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Jumpin' Gas Flash Bops in Heartland

Riots can't stop the Rolling Stones from rocking.

July 20, 1972
Mick Taylor, Mick Jagger, Rolling Stones, Live, performing
Mick Taylor and Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones performing live onstage circa 1972.
Robert Knight Archive/Redferns/Getty

In Transit – underway at last. In flight and moving. Denver, Minneapolis, and Chicago in one Sunday, the limo to the plane to the limo to the hotel. In Minneapolis, the temperature inside the hall hit 100 degrees and Charlie Watts' drumsticks kept slipping out of his hands. Bobby Keys came off during the set with his shirt soaked clear through, looking as if he'd been for a walk in a thunderstorm.

PLEASE DO NOT GO ON THE ICE WITHOUT SKATES the sign backstage said, but any ice cube quickly would have been a river in the hot smoky home of the Minnesota Northstars. Halfway through the set, a girl got caught in a crush in front of the stage and fainted. The crowd lifted her up and passed her hand-to-hand until she reached Patrick Standsfield, the stage manager, who carried her out.

Patrick pushed open a back door and deposited her on a chair outside. The cool night air was just starting to bring her around when a helmeted motorcycle cop came over to take charge of the situation. "Inside," he barked, "inside now. We ain't takin' no responsibility for anyone."

Patrick tried to explain. "Inside," the cop shouted, waving his wooden stick menacingly about. They carried the girl back inside.

Twenty minutes later Charlie kicked in the downbeat to "Jumpin' Jack Flash." A harsh smoky smell drifted into the hall. The Minneapolis cops had their froggy rubber masks on and they were lobbing canisters of tear gas into a crowd of about 75 scared kids.

"Jumping Jack Gas" it was, Mick Jagger said an hour later, having made it safely to the plane.

"Jumpin' Gas Flash," Bill said.

"Oooh, that hall," Mick said. "I remember one like it from back in Scotlan'. They'd erected an iron cage in front of the stage and these girls kept climbin' up it, slowly, like insects goin' to their death. When we first arrived there we thought the place was on fire, but it turned out to be steam. That's how 'ot was. Reminded me a lot of tonite. 'Cawss back then we only had to do a 15-minute set."

*     *     *

Rock & roll and the cops of America. Everybody just doing their job and taking care of their sector, but sooner or later that tear gas would start to flow in the arc-lamp light as kids ran scurrying back from where they came.

When we last left the Rolling Stones' trans-continental rock & roll reunion, party, and victory march to the sea, the boys were in Hollywood and things were calm. Since then there have been newspaper stories reminiscent of the days when Alan Freed and his "Big Beat" shows caused riots in the Fifties.

"Thousands of persons tried to crash the gates of a performance last night by the Rolling Stones rock group," United Press International reported after the San Diego concert.

"Actually," says Jerry Pompili, "there were about 600 kids outside the hall." Pompili, the house manager of Winterland, was working outside security that night. "What happened is that the kids came early and started to collect around the building. We asked the police to move them out but they let it go on until six o'clock. By the time the concert began it was definitely on. The kids had their little packages of rocks and Molotov cocktails and they were there to rumble. It went on until the Tactical Squad cleared them out."

On the day after the concert, San Diego's police chief announced that an investigation was underway as to who was responsible for this apparently "preplanned demonstration." One day later, he announced the dismissal of one of his own policemen for throwing a rock that caused a 17-year-old girl to suffer a broken nose and facial lacerations. The patrolman was also arraigned on charges of assault with a deadly weapon.

"We cannot condone violence," said the chief. "Two wrongs do not make a right."

By the time he said that, the Stones were in Tucson and the Tucson cops were using tear gas and Mace to route a crowd of about 200. "What happened in Tucson," Jerry Pompili said, "is that we asked the cops to come clear the building early in the day. They refused. I was outside the hall and I charged into the hall a few times and called kids 'rock-throwing, mother-fucking cowards' and if you chased them, they ran. But the cops waited until a couple of plate glass windows in a nearby office building were smashed and then I saw them Macing kids by one of the doors."

The next gig was Albuquerque, and if you tended to believe what you heard, it was a good town to buy a football helmet in and carry a wet rag on you at all times. A week before the show, the Albuquerque police sent a remarkable document to the Stones tour people. It said:

CRIMINAL INTELLIGENCE INFORMATION REPORT
Classification: General
File: Miscellaneous
Reference: Rolling Stones concert
"Informants advised writers that University of New Mexico students were 'afraid' to go to the concert. Informant stated that 'everyone' who was 'straight' was afraid because the concert was supposed to be the start of a riot in this city. Informant reported, he was told, 'We didn't get our riot in May so we'll get it in June.'"

