The Rolling Stones were at a live peak when they headed out on a European tour in September 1973 to support their dark new album Goats Head Soup. A recording of their October 17th show at Brussels, Belgium's Forest Hills Arena – featuring the band ripping through new tracks like "Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)" and "Dancing With Mr. D" – circulated among fans for years before being released as part of Google Music's Stones Archive series in 2011. "Toward the end of [hearing] it, I wondered what the rest of the band were on, because things were starting to rock at a ferocious pace," Keith Richards said in 2011. "I've rarely heard the Stones that early on playing live that well-recorded."
The set is now physically available as the Brussels Affair box set, a high-end package that includes the show on 180-gram vinyl, a limited-edition book of photos by tour photographer Michael Putland with words by Nick Kent (and, in some cases, a signature by Mick Jagger), a tour lithograph and even a tongue-and-lips-styled watch. "You just look at it and you go, 'Wow, this is beautiful,'" says Tom Bennett, chief executive officer of Bravado (Universal Music's merchandising division). The set starts at $750. "It's a great gift whether it's your 50th birthday or 40th birthday or your wedding. It's not cheap, but it was never meant to be cheap."
The products are packaged in a replica of the studio case where the soundboard recordings sat for 40 years in the band's London warehouse, which sounds like the ultimate rock & roll treasure trove. "It has everything," Bennett says of the band's London storage space. "Every instrument, every amp, tour props, everything they've ever played and done and all their clothes since the Seventies. It's exciting, the thought that there is all that history in one place."
The period was a difficult time for the Stones – Keith Richards had been busted more than once in the past two years and faced 25 drug charges in London the previous June. Still, they played with vigor. Putland's images capture Jagger pouring a bucket of water over his head mid-show, Richards and Mick Taylor in deep groove. There are also plenty of offstage moments, including a positively sweat-soaked Jagger drinking a Coke after a show, Keith Richards backstage with his family and the band eating diner food between gigs. In his text, Kent recounts parties "where naked women were roaming in plain sight and live sex acts were performed. Bill Wyman seemed to enjoy himself but the rest of the group looked distinctly bored."
The band plans to release similar box sets for other Stones Archive material. Next up: a package for their 26-song set at Virginia's Hampton Coliseum on December 18th, 1981 – where, on Keith Richards' 38th birthday, he famously hit a stage-rushing fan on the head with his Telecaster. Packaging will include a DVD of the show, vinyl and possibly a replica of Keith Richards' guitar pick, with some signed by Richards. "We're trying to make sure it's a different experience every time," Bennett says.
In recent years, the band released Exile on Main Street and Some Girls as deluxe reissues, and Bennett isn't ruling out other Stones classics getting the deluxe treatment. "The truth is, I believe they're working on an awful lot of stuff," says Bennett. "They've gotten comfortable with people going into their archive and coming up with cool, different stuff. They're extremely proud of their history."
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