said.
“There’s an unpredictability, it’s not their natural audience. They are nervous about how much they should share. But when legendary artists play Glastonbury, they also attract a whole new, broader audience.”
The persuasive Cooper has a track record of arm-twisting superstars into handing over their hits to the BBC. “There’s always negotiations with the headliners,” he said. “Bruce Springsteen said he would only allow 25 minutes but the show went so well they gave us 90 minutes in the end. Blur didn’t want any filming at all but they allowed it in the end.”
The BBC hopes that Glastonbury’s move into the mainstream will encourage the Stones to play on. The corporation yesterday unveiled blanket coverage which includes slots on Songs Of Praise and The One Show.
Bob Shennan, the BBC’s controller of popular music, said the emergence of mainstream headline acts like Mumford & Sons meant that Glastonbury’s natural home for the biggest names had shifted to Radio 2. Radio 1 will focus on dance acts whilst Arctic Monkeys’ Friday headline set will be broadcast by 6 Music.
Utilising technological advances tested at last year’s Olympic Games, live streams will be available simultaneously from six different stages. More than 130 performances will be available on catch-up for 30 days.
Mr Shennan said he expected more than 20 million people to tune in at some point over the June 28-30 weekend.
Michael Eavis, who founded the event which was once associated with hippies and hedonism, will be interviewed on Songs Of Praise about his Methodist faith.
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