NEW YORK — The Rolling Stones played four final sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden to wind up an exhaustive eight-week tour of US hockey arenas, airports, hotels, and one New England police station.
Then they packed up their gear and went looking for a hurricane so they could unwind.
The tour began back in early June at Vancouver, B.C. The Garden shows were the 51st, 52nd, 53rd and 54th of the tour. Behind them the Stones left a trail of ringing eardrums and faded headlines: Stones Stir Peaceful Seattle; 2nd Honeymoon for Stones, S.F. Fans; Stones Reach Peak at Long Beach Arena; Police Disperse 200 at Tucson Concert.
The Manhattan dates closed the eighth and final week of the tour, and the explosive release of energy by everyone at the Garden was to be expected. But when the Stones and the tour party of 30 look back – if they are still able – it is unlikely they will overlook the week before they reached New York – the week when the whole tour was nearly blown from underneath them by a dynamite blast. The bombing was only one episode in a string of ugly events that came down on the tour in rapid succession.
Week seven of the tour began in Toronto. The show was at the Maple Leaf Gardens – another hockey arena. For the Toronto Maple Leafs the floor of the place is iced over, so no matter how hot and frenzied the crowd becomes over a breakway slap shot, there is always that bit of cool in the air. For the Stones there was no ice, of course. Tour manager Peter Rudge took a thermometer out on stage and sagged uncomfortably as the mercury rose to . . . 145 degrees. The place was, he said, "unreasonably warm."
To compound the urge to get the hell out of the Maple Leaf Gardens, what seemed to Rudge like a battalion of police was backstage gobbling down all the free food within grabbing distance.
On to Montreal. Most of the troupe was asleep at 3 AM, Monday, July 17th. The two equipment vans had arrived from Toronto and were parked on a ramp at the Montreal Forum. The dynamite blast that exploded under the ramp blew out a slew of windows in a nearby apartment and the cones of 30 speakers inside one of the trucks.
"Whoever it was was the world's dumbest bomber," said press agent Gary Stromberg. "First he put the bomb under the ramp instead of the truck, and the other truck was the one with most of the stuff inside."
The next morning Mick Jagger wanted to know: "Why didn't that cat leave a note." The incident left everyone wondering who and why. Montreal radio stations and newspapers received numerous calls from would-be bombers claiming credit – more than 50 in all.
"There have been threats all along the tour, but nothing ever happened," said veteran tour roadie Jo Bergman. "It was totally surprising. We don't know who did it. Was it the Free the French people? Were they angry at the Forum? Was it us?"
Air Canada bumped luggage from a flight out of Los Angeles to accommodate the replacement cones, which were installed in time for the show to go on only 45 minutes late – after a bomb squad had searched the place. Even then there was more Montreal hospitality to contend with. While 3000 ticketless young people outside pelted the Forum and police with rocks, wine and beer bottles and bricks, Jagger was hit by a flying bottle inside.
That killed plans for another joint encore by the Stones and the Stevie Wonder band – first tried in Detroit ("Satisfaction"). Now the idea was to get the hell out of Montreal and Canada for Boston.
The Canadian exit did not go smoothly either. The pilot of the Stones' Electra II prop-jet braked to a halt on the runway when he noticed something amiss with the air speed indicator. By the time the thing was fixed, the getaway was an hour and a half late.
Boston's Logan Airport was socked in by fog, so the chartered flight was directed to a place called Theodore Francis Green Airport in Warwick, Rhode Island, near Providence. When the Stones landed in Warwick a few minutes before 8 PM, there was already 15,500 people at the Boston Garden, about 45 miles away, waiting for the show to start. While Stevie Wonder started the show, the Stones entourage was taken to the airport fire engine shed.
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