The Rolling Stones' Grand Finale to Their 1969 U.S. Tour

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Chip Monck, the production wizard who stage managed the Monterey and Woodstock festivals (not to mention the Stones' tour itself) immersed himself in phone calls to airlines, to lumber yards, to friends who could help, especially to the people who'd helped him set up Woodstock.

"The only trouble is," Monck said, "that time is so short. At minimum, this is a 15-day trip, to have the time to get it all together. This is going to be like a little Woodstock, you know?"

With that, he plunged back into the telephone, trying to find enough of the right plywood to build a stage, enough of the right people – and especially enough time. They'd have three days to set up, and that would mean working around the clock, three straight shifts a day, straight through until it began, day and night.

The most promising site they had located by Tuesday (four days before the concert was to be held) was the 1000-acre Sears Point Raceway, a 50-minute freeway drive north of San Francisco, at the top of San Francisco Bay, in the hinterlands between Sonoma and Vallejo.

But there was a problem with it. Sam Cutler found it "esthetically unpleasing." By some small miracle, they had found a thousand serviceable acres – complete with access roads, parking, water, and facilities for medical aid-free for the week-end – and Cutler was concerned over esthetics.

Tuesday night, a meeting was held at the Novato ranch of the Grateful Dead, to determine what was to happen, how, why, and all that. It was, some of the less confrontation-oriented of the organizers noted, to be a "political" meeting – everybody would argue and shout about the Revolution. So the non-politicals stayed home. They could find out what had (and hadn't) happened the next morning, they said, but fucked if they'd get involved in that madness.

"Can't wear yourself out with all that shouting," said Monck, "when there's gonna be so much work to do."

When it was suggested that busting up a free event of this magnitude might be a spiffy political move for somebody like Governor Ronald Reagan to attempt, the organizers turned coolly silent, and one said: "We don't need to hear that. We don't want those kind of vibes to be injected onto this trip." Given that response, it seemed fruitless to point out that the sheriff of Marin County is, reputedly, a hard right-winger of Reaganesque coloration.

The Wild West and the Moratorium had given the Park and Recreation Department at least two months notice for use of Golden Gate Park. The Stones and their friends were trying to get it together in three weeks. A further obstacle was that a temporary cessation on rock events in the park had been ordered by the Park Department because of reported incidents of violence and firearms. What's more, no rock concert at the park had ever had an audience over 30,000. And the Stones people remained hopeful, to the end, that they'd get Golden Gate Park.

There were innumerable false starts and miscues. A meeting with the Mayor was announced. It did not materialize. Late one afternoon, the organizers put themselves on the Park Department agenda to ask for Golden Gate Park. The next morning they phoned to drop the request. No reasons given.

One question had an easy answer, though. Beyond doubt, the Stones could afford to give the free concert. Their tour had been an unqualified financial success.

The office of Stones manager Allen Klein was estimating that the tour had grossed $2 million, after 20 appearances. $286,542 of this came from three Madison Square Garden shows, and it was reliably estimated that the Stones' share of this came to $160,000. Assuming this proportion held true nation-wide, the Stones' share from the whole tour comes to about $1,120,000, before taxes and before paying a small battalion of sound men, recording engineers, stage hands and so on.

There were no announced figures for total attendance but if the $2 million gross estimate has any validity, it means the Stones played to something like 350,000 paying customers.

The new Stones album, Let It Bleed, had been released for optimum sales effect, to coincide with the tour. The strategy had worked. Reported London Records national sales manager Herb Goldfarb: "I think advance orders on Let It Bleed were close to the million mark before the tour began, but when it started and got all the publicity, sales turned phenomenal." At this point, he says, sales exceed one million already, and it looked like one of the Stones' biggest ever.

Of 14 Stones LPs to date, 12 are gold. This includes Let It Bleed, which was certified a million-seller before it was even released. It was, according to Goldfarb, "the fastest-selling record in London's history."

The Stones brought their recording people along, and hope to be able to put out a live album, perhaps to two-record set, of the whole Stones show, with B. B. King, Ike and Tina Turner, and Terry Reid included. Legal matters, such as the fact that they're all signed to different labels, are for the moment complicating this enterprise.

It was in New York that the Stones received their most tumultous response.

Outside Madison Square Garden, guards found one scalper selling pairs of $3.50 tickets (the cheapest) for $40 a pair. There were not too many scalpers, though, evidently because most ticket purchasers really did want to see the Stones.

The day tickets went on sale, November 6th (24 days in advance of the concert) the box office opened two hours early to accommodate the crowd of 6,000 that had already assembled. In eleven hours and 45 minutes, the two scheduled shows were virtually sold out, with 30,936 tickets gone. A matinee performance, added the following week, came within a couple of hundred seats of selling out as well.

In New York, the Stones did pretty much the same set they'd done everyplace else. Like they were supposed to, the crowd rushed the stage. No one seated on the main floor of the Garden could see through the crowds that jammed the aisles, unless they stood on their chairs. It was like that from the first number. For those who could see him, Jagger was the perfect, prancing, mincing advertisement for unisex.

The band got better and better the more they performed. That was clear to everyone who heard them on the West Coast, in San Francisco or Los Angeles, and then, later, in New York or West Palm Beach. It was clear to Mick, who noted: "Compared to the way we sounded later along, we were terrible in San Francisco. Ragged. By the time we got to Detroit, I'd say, it was like a one hundred per cent improvement.

"The band got better. The sound system improved, and we got better accustomed to performing again. It's really a matter of confidence. It takes awhile to get that up."

It makes a difference, having Mick Taylor in Brian Jones' place. "It's more of a band now," Jagger said enthusiastically. "It's definitely a different band. It's fucking incredibly hard now. I mean, we haven't got a lot of the things Brian could do. Like none of us play dulcimer and those things. I guess we could" – the feeling here was that this was Brian's contribution, and somehow it would be false for another Stone to take on Brian's role – "but we don't. I mean, I like to play autoharp, but I wouldn't do it onstage. At home, yes; you know? But not onstage. Those were things Brian did that we don't have now.

"But we're so hard now as a band . . . And, with Mick – Mick's really good – and it means Keith can sort of lay out and tune up in the middle of a tune. There's more time to think. And sometimes they'll get to tossing solos back and forth between the guitars. like on 'Sympathy for the Devil,' and it's just great! It's beautiful to hear, and it's something we've never gotten into just that way before."

Leonard Bernstein came backstage to talk with the band in New York. He seemed thrilled by everything they did, digging one set onstage, hunched down behind the amplifiers. Jimi Hendrix did the same at another show.

Their farewell to New York came in a shower of some 5,000 rose petals loosed from the ceiling. They fluttered down in a pink cloud, fragrant and ethereal.

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