The Rolling Stones and the Gathering Madness

Mick & co. start their U.S. tour with flak from the public about ticket prices and a decadent stay in Los Angeles

The Rolling Stones circa 1969.
GAB Archive/Redferns
November 29, 1969

LOS ANGELES — It was a hell of a way to welcome the Rolling Stones to America. First, everybody criticized them for permitting, or causing, concert ticket prices to go as high at $12.50. Then, the musicians union rode in and started talking about kicking the Stones out of the country.

"Deportation" became a real possibility when the American Federation of Musicians (Local 47 in Los Angeles) heard the Stones were planning to record while here. Mick Jagger had even confirmed this during a press conference. Trouble was, the Stones' work permits from the Department of Immigration said nothing about recording while in the U.S.

The Rolling Stones, 1963-1969: Behind-the-Scenes Snapshots

The time in the studio was spent completing the last details on their new album, Let It Bleed, scheduled for release on November 10. The new album is in the bluesy, Beggar's Banquet style. Tracks include:

"Midnight Rambler," a long bluesy bit with a long instrumental passage; "Love In Vain," a Robert Johnson ballad, the only number the Stones didn't write; "Gimme Some Shelter" and "You've Got The Silver Now," on which Keith sings lead; a long, nine-minute version of the already-released "You Can't Always Get What You Want," featuring the big female choir much more heavily than on the single, and is a great number; "Country Hunk," a country version of "Honky Tonk Women," featuring a fiddle and all that; there's also "Live With Me," the title tune, "Let It Bleed," and "Monkey Man" which contains these lyrics: "I'm a cold Italians Pizza/I could use a lemon squeezah;/I hope we're not too messianic/or a trifle too satanic/we just love to play the blues."

As soon as the Stones settled into their sumptuous mountain-top homes here (11 people in one house, Mick, Keith, Mick Taylor and several others in the other) the madness began to form. Much of this came in talk and activity surrounding the price and availability of tickets to the two Forum concerts November 8.

At first the Stones were criticized for asking so much money that the concert promoters apparently felt it was necessary to charge as much as $7.50 a ticket. Then it was discovered $7.50 wasn't even the top price–that the promoters, radio station KRLA and Concert Associates, had held back the first twenty rows of seats for "friends" in the industry, from whom they were asking $12.50 a ticket.

This meant that so long as the concerts' top price was being advertised as $7.50, kids who bought the expensive tickets assumed they were buying seats fairly close to the stage. November 8, they wouldn't even be within screaming distance.

Photos: Iconic Shots of the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and More

At the same time, KRLA and Concert Associates had broken all records for money charged for a single rock concert in Los Angeles.

"It's like a status thing, in a prize fight, with ringside seats," explained Jim Rissmiller, one of the Concert Associates' promoters. "We've had people calling offering $40 for these seats. We would never use a concert with so much prestige to bilk the public. Presenting the Rolling Stones is good for us, business-wise. It gets us other acts. We're making money, sure, but we make a lot more with the Iron Butterfly in Anaheim.

"But the cost of the tickets. That's the Stones' responsibility. They set the prices, not us."

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

Music Main Next

blog comments powered by Disqus
Around the Web
Powered By ZergNet
Daily Newsletter

Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
marketing partners.


We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

Song Stories

“Bird on a Wire”

Leonard Cohen | 1969

While living on the Greek island of Hydra, Cohen was battling a lingering depression when his girlfriend handed him a guitar and suggested he play something. After spotting a bird on a telephone wire, Cohen wrote this prayer-like song of guilt. First recorded by Judy Collins, it would be performed numerous times by artists incuding Johnny Cash, Joe Cocker and Rita Coolidge. "I'm always knocked out when I hear my songs covered or used in some situation," Cohen told Rolling Stone. "I've never gotten over the fact that people out there like my music."

More Song Stories entries »