In a rare display of irony, Trump’s rallies have regularly featured Rolling Stones songs like “Sympathy for the Devil” and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” The latter even played immediately after Trump’s RNC speech. The Stones aren’t happy about this, but the band has never been able to stop him. According to Mick Jagger, they can’t:
“So Patty, asked me about Donald Trump using Stones music, and we [previously] said, like, ‘Don’t use our music. So, the thing is, when you appear in America ... if you’re in a public place like Madison Square Garden or a theater, you can play any music you want, and you can’t be stopped. So, if you write a song and someone plays it in a restaurant that you go to, you can’t stop them. They can play what they want.”
Trump’s use of the Stones’ music is especially interesting because he almost sued them in the 1980s, according to Trumped!: The Inside Story of the Real Donald Trump—His Cunning Rise and Spectacular Fall, John R. O’Donnell’s book about working for Trump.
O’Donnell, who was an executive at Trump Plaza Casino, is not exactly the most reliable source. His memoir exists to settle scores with Trump, who made him (and two of his close friends, who died in a plane crash) scapegoats for his Atlantic City troubles. But his book is certainly plausible.
In O’Donnell’s telling, in 1989 Trump wanted the Stones to play at Atlantic City so he could impress his friends, and forced O’Donnell to negotiate a bad deal—$4.2 million for three shows—that made it impossible to make a profit. Trump was convinced he could make his money back by selling tickets at the same scale he used for boxing events—from $250 to $1,000. O’Donnell warned Trump that they’d never make their money back, but he insisted. “I want the fucking Rolling Stones,” he reportedly said. “I told everybody the Rolling Stones are going to be playing at Trump Plaza. I’m coming down to watch them. My friends are coming down. Don’t lose this deal, Jack.”
The concerts were, inevitably, a disaster—they didn’t sell out and Trump ended up losing $800,000. And to top it all off, the Stones refused to appear with Trump, which he desperately wanted them to do. When O’Donnell inquired about a promised bonus, Trump used the deal to stiff him. Here’s O’Donnell’s section on that encounter:
I could feel my anger rising, but I stayed calm. “You wanted to do this deal. We told you not to do it. You did it anyway. But who’s going to get beat up now? Me! Because it’s my bottom line.”
He was silent for a moment. Then he said, “Well, sue the bastards.”
“Sue who? The Rolling Stones?” I asked.
“Donald, we’re getting off the subject here. Let’s get back to... let’s just...”
“Fucking sue them, Jack. I want to sue them. It’s their fault we took the loss.”
Days later, after O’Donnell made inquiries with Trump’s general counsel, who told him not to sue, it happened again:
“That reminds me,” he said. “Who’s suing the Rolling Stones?”
“Nobody’s suing the Rolling Stones. We’ve got no grounds for a suit.”
“Yeah? Who says?”
Trump never did end up suing the Stones, but maybe he was just waiting until 2016 to get his revenge for that $800,000 loss. More likely than not, though, he just forgot. But if you needed more proof of the Trump/Mr. Burns connection, look no further than this.