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The Rolling Stones On Tour: Goodbye Great Britain

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Mick misses the train to Bristol even though he's on the platform when it pulls out. He doesn't want to run for it. No one expects Keith, Anita, baby, and dog to make trains. Along with Gram Parsons they've become a separate traveling entity.

The kids in Bristol may be sharp as a pistol but the ushers are thick, bearded wrestlers in silk suits who stand facing out in front of the stage and stop anyone from dancing. Mick celebrates "Street Fighting Man" by placing small mounds of flowers on each of their heads, a baptismal offering. The kids dance. The Stones do an encore.

During the second show, an usher drags a pretty painted young girl off stage. Mick kicks him in the shoulder.

In Brighton, a German magazine crew in wet leather and plastic chosen by Erich Von Stroheim from central casting, come looking for "Mikk Jagga, ja?" The hall is a big barn of a discotheque, so hot no one can stay in tune. A greasy, sweaty gig. Three kids down front do a snapper in the middle of "Little Queenie" and for the rest of the song their faces blur and flow with the music.

In Liverpool, Mick shows up with his hair cut. Glyn Johns is along to record. Keith has missed the train. The jet that will get him to the theater in plenty of time breaks down. So does the prop they replace him with. He arrives an hour late with Anita, who is essentially naked in silver lame and a push-'em-up, grabem bra over what looks like bare skin.

Mick and Bianca slouch on a couch waiting. "You been on the road for 18 months now Marlan," Mick says. "How do you like this life?"

The Stones finally go on to do the only bad show of the tour. Others have been less than perfect musically but there has always been electricity, excitement, some kind of contact. This time, nothing. For the Stones, that is. The set itself is not unrepresentative, and for someone else it might be a good show.

In the dressing room after, Bill looks sadder than usual, really unhappy. "I'm just saying don't be so brought down," Keith tells him.

"I just want everyone to say it was shit," Bill says. "They queued for five hours and . . ."

"They don't know the difference Bill," his lady says. "They enjoyed themselves. It doesn't matter to them."

"We were shit," Bill insists.

"Ah was great," Bobby Keys beams, trying to make it better. "Ah was fantastic. Ah carried y'all." There are a few weak smiles.

"I don't care," Mick Jagger says, "I don't give a shit. When I'm on stage, maybe, but now I'm off. Right now, I'm petting this little dog here, that's what I care about." He gets off the couch and walks out slowly.

"What we need is a joint," someone says.

"Yeah. Where are the dope dealers?" Gram Parsons asks. He sticks his head out into the hall. "Dope dealers?"

Two minutes later, Mick Jagger, who some will tell you is the devil incarnate, so blase that he can't be bothered to care about something once he's done with it, could be found on the fourth landing of a staircase that led to the room being held in the arms of his lady. They looked nice together.

In Leeds, the Stones played a university student union. Before the show, they sat waiting in a cafeteria, squeezed into leatherette booths at fake formica tables like Archie, Juggie and the gang down at Pop's for a soda. During the show, one of their ladies threw up politely, twice, and left.

Everyone in London washed their hair and stood in line on Sunday for the Rolling Stones at the Roundhouse, a metaphysical gig of the first order, a long time coming. The right band in the right place and a chance to see a city turned out.

Scalpers huddled and quoted: "Seven pound for a ticket — wait a minute, you're a student, ain't ya? Six."

A girl faints just outside the stage door and is carried in. Forty-two people crowd the dressing room. The showers run to keep the cans of beer and coke cold. One heavy spade says to another, "Are you black, man?" and passes a joint. Bowls of sliced lemons for the tequila, bottles of tequila, bananas, nuts, raisins and a room that's a groupie's who's who.

Dave Mason in a forest green velvet jacket, ex-Mad Dogs Jim Gordon and Snaky Jim Keltner. Eric is coming. Chris Jagger. Outside, Family, Edgar Broughton, the Faces. Upstairs, John Peel, Tom Donahue, the entire pop press, the straight press, the music business, a gaggle of PR men, a clutch of record execs, a congregation of super-dressed screamer freaks.

Joyce, the Voice, whose trip it is to be all trippy and sometimes grab the microphone on stage for unscheduled raps, has somehow slipped through the cordons and is slugging away in the dressing room like she was born to pop stardom.

"Excuse me," she says, talking directly to Bianca, "but didn't I see you with Osibisa in their dressing room last week?"

What? What is this? Hold on — Joyce the Voice has just asked Bianca, of the inscrutable face and blinding smile, of the mysterious eyes and gin rummy ways, she has just asked Mick Jagger's lady, "Aren't you a groupie for this band I know?"

"What is Osibisa?" Bianca asks politely.

"Oh wow," Joycie straightfaces, not knowing when she's been cut dead. "There is someone with your exact vibration around. I mean, like a twin sister. You know? Someone who is walking around with your face."

Bianca rolls her eyes white upwards. They remove Joyce.

"Hoo's Mick Jagger now," an old man asks. "Iss not for me, an autograph for a little girl, a spastic she is, no legs neither."

Out in the hall someone is trying to sign Gram Parsons to a contract. "Apresmoi," he says, as the door swings open, "le deluge" and a stream of people spittle out, having been asked to leave.

One hour late the second show starts. A tough set in which the mikes go dead during "Street Fighting Man" and ping pong balls, yellow flowers, and white confetti pour onto the stage. The band is celebrating, out of sea green champagne bottles. The tour is over and it may be a while before there's another. Rock and roll is a young man's game.

As for the audience, well, they're so super-hip and spaced, they dance only because they're supposed to. In London, the Stones are a social phenomenon.

You can't dance to a social phenomenon. The Rolling Stones are a good band. Pick up on them sometime.

This is a story from the April 15, 1971 issue of Rolling Stone.


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