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The Rolling Stones' 1975 Tour: Baptized in Baton Rouge, Castrated in San Antone

World's greatest performing band bewilders the south

July 17, 1975
Mick Jagger Keith Richards Rolling Stones
Mick Jagger and Keith Richards on the cover of Rolling Stone
Photo by Annie Leibovitz

Goddammit," Bill Carter growled as he raced through the lobby of San Antonio's Hilton Palacio Del Rio. "Did you see this headline?" The former Secret-Service-agent-turned-Rolling-Stones-security-chief-and-visa-lawyer was waving the front page of the San Antonio News for June 4th, 1975. Splashed across the top, in bold black capital letters encased by a delicate pink box, the headline read "Stones Vice Raid Urged."

"That's all we need," he spat out the words angrily, "to have Mick arrested onstage. There'll be a goddamn riot like you never saw before. The kids'll burn that damned building to the ground." Spouting further visions of apocalypse, Carter stomped off to telephone the chief of police and anybody else who might be in on the gathering storm.

Only two cities into the Rolling Stones' massive Tour of the Americas, '75, Carter was earning his keep as the tour's straight man, the tough-talking lawyer who could deal with local authorities on their own level. What he had not counted on so early in the tour was Rupert Murdoch, the San Antonio News' Australian publisher, and his daily serving of dope, sex and violence. The Stones had not played this South Texas city since June 7th, 1964, when they performed before 65 persons at a disastrous affair called "Teen Fair." This time around, the city, especially Murdoch's News, was treating the two-concert appearance by the band as a major event. When the group touched down at the airport in the Boeing 720 Starship (which still bore Elton John's red, white and blue paint job, in addition to two Stones eagle logos, one already peeling), a splotchy, mildly hysterical special edition of the News, headlined "Stones Roll into San Antonio," was waiting for them.

The next day, after the first San Antonio show and after the city's first glimpse of the giant inflated phallus white balloon that rises out of the stage during "Star Star," the News pulled a classic strategem of yellow journalism. An unnamed cityside reporter called Municipal Court Judge Michael O'Quinn and informed him that dope smoking was going on in the Hemisfair Arena, and that this rock band there was using an obscenity as a stage prop, and what did the good judge have to say about that? The good judge immediately said that it seemed truly illegal and that, if it was indeed true, police should do something about it forthwith. That was all the News needed for a scoop.

Photos: Rare and Intimate Pictures of the Rolling Stones

Carter, meanwhile, after hurried conversations with local authorities, huddled with Stones manager Peter Rudge and tour press representative Paul Wasserman. Grimfaced, they confronted the awful possibilities: Jagger & Co. being led off the star-shaped stage in handcuffs, vice squad officers deflating the 15-foot penile structure and tugging it along for evidence ("Your honor, I present Exhibit A: the world's largest condom"), and meanwhile in the arena, seats already being wrenched from their fastenings and hurled at the stage, the four-foot plywood fence around that stage rapidly being rendered into splinters, wine bottles raining from the cheap seats, flames licking at the marvelous lotus-petal stage, blood running ankle deep in the aisles. Their worst fear, though, was the eternal nightmare of those who earn their livings from such tours: bad press. Police would be waiting at every airport on their itinerary of 28 cities to search each suitcase until the offending member, the billowy lingam, was found. Injunctions would be served at every turn, lawsuits would freeze tour monies for endless years, and the estimated $12-14 million gross from this tour would be pissed away into the wind. We'll play it by ear, Carter and Rudge decided. If the vice squad shows up we'll put the question to Mick: Will the cock rise tonight?

"Goddammit," Carter exploded. "What's the difference between Baton Rouge and San Antonio? Baton Rouge saw the cock twice in the same day!"

True enough. I began wondering about the difference and why the Stones opened in Baton Rouge. They said it was to escape the pressures of big cities, but it was more than that. Except for a mild traffic jam, Baton Rouge did not at all acknowledge the presence of a major rock & roll band. The audience was well behaved and receptive enough, but far from committing itself. That was why they'd picked a town like Baton Rouge: no physical or musical risk whatsoever. There were only two policemen on duty at Louisiana State University's Assembly Center on the night of May 31st, when the Stones pulled in for their last rehearsal before the tour opened the next day with two performances in that same hall.

And, as Charlie Watts said as he waited for the rehearsal to start, most earlier rehearsals had been just jamming and this was the last chance to put the show together. Watts, who appeared thinner than ever and sported a slowly growing skinhead haircut ("I cut it off because I was going bald"), was sitting with bassist Bill Wyman and trading stories with journalists. Ben E. King and Bianca Jagger were over in one corner with the upper crust of Atlantic Records; Keith Richards, with a sunburned belly and a massive turquoise belt, was picking out Charlie Rich tunes on a piano, and Mick Jagger and keyboard journeyman Billy Preston were off in a corner listening to tapes of rough cuts recorded by the Stones in Munich earlier this year for fall release.

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