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Gotham Satyricon: Chocolate Mousse At The End Of The Road

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The media all seemed to be drinking from the same spigot, the brew from which proclaimed that Jagger possesses a mysterious alchemy, giving him power over the multitudes. "Power" was a word frequently used by writers searching for ways to describe the shows, and in a city where power is as blood, tickets for the final night brought as much as $250 each on the streets, with higher prices rumored in private deals.

Other, more curious notions surfaced as well. Older critics, unnerved by all those stomping feet, talked a lot about "control." The audiences were viewed as mobs of Huns who, once aroused, threatened constantly to perpetrate another Altamont. Not allowed for was the fact that the audience at Altamont was generally docile, and not in possession of the decisive knives and pool cues. Jagger said that so far as he was concerned, the "control" business was crap.

Those with at least a fist still stuck in the womb of the Sixties talked about "survival power." Dylan and the Beatles are through, went this line, only the Stones will flop on our beaches, so let's go see them. Popular enough was this view that it lent to the concerts of certain tint of the antique, a sepia tone of nostalgia, a quaint remove. But it failed to explain why a major portion of each Stones audience was under 18, and therefore presumably too young to care much more about the legend of the Stones than they care about the mystery of the pyramids.

When on closing night Stevie Wonder said, "I'd like to thank the Rolling Stones very much for giving me a chance to express myself on the tour," the question inevitably arose as to how much the Stones got to express themselves. Everyone seemed to agree that the Stones were a highly professional gang of musicians; nobody seemed to get the impression that they were too thrilled about playing their own music.

"Sometimes the professionalism did detract from the spontaneity," said Peter Rudge. "For instance, you didn't get any guitar breaks by Mick Taylor. But then, you never did . . . The Stones have never been a jamming band, and never will be."

"You always become a parody of yourself," Rudge added.

By the time it reached the East Coast, the Stones' show had been so carefully analyzed and refined that it varied hardly more than by the few words Mick threw in between songs. Everything else was down pat, from Jagger's deep-knee creep in "Midnight Rambler" to the revolving mirrors which cast the spots onto the audience near the end. People came to see the Stones with high, high expectations, and to avoid disappointing them the Stones delivered concerts as rich and polished – and remote – as their records.

But improvisation would have been next to impossible anyway. At the four Garden shows the Stones employed 16,000 watts of amplifiers and 150 speakers. The sound produced added up to 136 decibels in the front row, about six DB above what is usually designated the threshold of pain. In these conditions the Stones could hardly hear each other; an attempt to throw in something new on impulse would have been something like trying to put a 747 into a slow roll.

When the Stones turned up their amps toward the end of each concert, what developed was less music than an exposition of the aura of music, a journey in the rarefied highlands of pure white sound and rhythm. A device exists which purports to photograph the aura of the human hand, a glowing field the shape and size of which is different for each person. If a piece of music when performed can be said to have a life of its own, perhaps as good a place as any to look for its aura will be in the red zone of the VU meters.

Working at steel desks in the days after the last concert, the Stones' business people verified what they had already known, that the tour worked. It grossed $3-4 million. After paying expenses of about a million dollars and doling out the local promoters' cut, the Stones stand to make up to $2 million before taxes – "Enough to keep them away from the US for about a year, I hope," said Rudge. In addition, a record of the Philadelphia show and a film are forthcoming.

With his feet up during a break in the deskwork, Rudge talked about how the tour compared to the real world.

"A kind of hysterical thing builds up around the group," he said. "We'd go into a hotel room and sit down, there would be people there, and you would want a cup of tea. Someone would say, 'Well, shouldn't we have champagne?' As if at twelve noon you drink champagne, not tea.

"You'd get back to the hotel after a show and all the restaurants would be closed, so all of a sudden everyone would start making preparations to open up the most expensive restaurant in town, when all anybody really wanted was to go round to the White Tower and have a hamburger."

But the important thing, thought Rudge, like most others on the tour, was that it came off. "They've shown that they can tour the US and tour it more successfully than anyone else." Will there be another American tour? "Yes."

This story is from the August 31st, 1972 issue of Rolling Stone.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

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