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The Rolling Stones On Tour: Goodbye Great Britain

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Most nights the crowd is solidly crazed by this point, rocking down the aisles, idiot dancing in the balcony, middle-aged ladies bumping obscenely in toreador pants (1957!), skinheads gently waltzing ushers round in circles. Rock 'n' roll may never die. "Little Queenie," "Brown Sugar," and then "Street Fighting Man" with Mick flinging a wicker basket of yellow daffodils into the house, petals floating down through spotlight beams as he leaps four feet in the air and screams.

Between shows the dressing room is quiet, calm, Bill asking no one in particular, "Do ya remember carryin' an amp about Newcastle in a wheelbarrow?" as Keith jiggles Marlan up and down.

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The second show at Newcastle is better than the first. Nicky Hopkins, cigarette dangling out the corner of his mouth, two bottles of whiskey on the piano, honky-tonking all the way, moving only from the wrists down. Chip Monck, the voice of Woodstock, right beside him with headphones on, doing his gentle 1958 duckwalk skate, cueing lights, monitoring feedback, ripping cords.

Keith, corkscrewing his body in ever tighter circles as he gets off, his earring swings into view, turning his back to the audience to see-saw into Charlie's big Gretsch bass drum. Charlie is chopping things to rhythms, doubling up, drumming against himself, jack o'lantern face turned to one side, mouth open.

"Curtain call, chappies," a Stones roadie says when it's over.

"They don't do curtain calls," their publicity lady says. "No one is leaving," Chip Monck says, sticking his head in the door.

"Should we then?" Mick asks.

"What do we do?" Keith says.

"Uh, 'Peggy Sue'?"

"They pour through a narrow door and file back on stage into a cosmos of light and noise for their first encore in three years (not a single one on the European tour): "Sympathy For The Devil," followed by Chuck Berry's "Let It Rock."

* * *

The concert over, there's a long white starched table set for 40 people back at the hotel. A beggar's banquet trailing away in the middle of a ballroom. Forty clear glass tumblers all in a line. Knife, spoon, fork set perfectly and repeated 40 times. At two in the morning, surrealism, Rolling Stones variety.

Marshall Chess sits across from Mick. Mick's lady, Bianca, sits next to him in a white linen cape and a wide-brim pushed-back hat. She has a face so beautiful as to be insolent: high cheekbones, sweeping facial planes, a cruel mouth, features that became Oriental in repose.

"More than 20 minutes on a side and you lose level," Marshall is saying, "You know that. It's how they cut the grooves. So we have to work out the running order . . ."

Down the table a ways, Jim Price asks Charlie Watts, "You dig Skinnay Ennis, the cat who blew that solo in 'We Meet And The Angels Sing'?"

"Fantastic," Charlie says, sounding a little like Cary Grant.

"That was Ziggy Elman," someone says.

"He's from mah home town," Jim Price smiles.

"Who?"

"We can begin distribution right away to key spots throughout the States. We're gonna use one picture world-wide to advertise it and it'll have an international number. That's a first," Marshall says proudly.

"He's dead," Jim Price notes.

"Who?"

"Skinnay Ennis."

"You mean Ziggy Elman, man?"

"They're both dead," Charlie says sadly, shaking his head.

"Henry Busse too," Jim says. "On 'I Can't Get Started With You.'"

"Fantastic," Charlie says, exploding it like a soft cymbal crash with brushes.

"We'll send you a test pressing by air," Marshall says, "and you send me back a dub . . ."

"You'll send me one too," Charlie demands loudly.

"We will, Charlie," Marshall says, a little surprised.

Charlie smiles. "Just addin' to the bravado."

"Ah am going to burn down this goddahmn hotel if ah don't find mah suitcase," Bobby Keys says, in a voice made louder by the fact that it's in England. "Goddamn . . . ah'll throw Chawlie Watts out a window . . . What's that? Slide one of them on mah plate, lady," he orders a waitress. "You know what these rolls are good for?"

"Oh-oh," Jim Price says softly, knowing the answer.

Whang, a roll comes spinning through the air.

"You know what these glasses are good for?" Bobby asks rhetorically.

"Will you do it that way, Mick?" Marshall asks. "Will you? If we cut 'Moonlit Mile' to four verses and make up a running order so that the guy in the States can get started on the sleeves?"

Mumble mumble, Mick's head is down, speaking to Bianca. It's four AM now. He raises his head, looks a little glazed. He says, "What, Marshall?"

* * *

One morning in a TV floodlit hotel lobby, a very proper BBC interviewer asked Mick Jagger, "Ahah, ahem, John Lennon, in his interview in Rolling Stone magazine, said that the Rolling Stones always did things after the Beatles did them. Are you then too planning to break up?"

Mick's face widened and he broke into his haw-haw laugh. "Charlie, are we goin' a break up then? Are ya gettin' tired of all this?" As Charlie crept around the outside of cameras asking, "Who's he? Who is that?"

"Naw, we're not breakin' up," Mick said, "And if we did, we wouldn't be as bitchy as them."

The Stones, still together today, are separately becoming the people they want to be. Charlie, the oldest, could be drumming with a jazz quartet, playing nightly gigs in small clubs in Sweden or Denmark. Bill wears fine clothes, likes white wine, smokes small cigars. Mick Taylor is younger than anyone, as much a part of things as he wants to be, a fine blues guitarist. Keith drives the band on stage, pushes the changes. He and Anita are the undisputed king and queen of funk and inner space. Mick Jagger, 26-years-old, is very much the man of the world, always whoever he wants to be on a given night, in the process of becoming European.

Consider the madness they have witnessed together. Ian Stewart, called "Stew," looks like just another roadie as he hovers by the amps while the Stones are on stage. He plays piano all over their albums and has been around since the beginning.

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