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Remembering 'The Rolling Stones On Tour: Goodbye Great Britain'

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The next thing I knew, Keith Richards and I were breaking into the dressing room by using a variety of small implements, a metal comb and a Swiss army knife among them, to take all the screws out of the door hinges so we could then throw the door itself onto the floor. While in the act, he and I never spoke. There was no need. We were partners in a crime being committed in the name of justice, rock & roll style.

The night wore on, getting ever weirder. At one point, a very loaded and deathly pale Gram Parsons asked me to take him upstairs so he could look at the stage. Out we went together into the still-freezing corridor. I pushed open a door that I thought would lead us to the crowded dance floor on which thousands of sweaty kids were smoking hash in order to prepare themselves for the Stones. With me in the lead, the two of us began going up flights of stairs. Endless flights of stairs. There was a door at each and every landing, but all of them were locked. It was like being trapped while changing classes in some high school of the perpetually damned.

By my side, Parsons began to lose it in a serious way. His breathing became labored, his face even more pale than it had been before. This was not cool. At all. Finally, I found a door that was not locked. I shoved it open, and out we both stepped into the completely deserted second balcony of a huge, cavernous movie house. Above our heads, on a screen that had to be twenty feet high and twice as wide, the movie Myra Breckinridge was being shown in very lurid living color. We had gone beyond. We had just entered another dimension. We were now both in the twilight zone.

By this point, reality had become an entirely subjective concept. How could it not be so? I was on the road with the Stones. Doors that I had never before seen were now wide-open to me. I possessed a certain power that could not be explained. Yet everyone felt it all the same. I was somebody by association.

Throughout the entire tour, I made it my business never to let anyone ever see me take any notes. Not a single one. My aim was simple: I did not want anyone to be conscious that I was listening to and recording everything they did and said.

Just before the tour ended in London, Mick Jagger felt the need to challenge me on this point. Nothing personal, mind you. Just Mick being Mick (a full-time job if ever there was one), rattling the bars of my cage in order to find out if anyone was in fact alive inside. Call it my final exam for personal credentials in a world where he was the final judge of everything and everyone.

Backstage at the Roundhouse, Mick Jagger let me know in no uncertain terms that he had my number. I hadn't fooled him at all. For the past ten days, I had done nothing but enjoy myself. I had run as wild and full-out as anyone else on the tour, when in fact it was to work that I should have put my hand. The truth was that I had no real idea what any of this was about. Now, did I?

I mumbled something in my own defense. Then I went home and wrote the piece. Concerning one thing of course, Mick himself was dead right. God, but I had fun. Staying up through the night while careening from town to town with a bunch of crazy people who laughed all the time as the Rolling Stones played kick-ass rock & roll in tiny little trade-union halls, ballrooms and university auditoriums. It was far less a job than a unique shot at experiencing something that I think I knew even then would not come again.

Recently, I found myself at a funeral with someone else who had been on that journey through England with the Stones twenty years ago. The only difference was that since then, he had been on every single tour that both the Rolling Stones as a band and Mick Jagger as a solo performer had done. And by that I mean every single one.

"Wot?" he said in a manner so English that there is simply no way to get it on the page. "That last one we did round England? Gettin' on buses and ridin' ordinary trains? Best tour ever. That's what tha' was. Best tour there ever was."

I thought so then. I still think so even now. Which only goes to show that no matter how thoroughly this world of ours sometimes threatens to go to hell in a handbasket, at least some things never change. One of them being the memories we carry around within us like a raincoat. Even when there is no rain.

This story is from the June 11th, 1992 issue of Rolling Stone.


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