The Stones played four concerts in San Francisco and they were all good. The last time they worked the city was at the Altamont Speedway in November, 1969. The time before that was at the Oakland Coliseum when the guitars blew, the sound was bad, as were the vibes.
Bill Graham did a job at Winterland that should convince any who still doubt it that he is the best at his business. More Rent-A-Cops than had ever before been hired by Winterland patrolled the streets outside and kept everyone moving. Those without tickets did not get near the hall. Those inside had plenty of room to dance and all the shows went off on time.
Which is not to say it was all perfectly smooth on the streets. It never is in America. A guy carrying a half gallon of Red Mountain Vin Rose and wearing another on his T-shirt has his hands cuffed behind his back by two black private cops.
"Hit me motherfucker," the guy keeps saying drunkenly, "Just pull back my shades and hit me. I ain't got no record but if you wanna hit me, go ahead. Only pull back my shades first."
The cop shakes his head and says, "Now I'm a motha fucka, huh? I ask you five times to move and you doan listen. You be quiet a second, we still let you go."
"Hit me mother. Pull back my shades and hit me." The guy insists as they trundle him into a police car.
At 4:15 on the day of the first show, the Stones trooped down a narrow concrete passageway out of the sunlight into Winterland. Nicky Hopkins brought up the rear carrying for some reason a tray set with tea, service for two.
Later, the Stones were playing a double bridge in "Bitch" because Keith was getting off on it, and the crowd was holding on and dancing.
Halfway through the set, joints began to fly on stage. Bill Wyman, who never moves on stage, leaned into the house and took a light from someone, then applied it to one Keith had stuck in the corner of his mouth. He smoked it all the way through "Midnight Rambler" bouncing and jamming and rooster-stepping across the stage.
The second show that night was a bitch, a stone rocker. The Stones did their first encore of the tour, what Mick later called "A minute-40 of 'Let It Rock.'"
Outside the hall, on the final night, the cops used two-foot wooden clubs to show they meant business. "If you ain't got no ticket, don't come down this street. You Move! Now!" All of it was done with the mouth. There were no casualties.
Someone did call the Fire Department to say Winterland was going up in flames. Five engines, including two hook and ladders came onto the sidewalk, screaming sirens and flashing lights, which did wonders for those under the influence of hallucinogenics.
Bill Graham stood at the side door shouting at guests, "Who do you think you are, Johnny Superstar? Front door. Do you understand English? Front door, like everyone else."
John Lee Hooker came backstage, drank up the best and left the rest and sang the "Stones Boogie" while Keith picked. They threw roses at the Stones for the second show and they lay on the white floor under Mick's feet as he danced. Keith, in purple jockey silks, slashed at his guitar with the full arm extended motion that Pete Townshend borrowed and made into the windmill. Nicky Hopkins tinkled roadhouse chords like a madman. They went off after a killer set and came back with "Honkey-Tonk Women." The Stones had finally gotten to play for the San Francisco they'd only heard about before.
"It's true, y'know," Mick Jagger said some days after. "It's something to go to places you've been like Seattle, which we haven't played since '66 and see it better now than it was then. More people came to see us there than when we worked there last.
"San Francisco . . . was . . . the people were just . . . dare I say, the vibrations were just so good. We've always had strange times there. Altamont, yeah, everyone knows about. But Oakland too. It was just the start of the tour then and we played poorly and Keith blew two guitars . . . but this time we just had fun.
"So far, the only problem on the tour's been with the monitors. I can't hear what I'm singin' or what the band's doin'. We'll keep on changin' the program all the time though to stay interested. But ya can't really tell yet what's gonna happen, can ya?
"I mean, California doesn't have anything to do with the rest of America, does it? The truth of it is . . . the tour hasn't even really started."
This story is from the July 6th, 1972 issue of Rolling Stone.
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