REAL LIFE: The Rolling Stones call me The Headmistress!
Not many people can say The Rolling Stones threw them a surprise party and sang Happy Birthday to them.
Joyce Smyth can.
And the girl who grew up in Portchester singing folk music at clubs around the area can hardly believe it herself.
The band’s May 29 Southampton date of their No Filter tour is a homecoming of sorts for Joyce.
‘Would my teenage self ever have imagined I’d be managing The Rolling Stones? No way!’, she says. ‘In fact, I was a huge David Cassidy and Partridge Family fan!’
So how did she end up becoming the manager of – according to Liam Gallagher – the greatest rock and roll band on the planet?
Growing up in Portobello Grove, an only child, she attended Fareham Girls Grammar School, and then Price’s Sixth Form College.
‘I loved my childhood,’ she says. ‘And I loved sixth-form college. It was there I developed a passion for folk music. It was an amazing time.’
Joyce would sing in the Roundabout Hotel, Fareham, and Portsmouth pubs and naval establishments and at the time of the huge folk revival.
Extremely bright, she went on to read law at Cambridge University and ended up running Cambridge Folk Club.
It wasn’t until she started working for a big London law firm that she first came into contact with Mick, Keith, Ronnie and Charlie.
She has handled the band’s legal issues for more than 25 years.
In 2011 they asked her to be their manager.
‘It really was a case of being in the right place at the right time’, she says.
‘I’m known as the headmistress! But you can’t boss a Rolling Stone around.
‘They are intelligent, perceptive people who listen to advice and debate. It’s not difficult to handle them, there are very few arguments because they all know each other’s characters so well.
‘It’s just like a family. I know how to pitch things in a collaborative way.’
Joyce adds: ‘I’m a conductor of a rather wonderful orchestra.’
It hasn’t been easy for Joyce. She juggled a high-flying legal career – founding her own city law firm – with bringing up two children. Her husband Michael, ‘a huge Rolling Stones fan’, is also a lawyer.
She says: ‘I was always there for the children for tea and bed.
‘And that’s where people like The Rolling Stones were so supportive.
‘They were brilliant. If we were in the middle of something and one of my children got sick they would just say, “no worries, ring me back”.’
She says it’s what has kept her working with the Stones for the past quarter of a century.
‘It’s down to the fact that they are an immensely great bunch of people,’ says Joyce. ‘The people around the band now have been with them for years. We’re a family. We share the happy and sad times.
‘They are a wonderful group of people – from the band themselves, to the chap who does the lights, to the guy who puts up the rigging.’
Over the years there have been many highlights. But the most memorable was the 2016 free concert in Cuba where 500,000 people crowded the beach to watch. It led to a call from the Vatican after the date was moved to Easter Sunday to avoid a clash with then-president Barack Obama’s historic visit to the country.
‘The Vatican asked us to postpone again because the date was sensitive,’ says Joyce. ‘When I told the band, Keith replied “The Pope is not our manager.”
‘Then someone suggested starting the concert after midnight, so it was on Easter Saturday instead.
‘I had to explain that Charlie Watts is the most delightful man, but he does like to be in bed by 11.30pm.
‘So, we just chanced it, and it was amazing, hugely emotional.’
Rubbing shoulders with the stars is all part of Joyce’s job. But has she ever been star-struck?
‘I was sitting on a lighting rig at the side of the stage at the No Filter tour in Stockholm,’ says Joyce. ‘A chap came up beside me and it was Benny Andersson from Abba. I thought, “Be still my beating heart!”.
Are there any plans for the band to finally hang up their instruments?
‘Nobody lives forever, but they’re always looking ahead. They have no reverse gear.’
She adds: ‘I celebrated my 60th birthday with family and while we were in Stockholm the Stones threw me a surprise party.
‘Not many girls can say all four Rolling Stones sang Happy Birthday to them!’
The Rolling Stones No Filter tour
The Rolling Stones’ No Filter tour will be arriving at Southampton’s St Mary’s Stadium on May 29.
The UK and Ireland leg of the tour begins on May 17.
Over the 14 dates more than 725,000 people will see the band perform.
It takes a crew of 130 to put the stage show together, and 100 of those people are hired locally.
Tickets for the show start at £59.95 and go up to £249.95.
Southampton audiences saw the Stones for the first time at the Gaumont Theatre (now the Mayflower) 55 years ago when they played two 20-minute sets, at 7pm and 9.30pm, as part of a bill supporting Bo Diddley and The Everly Brothers.
During their second visit they were interviewed by Fred Dinenage for Three Go Round.
‘They picked their noses, took their shoes and socks off, talked among themselves and ignored me,’ Fred recalled years later.
He continued: ‘Brian Jones put his arm round my shoulder and said “I’m sorry about that, old son, but that’s the way we’ve been told to behave.” ‘They were actually rather nice guys.’
To buy tickets for the No Filter tour, go to rollingstones.com