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The Rolling Stones A Smash at Nicaragua Benefit

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So Mick Jagger is down. Picked out and kicked down, rejected by a country he'd very much wanted to see; rejected for the first time in the Stones' ten years together. But suddenly he pops up, from behind the sleek white housing Chip Monck, stage and lighting manager, has designed, not only as an extravagant enclosure for the arps (also painted white), but a catwalk playground for Mick Jagger as well. Mick pops up from the rear of this bank, to the top of a child-size sliding ramp, skitters down onto the stage, and flashes his mouth, first, and then his ensemble. The band, as always, looks bored behind him, grinding out the intro for "Brown Sugar," and Jagger is a caped peacock, peaking already as he holds a rhinestone-studded black costume ball mask up to his face, glitter onto the already glittering body. He giggles and does away with the prop, whirls around and around in a black cape and tosses it aside, flashing violet lining as he does. Now it's just him in short faded levi jacket and blue velvet pants, silver patterned stars in silvery stripes running diagonally down the left side. And two scarves, a long white one as a sash; a regulation blue for the neck. And this brilliant glow in his hair: it is a thick rhinestone headband, a crown for Little Queenie, changing colors under the bank of reds and whites and blue lights shining.

Jagger is doing his basic dance step, left leg straightened out, loosened only at the toe, stomping flat footed on the duralon floor (painted with flaming orange and green serpents for the US tour), big mouth chomping away in anticipation of the first vocal explosion, and by the time Jagger has moved into "Bitch," it is clear that between Jagger and the staging, it's a show. Onstage, Mick can climb up a three-rung ladder to the top of the long white catwalk atop the amps and prance its distance, almost the length of the full stage. He reaches out to the crowd, forcing two-handed kisses at them, jutting his butt, sashaying away down the slide. He can be the child he is, exploring heights, depths, colors, sounds. He jumps onto Nicky Hopkins' piano bench, almost horsey-back, and thrusts fists into the air. He can go off to the other corner, where Leroy, Bill Graham's classy black guard from the Fillmore days, is seated on a stool, clapping his hands, and Mick will take away Leroy's big hat to parade through a number. And off to the left there is Bianca, wearing a little black hat and a red blazer outfit, standing near Chip Monck, watching her husband at work.

Mick Jagger is the hardest-playing man in show business. Finished with "Gimme Shelter," he thinks maybe it's time for a few old ones, ones he didn't do the last time around; he does "Route 66," voice raspy and strong as he implores, "Won't you get hip, to this kind of trip."

"Vintage," he says after the ovation, "definitely vintage." Keith Richards, looking off-white of skin, dressed himself in white satin, steps forth to help out on "It's All Over Now." The two are the only ones who move, aside from the non-Stones, hornmen Jim Gordon and Bobby Keyes and pianist Nicky Hopkins. Charlie Watts is set in from the wall of speakers, and Mick Taylor and Bill Wyman continue to perfect their imitations of statues.

"A bit rusty, that one," Jagger comments. Now he thanks the audience for showing up. "I know it's a lot of bread, but thank you," and into "Happy," now all red lights blazing, again with Keith, Jagger in one of his classic positions, chest out, arse up, hands cupping upper buttocks, then "Tumbling Dice," Mick taking a break sitting on one of the tilted monitor speakers.

Finally, he focuses attention on the major problem of the show, faulty mikes, and waits for repairs before the first slower song, "No Expectations," sung in a voice quavering just right. "Sweet Virginia" is next, more mike problems, and the Stones slow down again with "You Can't Always Get What You Want."

In the darkness, Dr. Janov gets up and leaves. Jagger says he is tired of "that medium tempo," and goes into "Live With Me," running to all sides again, proffering his furious kisses in all directions up and down the ramp, pouting, pumping, stomping, scolding, shouting, posing, mussing up his hair as if he really wishes it were longer. (He cut it short, he said, in anticipation of warm weather during the Pacific tour; he was planning to do a lot of swimming at the first stop, Auckland.)

The kisses, the let-it-out shouts of "Aw-right!" Even the shorter shag – we are seeing the old Mick, working his blues away, flashbacking again for some of the hardest rock he ever did: "Round And Round," letting the glittering shirt fall down over a glistening shoulder, letting the fall force the frontal zipper down past the navel, a glimpse of white shorts before he notices and jumps up, into "Jumping Jack Flash." No one can touch him now, as he powers into the closing number, their ironic theme, "Street Fighting Man," Mick phrasing each line like a snarl, throwing flowers and petals to the audience while the band maintains the rev. Mick puts his cape on with a flourish, over his head, spins ten times, and he collapses onto his knees for the bow. An embrace with Keith and lights out.

And for an encore, the world's greatest rock & roll band performs "Midnight Rambler," Mick leaned into the mike now to play harp; sprawled, now, on top of the painted dragons, covered, now, by smoke. Finally, on the duralon, two hours since this costume ball began, Jagger is crawling, slowed down by the weight of his own performance. There was no way the 18,625, plus 30 crashers, could ask for more. The show had been nearly five hours long, the Stones performed for nearly two of them.

This story is from the February 15th, 1973 issue of Rolling Stone.


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Song Stories

“Love Is the Answer”

Utopia | 1977

The message of the Beatles' "All You Need Is Love" proved to be a universal and long-lasting one, which Utopia revisited 10 years later on this ballad. "From a lyrical standpoint, it's part of a whole class of songs that I write, which are about filial love," Todd Rundgren explained. "I'm not a Christian, but it's called Christian love, the love that people are supposed to naturally feel because we are all of the same species. That may be mythical, but it's still a subject." Though "Love Is the Answer" wasn't a hit, a cover version two years later by England Dan & John Ford Coley peaked at Number Ten on the Billboard singles chart.

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