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The Rolling Stones Go South

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Across from the arena is a row of rickety wooden houses, peeling and cracking with age. At 224 Lawrence St., a man in a suit and tie sits rocking on his porch. Three little girls with bare legs sit on the curb. At 220 Lawrence Street, three ladies sit on the porch. Two have babies in their laps.

Before them flows the unending river of white children from all over the South--as far as Virginia and North Carolina, Mississippi and Louisiana – turned out in their best summer shirts and cottons.

"Do you know who's playing here tonight?" I asked the younger of the three women. She has a baby and pink pincurlers in her hair.

She shakes her head, and shifts in her chair.

"Shoah," the next woman down says. "It's that Little Stevie Wonder."

"Oh dear," the young one sighs. "Ah knew it was someone good. Ah wish Ah could go, shoahly do. But it's been sold out. Ain't that right?"

The Sno-Cone man in the parking lot is white. He has reasonable hair and a beard and he is tripping on THC a kid from Louisiana laid on him. "It's not lahk you think down hyeah," he said, "it ain't lahk when Wallace stood in the doah at the university. That shit is ovah."

On stage, the Stones kick into "Jumpin' Jack Flash" and someone explodes a smoke bomb down in front. A cloud of green smoke comes floating towards the amps. An old Alabam' stage hand looks out at the cloud, scratches an ear and drawls, "Biggest goddahm mess o' marijuana smoke Ah evah seen."

* * *

An Army guy who'd flown a cargo plane cross-country from Vancouver, then hitched the rest of the way to get to the only two gigs the Stones are playing during his week of leave, comes backstage. "When I was shot up in Nam," he says, "I kept it together by singing Stones songs to myself. I guess you could say I'm the only Rolling Stones freak in the Army . . . who's a Captain."

"Chawlie's good tonight, isn't he?" a kid yells at Charlie Watts as he stands spinning his drumsticks in the tunnel that leads to the stage. "It's bullshit that," Charlie says, as the Stones go on for the 27th show of the tour, before the 300,000th person, for their usual 70 per cent of the gate ($63,000 tonight) against a guarantee, whichever is higher.

Ten days later on a hot Sunday in St. Louis, Mick Jagger is resting between shows in his hotel room with the TV set turned on and the sound turned off, and news reports about the Democratic Convention flickering across the screen.

"It's un-be-liev-able," Mick says, referring to the jousting and challenging going down in Miami Beach. "It's unreal." He is just back from spending the tour break in the Virgin Islands where it was "fuckin' boilin'," 110 in the shade. . . .

"I've a terrible memory you know," he says, "and I can't remember at all what the last tour here was like. There's a few I can recall, Madison Square Garden, Altamont, a little of L.A., Chicago vaguely, but not much else. On this one though . . . the audiences have been good, haven't they? In Knoxville and such it might be a bit quiet, but they have listened and gotten up at the end and responded when we wanted them to . . . what can you say . . . good audiences.

"A bit of cryin' now and then for 'Sympathy For the Devil,' which I can't remember anymore." He points to the TV set. "Of course, we might do a long version of it for Nixon. . . .

"Chicago was quite somethin', stayin' at the Mansion and all, which I liked. Hefner was nice to us . . . it would take hours for me to tell you all of the craziness that went on there. Just such craziness and a bit loony underneath, which I like sometimes. After all, it's a part of America, isn't it? Couldn't find a place like that anywhere else, could you?

"The South was alright too. . . . Seein' long hairs in places like Tuscaloosa, where there weren't any at all last time we played there. The best drive we've had so far has been through the Smokeys – Charlotte down to Knoxville, very pretty goin' down these country roads, seeing little Baptist churches, revival tents, and chain gangs. . . . The Washington concert was pretty frightenin' and a bit weird. It's difficult for me to say what it was like for the people who were there, but I guess it sounded alright to the people who were there, if you were no further than halfway back. There was trouble in front, people sittin' on the stage, grabbin' at your legs, gettin' tangled in the mike cables. . . .

"It was a lot like Paris, where the stage got so covered with people for four nights runnin' that you got used to it, but as this was the first time it happened here, it was a bit of unpleasantness. Just a few loons, really, among the 40,000, but still, I couldn't do my thing. . . .

"I would have liked video blowups or somethin' because there was no way for me to reach all them people, it bein' night and me unable to see 'em. It felt even bigger than Hyde Park, where there were more people, but at least it was daylight. . . .

"I wanted to go on earlier, before everyone got too tired and drunk and nasty. As it was, we got on at nine and the papers said some very nice things, but for us, you understan', it was a pretty bad show.

"I'm trying to bring the one concert in the Rubber Bowl, God forbid, who knows what that one will be, earlier on? Right now, we're in the gritty part of the tour where we're all gettin' tired and you got to pull yourself together.

"Madison Square Garden, the big one's still comin' up. After it's over I'll be goin' somewhere to write songs for a month. But I expect we'll pull a few tricks on stage in New York. Maybe I'll stand on my head, pull off all my clothin', and just go crazy.

"Hopefully, by that time, I'll be completely mad."

This story is from the August 3rd, 1972 issue of Rolling Stone.


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