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The Stones Put the Weight on Mick and He Carried It

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They did "Love In Vain," one of the most beautiful of all the songs by the great Robert Johnson. It was a triumph. Mick Taylor handled the break with a finesse of his emotion, and Jagger used the spaces of the tragic blues to summon up all of his power: "The blue light . . . was mah bay-bee . . . and the red light . . . was my mind . . . "

And it's hard to tell and
It's hard to tell and
It's hard to tell . . .
All my love's in vain . . .

The music got better and better and the applause was just applause. Into and out of "I'm Free," a rollicking "Under My Thumb" with Mick breaking loose on stage and still looking for his audience. Kids were moving down the aisles, sort of wandering along, as if they hoped no one would notice. They were eagerly and persistently hustled back by the floor crew. The guard near me was an old black man with a tam-o'-shanter. Would have been a respectable job for Hayakawa.

"Slowly rocking on," as Mick put it, frowning, they went into their new numbers. "Midnight Rambler" was the first. It'll rank with "Sympathy for the Devil," "Salt of the Earth" and "Goin' Home" as a Stones classic. What an amazing song! On and on it went, Mick now looking the part his clothes had created, falling to his knees, the notes from the two guitars surround him and finally us – a dark, evil song, dripping with the spirit of the Rolling Stones. There was movement in the band, and the audience was on the edge of real excitement. Jesus! On the edge! It was that hard, even in the midst of such brilliance. "Live With Me" was next, beginning with the line, "I got nasty habits, baby . . . " Chuck Berry riffs flew in and out of the choruses, Mick spinning, clapping his hands, one-two-three-four over his shoulder, dipping his scarf low, forcing a memory of how fabulous he'd been in "Sympathy for the Devil" forty minutes before. "Yesss, pleased to meet you, baby" – whooshing into a mannered bow – "Hope you . . . guess my name . . . " And the concert was finally catching up with us. Then a dramatic, shouting "Gimme Shelter," Mick dancing faster, Keith Richard beginning to move out, and the place was getting itchy. A girl was bopping in her seat and the guard told her to stop. She didn't.

The Rolling Stones, 1963-1969: Behind the Scenes Snapshots

"I can't see anyone," yelled Mick. "We wanna see who we came to play for. Turn on the lights!" All the light went up and the aisles began to fill with real urgency. Mick played to the crowd, pushing them on. If he couldn't make them rush the stage, pushing to get to him, waving their arms and forcing everyone else to stand on their seats and wave their arms, then he'd have had it as MICK JAGGER OF THE ROLLING STONES. He'd be Mick Jagger, Movie Star, or Mick Jagger the Recording Artist, but that was not what it was about and that was not what mattered. And now, with the lights on, perhaps it was embarrassing to be calm and restrained, or perhaps the Stones were more real, out of the spotlight and just part of the celebration. But Mick had brought it off; he'd really had to do it himself.

"He could play a guitar just like ringing a bell," and Keith Richards can do that, but by this time he was playing as if a bomb had just gone off in Chuck Berry's bell-tower. Huge notes and titanic bursts of sound commanded the crowd up to the stage and pushed more people up against the vanguard as the Rolling Stones powered in to "Satisfaction." It was like a blur. Devils dancing on stage. No more feeling it out. The stage was showered with joints. The Stones flashed grins at each other and now that the big TV screen had faded the music seemed louder and you realized that some of the audience was really that close to grabbing Mick's scarf.

This wasn't any ritual that the Stones and the audience were acting out in respect for something that had happened years before. Mick and the band had reached for it and won. It was real . . . Bump-Bump-Da-Dump-Da-Dump-Da-Da-Da-Da-Da I met a gin-soaked barroom queen in Memphis . . . The blur moved faster, Mick mincing beautifully, finally shooting his arm out in one motion and twirling it above his head in another: I met her on the boulevards of Paris . . . Keith bent down almost to his knees, shaking notes out while Mick Taylor carried the solo, Mick flying from one side of the stage to the other, whirling to a dead stop, grabbing the mike and blurting out more lines: The lady, she covered me with roses. . . .

They ended it past three-thirty in the morning with "Street Fighting Man." Jagger seemed to draw himself up over his own height as he gestured for the words – the hall was fully lit, as if we were stealing a thrill from someone's closed-door idea of what the concert was supposed to be. It got away. Mick waved his arms until the crowd waved back and then stepped to the edge of the stage and blew astonishing kisses – with both hands – to everyone. Mick Jagger singing with his rock and roll band – a glorious moment.

I knew it had really happened that way when I got home around five A.M. Pinned to the icebox was a note: "Just came by after the concert. Wasn't it great!!! We got within five feet of Mick!" And not without his help. In a way, that was the best part.

This story is from the December 13, 1969 issue of Rolling Stone.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

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