If the bank-breaking ticket prices, endless stream of headlines and Time Person of the Year award didn't already make it glaringly obvious, 2023 belonged to Taylor Swift.

From a commercial standpoint, pop's biggest superstar could do no wrong this year. Her blockbuster Eras Tour has already become the highest-grossing trek in history (surpassing Elton John's Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour) and the first to earn more than $1 billion, with at least a full calendar year of shows remaining. Ticket demand was so astronomical that it crashed Ticketmaster, and diabolical resale prices led to new anti-scalping laws around the world. Every tour stop stimulated the local economy to almost pre-pandemic levels, as politicians groveled on social media for her to visit their countries.

The accompanying Eras Tour film earned a staggering $92 million at the U.S. box office in its opening weekend and has since grossed roughly $250 million worldwide, making it the biggest concert movie in history — and in bypassing studios to partner directly with AMC and split the profits 50-50, Swift could upend the traditional film distribution model. She also topped the Billboard 200 twice in 2023 with new versions of 2010's Speak Now and 2014's 1989, the latest entries in her unprecedented project to re-record her first six studio albums for which she does not own the masters.

The most impressive part of Swift's colossal year is that it's taking place 17 years after the release of her self-titled debut album, long past the expected shelf life of a pop star. Swift has said as much herself. "By the time an artist is mature enough to psychologically deal with the job, they throw you out at 29, typically," she told Time. "In the '90s and '00s, it seems like the music industry just said: 'OK, let's take a bunch of teenagers, throw them into a fire and watch what happens. By the time they've accumulated enough wisdom to do their job effectively, we'll find new teenagers.'"

Listen to Taylor Swift's 'Cruel Summer' (Live From the Eras Tour)

Words like "historic" and "unprecedented" get tossed around so often in relation to Swift lately that they risk losing their impact. But actually, there is some precedent for her epic year. More than four decades ago, one of rock's biggest acts accomplished a similarly monumental feat: the Rolling Stones.

How the Rolling Stones' 1981 U.S. Tour Changed Rock Forever

The Rolling Stones were on top of the world when they launched their 1981 U.S. tour in support of the chart-topping, multiplatinum Tattoo You. The band was already a touring juggernaut, dutifully visiting the U.S. every three years, but the 1981 trek kicked things up a notch even by their standards.

The Stones stormed stadiums and arenas across the country, shattering a slew of attendance records and holding many of them for decades. The tour grossed over $50 million, becoming the most lucrative trek in history at the time, and drew more than 2 million fans. The ever-shrewd rockers made history by selling the tour's advertising rights to perfumer Jovan Musk for a reported "several million dollars," the first of many lucrative rock 'n' roll marketing deals to come. And they set a new precedent and further lined their pockets by airing a pay-per-view broadcast of their show on Dec. 18, 1981 — Keith Richards' 38th birthday — at Virginia's Hampton Coliseum.

READ MORE: Rolling Stones Albums Ranked

Like Swift's Eras Tour, the Stones' 1981 U.S. tour also took place 17 years after they released their self-titled debut album. It found the formerly depraved rockers cleaning up their act (slightly) and making their transition from hell-raising hedonists to ruthlessly calculating businessmen — particularly Mick Jagger, who oversaw the tour's every financial detail.

At the time, it was unheard of for a rock band to operate at their level for nearly two decades. "Nobody else has done it, you know?" Richards told Rolling Stone that year. "It's kind of interesting to find out how rock 'n' roll can grow up. I mean, there are other examples, obviously, but on the sort of scale the Rolling Stones are on, and have been on for so long, it still seems that if we do our best, they respond to it immediately — the audience, the kids, whatever you want to call it. Some of them are not so young anymore. Nor are we."

Watch the Rolling Stones Play '(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction' Live in Hampton 1981

Will the Stones-Swift Comparisons End Here?

It remains to be seen whether the comparisons between Swift and the Rolling Stones will continue once the Eras Tour concludes. In many ways, 1981 marked a last hurrah for the Stones, as Tattoo You became their last album to top the Billboard 200, and intra-band turmoil would keep them off the road until 1989, when they launched another mammoth trek in support of Steel Wheels.

READ MORE: When Chaos Reigned as Guns N' Roses Opened for the Rolling Stones

Swift's reign, on the other hand, shows no signs of ending. She just earned the biggest first-week sales of her career with 1989 (Taylor's Version), which moved an astounding 1.653 million album-equivalent units and earned the biggest vinyl sales week of the 21st century. Demand for her concert tickets remains unabated. The only thing that could halt her momentum now would be for her to cease touring altogether.

If she does that, she'll have taken a spectacular final bow with the Eras Tour. But if she keeps going, then just like the Stones, she'll always be greeted by a rapt audience of millions.

Rolling Stones Live Albums Ranked

Many of the band's concert records sound like quick cash-grabs or stop-gaps between studio LPs, but there are gems to uncover.

Gallery Credit: Michael Gallucci

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