The report went on to say that the large local Spanish populace would turn up in force without tickets and if turned away, would cause trouble, and then march to Roosevelt Park to hold their own concert.

Both Peter Rudge and promoter Barry Fey believed the report fully and prepared for a total assault. Rudge, the tour manager, is English. Barry Fey, though, lives in a comfortable Denver suburb and is middle-aged and very American. Neither one of them was sure that the report was accurate but still they felt forced to act as though it were absolute fact.

"All I want is that no one gets hurt at one of my shows," Fey said, "I go to the police and say, 'Look, I haven't come a thousand miles to call you a pig.' In Albuquerque, we had three police forces, campus, city, and state to coordinate, as well as my own security people. And we brought it off. Not one incident. I believe that had to be the most important show of the tour, because if there had been trouble there, they might have stopped this whole thing.

"In San Diego and Tucson, the cops overreacted," Peter Rudge said, on the midnight plane to a gig somewhere. "In Tucson, we were asking for police protection from 2 in the afternoon onwards. During 'Midnight Rambler' this police captain comes backstage and says, 'Can the boys play 15 minutes extra? We've got a gang of 50 kids runnin' around outside and we want to catch 'em before the crowd comes out and they get lost in it.'

"'Can the boys play 15 minutes extra?'" Rudge repeated incredulously. "After we've been callin' on them for help since 2 in the afternoon? Inside the hall though you had no sense of anything occuring. The worst one so far has still been Vancouver, where it almost all went. No one knows how close this tour was to ending right there."

*     *     *

Chicago, old hog-butcher to the world, and the hall lives up to the city's advance notices. The International Amphitheater, site of the 1968 Democratic Convention.

It was a hot wet sweaty day when the Stones played Chicago. The wind from the lake blew a wild shit-smell that let you know immediately where you were. The hall filled quickly and the 4,000 kids downstairs began the evening by standing on their seats. A good number collected in front of the stage. It was hotter even in Minneapolis, a steam boiler, and the stage was only five feet high. Strange hands reached for the monitors. A guy leaped off a balcony and went for the bottle of Jack Daniel's that always sits on one of the amps.

Greatgodalmighty, a sea of sweaty, screaming, bear-chested honchos with clenched fists. Chicago was a big city for clenched fists. For clenched fists and gritted teeth and fuckyou rock and roll and gaining the stage by flinging your body up on it, then throwing your hands up high in the air and screaming so your friends could get a good look at you before Leroy and Stan, the Stones' two security men, wrestled you away.

One guy hurtled up and crashed into the microphone and nearly knocked Jagger into the piano. Mick pirouetted away gracefully, with his lips pursed in an "O" shape as though he couldn't believe what was happening. Chip Monck jumped him and Leroy chopped a punch to his kidney, but the kid kept fighting, kicking, struggling, until they'd gotten him off-stage and into the hands of the cops.

Two uniformed cops were putting the cuffs on him when a short-haired guy in a good sports jacket and razor-cut sideburns to match leaped on him and started to work him over. He looked like a successful young author, or a suburban insurance man, until his jacket slid up to reveal a set of cuffs hanging from his belt.

The suprised uniformed cops slammed him into a back wall and cuffed him. Then they hustled him out before the plainclothesman could get another shot.

Outside in the fresh night air, the kid stood choking and sobbing, "I'm glad," he shouted to no one in particular, "I'm glad. 'Cause you know, my father's a cop. And I paid 25 bucks for a ticket. Whatta I want to cause trouble for? Hah? I was jus' goin' after my wife, they took her out over the stage when she started to faint. Whatta I want to cause trouble for?"

A sad-eyed Chicago police captain motioned his subordinates to take the cuffs off the kid, as they loaded him into the patrol car.

At the back door, patrolman Dennis O'Hyrn was on duty. "It's gonna have to get pretty rough before we use tear gas," he said. "These kids would have to get pretty destructive. Because maybe you heard, we had some pretty bad press on that convention thing a couple years ago.

"Now, where I live, over in Hyde Park, I got the shortest hair on the block. So I mean, it don't bother me none, people can do what they want. But at that Elton John concert . . . no, it was the Humble Pie . . . a few weeks ago, these kids were drinkin' Ripple and blowin' pot so bad you could smell it as soon as you went into the hall. It made your skin start tinglin' and your heart pump. Now personally . . . I got to tell you, that's too much.

"Anyway, these guys here tonight, they're the Rolling Stones, huh? They're gonna have to go some to top the show I worked last week . . . Elvis . . . I got to sit right by the piano. Some broad took off her shoe and hit me right in the head with it. Now, that's a performer."

This story is from the July 20th, 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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