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The Stones Tour: Rock and Roll On the Road Again

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Jo Bergman, a short lady with lots of frizzy black hair, floats placidly among the sea of papers that cover her bed. She has been through it all before many times – the last American tour, the European tour, and the English tour last spring. This time though the Stones will be touring in a party of 30, double what it was on the '69 tour. Everyone who goes with the band has to carry a special pass with his picture and Peter Rudge's signature under a shiny layer of laminated plastic.

"Smersh," Jo says suddenly giggling away like the Wicked Witch of the West. "We're Smersh, the super-organization. Have you seen our backstage manual?" She lifts a looseleaf notebook the size of the New York Sunday Times, "I get to carry it everywhere. Took months . . . maybe we'll publish it after the tour. It would be a great document, wouldn't it?"

The Rolling Stones on the Cover of Rolling Stone

Over in the corner, Rudge is still snap-snapping, puff-puffing, winding up his call to Graham. "You've got it now, have you? The thing is Bill, you're like an old man . . . it's nothing personal . . . it's just that you'll be booking Lawrence Welk soon . . ."

He hangs up, looking pleased with himself, and smiles. "Only had two hours' sleep last night," he says, "Not doin' too bad, am I?" The phone rings and he picks it up. "Hello, Peter Rudge?" he says into the receiver, "No, wait a minute, this is Peter Rudge."

* * *

Just down the Strip from the big billboard for Exile on Main Street, in the mafia-dark bar of the hotel that only groupies, roadies, A and R men and producers stay at, Wolfman Jack is eating his lunch. Wolfman, for those who don't know, is the last of the great AM shouters. He can be heard on 1505 radio stations throughout the world, 420 of them scattered through 42 countries in Europe, Africa, and Asia. During the two weeks preceding the tour, the Wolfman has been a ductless gland, dropping Stones adrenalin into L.A.'s carbon monoxide blood stream, playing six, eight Stones cuts an hour, two solid hours of old Stones at the drop of a 45, finally becoming the first jock to play the entire album on the air and have his listeners rate it.

"Dey da heaviest act in the bizness," Wolfman says. "Do ya understan'? If Jesus Christ came to town, he couldn't sell more tickets. Do ya understan' me?"

"Do ya understan'?" is a Wolfman trademark, a guttural rhetorical one syllable phrase that he uses to punctuate his sentences. The Wolfman now works for KDAY, probably the country's best AM station and one of the few playing "Sweet Virginia," with its "Got to scrape that shit right off your shoes" chorus.

The Rolling Stones Live, 1964-2007

"When that came in our program director said, 'I don't care if they say "motherfucker" on it. Track that album.' Do ya understan'?

"The Stones can get away with whatever they want. They're universals. They're Gods, they ain't even immortals anymore. They're whites makin' black music. Everybody black digs the Stones. Everybody white. And they even got the Chinese and the Mexicans, too. Do ya understan' what I'm talkin' about?"

Wolfman is a square, blocky man with a goatee and a gold ring on his pinky and a businessman's concern for how many markets he's heard in and the demographics of his ratings. But he knows a good thing when he sees one. "I can't play enough Stones. My switchboard lights up whenever a cut from the new album goes on. I gotta get on this thing and ride it to the end and give 'em what they want," he says, hands flying, gold ring glittering, "and what they want is the Stones, baby. Do ya understan' me?"

* * *

Higher up, 12 floors higher up, to be exact, on the roof of the music business hotel, a leonine-looking mustachioed gentleman with shirred hair, Edward Herbert Beregford Monck, called Chip by his friends, is waiting for the sun to find his body. L.A.'s sky is a grey blanket of fumes and poisons this day, but Mr. Monck has not had a day off in two weeks and he's out there by the hotel pool, digging it for all he's worth.

Chip Monck is responsible for the lighting and stage production that makes this Stones tour different from any others. A 16 by 40 foot mirror will be hung in most halls in front of the stage, above the Stones and Stevie Wonder. Six large spotlights are then focused up into it from the back of the stage. As all those who failed high school physics know, the angle of incidence is always equal to the angle of reflection. Therefore, in one fell swoop, the Stones get back lit and spotlighted in front.

The mirror itself is made up of 11 lightweight coated mylar panels. At each side of the Stones as they work will be hydraulic lifts filled with Tychobrahe speakers. Each hydraulic weighs 10,000 pounds fully loaded and cranks up to a height of 18 feet so that the sound will spread evenly in large arenas.

The stage floor, which like the mirror and the hydraulics has to be struck after every show and trucked to the next gig, is made up of six white plywood and duralon panels upon which two green firebreathing dragons have been painted. It is washed with warm water and Seven-Up to make it danceable.

"Lemme show you where I got the idea for that," Chip says, burrowing into a briefcase full of filed purchase orders and ideas, "Here . . . see. They're sea serpents." Chip Monck hands me issue no. 318 of Donald Duck comics, circa 1945. "That's how evil those dragons are."

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