The Rolling Stones Fall 1969 Tour

Page 4 of 5

Further complicating the situation was the fact that there were at least thirty-five in the "official Stones party." There were ten in the production crew. There were five writers, one of them researching a Stones biography. Jagger's secretary Jo Bergman was along, constantly making telephone calls and parrying with the hordes who wanted to get at Mick. Tony Fuches, a huge, muscular black student from Los Angeles who'd formerly served as Jim Morrison's bodyguard. The people representing the Chrysler Corporation, always counting cars and station wagons (by Oakland there were twenty-eight in use) and worrying about where they were.

The only things that distinguished the two shows in Oakland from the one in Colorado and the two in Los Angeles – except for accelerating excitement – was the fact that all the amplifiers blew out and the promoter, Bill Graham, got into a fight with Sam Cutler. And . . . the staging, of course.

The staging was near-perfect. To begin with, the Oakland Coliseum is a good-looking hockey rink; an overhead grid in the saucer-shaped structure looks like a turbine and you're convinced you're deep inside a space ship headed for another galaxy. Over the stage was a bank of colored lights. Scattered around the giant bagel-shaped room, against the ceiling, were six spreading laser beams, the spotlights, bathing the Stones in blue and red. And over the whole thing, high over the stage and colored lights, was a monstrous closed circuit TV screen. Two cameras were in front of the stage and for an hour and fifteen minutes twice that night the screen was filled with Jagger's uni-sex face. (Looking at times quite the duplicate of Katherine Hepburn or Lauren Bacall. And when the cameras pulled wide to show all of Jagger, prancing, he looked and moved like Hayley Mills.) It was, simply, a consummate show executed in a consummate manner. Bill Graham proved, once again, that he knew what a promoter should do.

The Rolling Stones on the Cover of Rolling Stone

But Graham made a little mistake. It happened during Oakland's first show, when the thousands who had been dancing in the aisles rushed the stage, overrunning (but not damaging) the closed circuit television cameras.

Graham jumped onto the stage and began bouncing around like a man trying to stamp out a nest of snakes, pushing kids away and giving orders. Sam Cutler asked Graham to leave the stage. Graham told Cutler to get the hell off his stage. Then Graham grabbed Cutler – and Cutler, having a fuse only millimeters longer than Graham's, grabbed back. They were going to kill each other.

Five feet away the Stones were still playing "Satisfaction."

Finally the fight was stopped, but after the show, there was a lot of tension backstage. Graham was pacing. A dozen men in black suits stood outside the Stones' dressing room. Rumors flew: The Stones are going to incite a riot, tell the kids to destroy the place.

Nothing happened. They juggled the line-up a bit, but that's all.

Actually, the first juggling came during the first show, before the fistfight, when nearly all the amplifiers blew out. The amps had come from Ampeg, only two or three weeks old and never tested; the Stones were the first to use them; it was brand new experimental stuff. And it blew. So Jagger and Richard got into the acoustic numbers sooner than planned, to allow technicians time to repair and then replace the amps. In the second show, the Stones played through amps rushed to the arena by the Grateful Dead – with Owsley standing guard.

Also in the second show Ike and Tina opened and Terry Rield followed them and bombed, then B. B. came on and finally the Stones. B. B. was so good, he took the tour's only (so far) encore.

The show was still improving. Jagger was gaining confidence. He once had talked about the thrill of poking that audience/monster, to stir it to its feet, to get it going. In Oakland he said, "I've got so used to playing in these big places. There's a special kind of buzz to get all those people at it. It's real easy to get two – thousand at it, man. I tell you, it's a walk-over."

Only one show was planned for San Diego, in the Sports Arena, home of professional basketball's Rockets, professional hockey's Gulls. It was the fourth round building of the tour and the one that most looked like a gymnasium – a huge Scoreboard over the center of the floor, an American flag nearby.

Outside, uniformed city cops stood near each of the arena's four entrances, stopping anyone who approached to see he had a ticket. Other cops stood in lines of a dozen or more in the parking lot, staring at the four or five hundred kids shuffling around in the distance. By evening's end, several dozen had been arrested, some for smoking grass, more for interfering with a police officer and vandalism. (A number of arena windows were broken.) San Diego was the toughest so far. It was also the last to be produced by Bill Graham.

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