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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.

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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.

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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."

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