The Rolling Stones On Tour: Goodbye Great Britain

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"In a place like Birkenhead, say," Bill Wyman says, "we'd go out and start, 'I'm gonna tell you how it's gonna be . . .,' three bars and unnnnnh they'd come sweepin' all over the stage and finished . . . back in the hotel with a thousand quid. Girls leapin' from 40-foot balconies and arrows in the paper next day showin' where she jumped from . . .

"I remember only one audience back then that didn't like us from the start. All the factories in Glasgow close at the same time. Scots week, they call it. They all go to Blackpool and drink and we played there on the last Saturday night. They were evil. A six-foot stage so all you could see was heads. About 30 of 'em spittin' on us. Long hair, I guess, and their birds fancyin' us. Keith was covered in it. Finally he said to one guy, you do that again and . . . well, the guy did it. Keith kicked him in the head. They all come at us. We ran right into a police car.

"Stew come back to the hotel later with a little piece of wood hangin' off a wire, a little tiny piece, and said, here's what's left of your piano. Smashed the amps, twisted cymbals. Wasn't our gear though, we were usin' someone else's."

"You'll never see that again, I don't think," Bill says.

One night in 1965, on their first American tour, the Stones play at Ithaca College in upstate New York. No fainters or swooners, no screamers or jellybaby throwers, no roaring insanity. For the first time in a year and a half, the Stones are able to hear themselves live.

"Bloody awful we were," Bill smiles.

* * *

Saturday night in Coventry, Mick Jagger is wearing a black and white checked jacket, sitting with hands folded, drinking red wine at a restaurant between shows.

"Forget my name you bastard, you and all your Rolling Stones," a girl cries as she's hustled out the door by one of the Stones' managers.

"Boring, isn't it?" Mick sighs, taking a sip of wine.

Bianca is talking about going gambling somewhere. A few nights ago in Manchester, Mick, Marshall, and Bianca found a casino that only let you lose and Mick dropped more than anyone, about three hundred quid. "You even play gin rummy in a foreign language," Marshall tells Bianca. So far on the tour he owes her $8000 in rummy debts. "But the dealer in Manchester, he was terrible . . ."

"Dealing out of a shoe, probably had three decks in there," someone offers.

"Ah, if we had won, we'd be sayin' how good he was, wouldn't we, Mick?" Marshall asks.

Mick looks up, pauses, and says, "I really don't care."

And there is this silence that seems to grow around the phrase, before and after, like when the Stones sing "Wild Horses" on stage and no one knows what to do with it. It stops everyone cold. They have to think.

Mick doesn't care.

"Oh, that was last night, huh?" Marshall says, picking up on it.

"Tu vas changer le choix?" Bianca asks Mick. The first show was notable. A quiet country audience in peaceful Coventry was sitting politely and watching. Mick didn't throw them the flowers in "Street Fighting Man" and Chip Monck played "God Save The Queen" as soon as it was over.

"Drunken bitch," Mick notes, as one of the band's ladies wobbles by. "She won't lose weight that way, will she?" He sighs, "There's nothing to do but bitch, is there?"

"Intermission's over," a manager says. "Time to go."

"No," Mick says flatly, "Don't wanna. Oh fucking why? They sold all the tickets here in three hours and then they come and just sit there."

"Let's go out and tread the boards then, Mick," Charlie says, doing a little soft shoe, making him smile.

"Yeah. A tap dance. Oh, it's all right. Why do they have to sit there, though? C'mon then. Same show, if it's the same audience. Maybe we'll even knock out a number and go home early."

And of course, just like in the movies, the second show is a bitch and Mick and the boys incite the crowd to riot. Charlie cooks. The lights go all purple and green against a white painted wooden stage floor. Everyone sweats and goes home happy.

In Bobby Keys' dressing room before one show, his ever-present cassette tape recorder is spooling out Buddy Holly singing, "Are you ready? Are you ready? Ready, ready, ready to, rock and roll."

"Mah golden saxophone is comin' up now," Bobby says as the next song comes on. Indeed, Bobby Keys who looks about 18 after a good night actually played with Buddy Holly, recorded with him at K-triple L radio in Texas, and was on the first Alan Freed show at the Brooklyn Paramount which featured the Everly Brothers, Clyde McPhatter, Buddy Holly and the Crickets, all backed by Sam "The Man" Taylor's big band. Bobby is pushing 29. "Ah been on the road 16 goddahm years," he says, "That whay I am the way I am."

And so saying, he pulled on his black tigerskin and velvet jacket, over his special ruffled black shirt and went out on stage to blow with one of the last real rock and roll bands around.

* * *

"Oh, who listens to Berry anymore," Mick Jagger asks on the flight to Glasgow. This day, he is wearing a long brushed grey suede maxi-coat, a tight ribbed sweater, and a blue printed cap perched on the back of his head. He is looking very French.

"I mean I haven't listened to that stuff in years. Rock 'n' roll has always been made by white suburban kids, bourgeois kids. Elton John is a fine example. For God's sake, I listen to the MC5.

"Rock 'n' roll's not over. I don't like to see one thing end until I see another beginning. Like when you break up with a woman. Do you know what I mean?"

In Glasgow, one of life's cheap plastic dramas: Green's Playhouse. Paint peeling off all the walls. Six inches of soot in the air vents. Bare bulbs backstage and fluorescent tubes for house lights. The third balcony is closed to "keep the raytes doon."

A group that's been together for a week is filling in before the Stones' first set and the first two numbers they do are Jagger-Richards compositions. Third generation rock.

Rab Monroe, their lead singer, on his way into the dressing room passes Mick Jagger, on his way out. A hot, seedy cramped corridor in the basement of a Glasgow theater. They actually brush shoulders. Twenty-three-year-old Rab . . . 26-year-old Mick. Kid, you'll never know.

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