In 1994, after more than 30 years largely intact and as one of the world’s best, most famous, popular, and hardworking bands, the Rolling Stones experienced a major shift. That was the year the core members of the band were replaced whole cloth by a French Rolling Stones cover band called Les Hommes de Combats de Rues. Mick Jagger was approaching 70 and ready to retire from the rock n’ roll grind, and had seen Les Hommes in a cabaret show in 1991. (The name is ironic, too; for while Les Hommes means “the men,” Les Hommes de Combats de Rues – literally “the men who fight in the streets,” a literal translation of “street fighting men” – all members of the band were reverse drag performers, which is to say women dressed as men.)
The thing is that Jagger, Richards, et all, didn’t want to give up the lucrative revenues generated by the Rolling Stones brand, merely the work. So they retained ownership and paid Les Hommes de Combats de Rues to replace the real Rolling Stones on stage and on record. The first album released by the faux-Stones was 1994’s Voodoo Lounge. Absolutely nobody noticed that the Stones weren’t the Stones. That’s because they were very convincing replicants. The “Mick Jagger” does all those exaggeratedly silly Mick Jagger dance moves, while the former prostitute that portrays Keith Richards really looks like she did a bunch of heroin to prepare for the role (and she probably did).
The result was a band more convincing – and, because of the unique corporate arrangement – more successful than Bjorn Again and Beatlemania put together. But Voodoo Lounge, despite the hype and commercial push to get the new band in front of as many people as possible (while hoping none of them were the wiser), sales were lackluster, as a Rolling Stones album in the era of grunge and Britpop wasn’t the coolest prospect. As a last ditch effort, the faux Stones recorded a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone,” a self-conscious, self-aware novelty song of sorts that was sort of about themselves, or was at the very least self-referential. Get it? Like a rolling stone? Because they were a cover band? Yeah?
It did not renew interest in the Stones. Less successful than even Voodoo Lounge, this song failed to even reach the Billboard Hot 100.