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Rolling Stones Gather Momentum

The band works through its hastily-compiled tour of the States

Ron Wood and Mick Jagger performing on stage circa 1978.
Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images
July 27, 1978

It may have been the most patchwork tour they ever threw together — Stones insiders still insist that Mick Jagger was opposed to it till the last moment — but one week into the Stones' first United States tour since 1975, the band was clearly established again as the biggest draw on the road.

And their current album, Some Girls, was on its way to becoming the Stones' biggest seller in a long time, despite — or perhaps because of — controversy swirling around the title cut. A week after the album's release, Jagger said the group was resisting heavy pressure from Atlantic Records to drop that cut or at least alter the touchiest line: "Black girls just like to fuck all night." After WBLS, New York City's biggest black station, dropped "Miss You," the group's current single, because of the LP's racial attitudes, Atlantic Chairman Ahmet Ertegun was on the phone to WBLS, trying, to no avail, to placate the station.

The widespread rumor that the album might be altered, plus the accompanying rumors that several celebrities pictured on the album cover were seeking an injunction to get the album removed from release (as of press time, there was no such injunction, although Raquel Welch had sent an angry telegram to Rolling Stones Records), led to collectors making runs on record stores. Korvette's in New York sold 900 copies of the album to one collector alone.

Meanwhile, the Stones went blithely about their business, throwing the tour together at the last minute, adding and dropping cities faster than their entourage could count them. As late as the day before an unannounced Stones date at New York City's 4000-seat Palladium theater, only Mick Jagger knew whether or not there would be such a show. The other members of the entourage were not given details of the concert until later that night.

In their first week on the road, the Stones played to about 113,000 people in six cities. But only one of those dates, the 90,000-plus show at JFK Stadium in Philadelphia, had been on the original itinerary. The tour opened June 10th at the Lakeland, Florida, Civic Center before about 10,000 people, who had bought tickets to see what had been billed as "The Great Southeast Stoned-Out Wrestling Champions." On June 12th, the Stones played a surprise date before about 4000 people at Atlanta's Fox Theater. On June 14th, the dingy 3265-seat Capitol Theater in Passaic, New Jersey, had a "Closed for Repairs" sign on the marquee, but the Stones were inside. The next night the group hit the 2000-seat Warner Theater in Washington D.C. Jagger was literally too sick to go on, but had himself shot full of antibiotics and led the group through one of its better shows so far.

The Washington show took a certain toll on Jagger's voice, though, and two days later, at the JFK concert, the Stones turned in their least-satisfying performance of the tour. After an hour and a half, Jagger's voice was weakening, and the band refused to do an encore. While the Stones were spirited out of the stadium in three police vans to waiting helicopters that took them back to New York City, the 90,000 fans were booing.

The tour was being planned around a "three-phase" schedule developed by Jagger after he had finally committed himself to do the tour at all. Besides the eight scheduled outdoor and arena shows, Jagger decided to play a few 10,000 — 15,000-seat venues and a select number of the surprise small-hall shows.

The small dates, according to Stones insiders, were set up despite the initial opposition of Peter Rudge (the Stones' American tour manager), Bill Carter (their security chief) and virtually everyone else in the group's organization. And, as had been expected, ticket sales for the small-hall dates caused more than a few problems. In Atlanta and Washington, a Ticketron system was used, with the Stones being billed as the Cockroaches, among other aliases. In Passaic, a different system was used: tickets were sold, unannounced, at bars, head shops and record stores. But by the time the tour reached New York, rumors were rampant about a Stones date, and kids were camping out at local Ticketron agencies. The Stones, however, bypassed Ticketron and used a lottery system. Two radio stations told listeners to send in postcards with their phone numbers. The day before the show, listeners were called after a random drawing of their names. They were given ID numbers and instructed to pick up tickets at one of three locations the next day, when they found out when and where the concert was being held.

After the New York date, the band took time to rest, regroup and plan the rest of the tour, scheduled to end July 23rd in Anaheim. Up through the Philadelphia show, the band had been traveling by commercial air; there had not been time to charter a plane.

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