As Rolling Stone pauses to celebrate the Rolling Stones’ classic Exile on Main Street in our new issue, here’s a look back at three of the band’s best bootlegs. Plus, don’t miss our top Stones photo galleries — the Rolling Stones Live, Torn and Frayed: Photos From the Making of Exile on Main Street , and our collection of the band’s appearances on the cover of Rolling Stone .
The Palais Theatre, St. Kilda, Melbourne, Australia
February 24, 1966
The live recording of rock & roll shows was still in its infancy in the mid-Sixties. Even competent soundboard and broadcast documents of the Rolling Stones, when Brian Jones was on rhythm guitar and Mick Jagger was growing into his R&B-shaman stage presence, suffer from over-booming fidelity, out-of-balance mixing and tsunami applause. But this short fast show — taken from a radio broadcast and issued as part of a two-CD set, Down the Road Apiece (Stones Touring History Vol. 1), on the Bad Wizard label — is a vivid documentary of the thrilling chaos of a Stones show in their first golden era, after the worldwide Number One success of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” The set list is a mix of R&B warhorses (a hard cocky take on “That’s How Strong My Love Is” by Otis Redding) and the latest hits (“Satisfaction,” “Get Off My Cloud”), all played with amphetamine momentum and cutting double-guitar clang. “She Said Yeah” is pure speed, and the band hits the Bo Diddley-style jump of “Not Fade Away” at such high velocity that Jagger fights to keep pace, singing in time. The Stones would soon retire, temporarily, from the stage. They would be back, in 1969, but never sound so jubilantly out of control again.
Western Australia Cricket Ground, Perth, Australia
February 24, 1973
There are famously raucous soundboard tapes in circulation from multiple stops on the Stones’ 1972-73 tour behind Exile on Main Street. This bruiser is my personal favorite, even though my copy is missing the big finish (“Jumping Jack Flash” and “Street Fighting Man”) and the mix has a little too much treble (roll up your bass). But every instrument is present and viciously full. Mick Taylor’s serpentine leads are fat and biting; Keith Richards’ stuttering rhythm-guitar intro to “Rocks Off” comes at you like fisticuffs. And while the set list reads like a greatest-hits show — the Stones are still playing most of these nightly — the arrangements are far from routine. “Bitch” ends with an eccentric double-guitar flourish, Richards and Taylor playing in slalom-lick harmony. This show’s best selling point: The blurred turbulence of the guitars, brass, rhythm section and Mick Jagger’s junkyard-dog bark sounds like Exile itself, a mighty propulsive mess come alive.
Capitol Theater, Passaic, New Jersey
June 14, 1978
First issued as a double-LP bootleg, Garden State 78, this show was a rare intimate stop at the dawn of the juggernaut: the Stones as a stadium-touring machine. My vinyl pressing has a handful of left-channel dropouts and on some tracks, Charlie Watts’ unflappable drumming and the keyboards — played by Ian McLagan of the Small Faces and Ian Stewart, the Stones’ original pianist — overwhelm the wolf play of Keith Richards and Ron Wood’s guitars. But the rough-soundboard quality beats the Stones’ later, officlal stadium-gig albums for intensity, and there is a bullish pride in new work. Some Girls was just out, and the Stones play eight of its 10 songs, including hot tears through “Lies” and “Respectable” and a version of the white-trash-country ballad “Far Away Eyes” in which Jagger makes up for the exaggerated corn of his spoken drawl with a vocal of growling despair. There is more fun later, just before the closing rush of hits. “This is an old Rod Stewart number,” Jagger announces in a rubber-Cockney accent, “that he taught me years ago when I was still in kindergarden.” The song: Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen,” whipped into an Exile-style frenzy. Those were the days.