Danny has no shirt, no shoes, no wallet, no keys. The shirt went when he took it off and stuck it in his back pocket, the shoes, wallet and keys disappeared some time later. But it’s all right. In fact, it’s a gas. For Danny’s just seen the Rolling Stones work and as he stands shoeless and bare-chested in the carpeted hallway of a Beverly Hills hotel, he’s mumbling.
“They were so good, man, so good. The way they looked…like refugees from A Clockwork Orange…that makeup… Tell me, man, are they doing a lot of coke?”
After standing in line for 14 hours outside a store in the Century City shopping plaza and not getting any tickets, after going straight to the bank and withdrawing his life savings only to find that the tickets were going at $75 each, after spending a day on the phone getting hold of everyone he knew, he finally made someone an offer he couldn’t refuse–two tickets to Jethro Tull and Led Zeppelin at the Forum and the Grateful Dead at the Hollywood Bowl and 12 new albums–and all Danny had to do then was wait in line outside the Palladium for eight hours and he got to see them, the Rolling Stones.
You might say that Danny, a 17-year-old high school senior, is a Rolling Stones fanatic. A fan. Can you remember that word? From back in the Forties when girls swooned for Frank Sinatra, from the Fifties when they moaned for Elvis, from the Sixties when they threw jelly beans at the Beatles and fainted at airports?
Because it’s happening again. As the Rolling Stones begin an eight-week cross-country tour, you can get just about anything you need with a spare ticket. In L.A., seven grams of hash and a $20 lid is considered a reasonable asking price. The Forum received 50,000 letters when they announced they were adding a second show. In Norfolk, Virginia, 14,000 Stones tickets were sold in four hours. Every hall in every one of the 30 tour cities is a complete sellout.
Exile on Main Street is the Number One album in the country. Radio stations are playing Stones music non-stop and record stores have re-ordered grosses of all their old albums.
The more things change, the more they seem to stay the same. With Presidential primaries going on, and nominating campaigns coming up, and the Vietnam war still raging, America is bananas over an English rock & roll band. Blame it on the Rolling Stones.
“Mao?…Mao! You are yes…the Mao Tse-Tung of rock. Sure you are Bill,” Peter Rudge is saying to Bill Graham over the phone. Three days and counting, before the chartered airplane takes off for Vancouver and the first gig, and on the third floor of the Beverly Rodeo Hotel, all the doors are flung open, the beds covered with manifests and custom regulations, the halls filled with people with bloodshot eyes.
“The people’s promoter you are, Bill, yes…but now you’re a film star too, like Jackie Gleason or Bob Eubanks. Yes you are. Only you’re different…you made a million dollars before you won your Oscar …” Snap, snap, go Peter Rudge’s fingers. Puff, puff on his cigarette. Through his nostrils plumes of smoke, as he goes into his rapid-fire David Frost delivery. “Just checkin’ is all…our name is Sunday Promotions, ever hear of it? I know you’re busy and all linin’ up your concessions but the thing is, Bill, you’ve got to find out why they’re charging seven dollars at Long Beach. Naughty, very naughty, Bill. Where does that extra half dollar go?”
Peter Rudge is the man responsible for everything on this Stones tour. Nothing moves without his final okay. Nothing gets bought without his seeing the purchase order. No one gets a pass to the hall that he has not personally countersigned. It is an awesome responsibility for one man. For even though Peter Rudge has run five tours for the Who, he has never seen one like this.
“This one?” he laughs. “This one is a military campaign. Truly. It’s more than rock and roll. It’s an event. Why, I don’t know. People know the Beatles are gone and that Dylan will never tour again, so the Stones are the only one of that triumvirate they’ll ever get a chance to see. It puts things on a grander scale. It’s made me an answering service…when I’ve finished here, the only thing I’ll be good for is managing political campaigns.”
No one at the hotel has slept much in a week and things are getting, ah, a bit, strange. Chris O’Dell, the Stones L.A. person, the original Pisces lady from Apple, called a friend at six this morning to ask if he thought she was getting weird.
“What are those funny black things?” she asks pointing to Alan Dunn’s Eggs Benedict. “Benedicts,” Alan says. Four-thirty in the afternoon and he’s eating breakfast. “Haven’t been able to get on the phone till now,” he says. “Got any brown sauce for the eggs?”
His official tour title is Transportation/Logistics which means he does everything Jo Bergman and Peter don’t. The main problem of the moment is getting the Stones plane to Vancouver ready in time to leave the day before. “Nothing serious,” Peter says, “We’re just walkin’ there is all.”
Phone calls, negotiations, closed door meetings. Alan Dunn appears on the roof of the hotel next door, hooks one leg over the railing, lets go with the other hand and shouts, “I’ve got it. We’ll take the Playboy plane to Seattle, fly Western to some logging port, then enter Canada by boat and there’ll be no Customs.”
“We own it don’t we?” Rudge says, meaning Canada. “He says we do.” He points to Alan. “If it’s ours, there’s no Customs.”
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 pub- lish it after the tour. It would be a great document, wouldn’t it?”
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 1,505 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.
“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.”
“People have all kinds of crazy fantasies about what might happen on this tour,” Chip says, signing away his $15 per diem to pay for breakfast. “I think America is a crazy place and I for one don’t want to encourage craziness by talking about it. What I would have liked to do is take along a midway, booths, and rides and put it outside the hall and have the Stones play four days in each city to cool things out. “That would change the relationship…because if you protect something, people say, ‘Hey, there’s something to protect, why don’t I see if I can’t beat them?'”
Does it mean anything that Time and Life and Newsweek and Esquire are going to be along on this one watching? “Not a thing. It means there’s nothing else going on for them so they’re gonna cover this. All they can do is push us one step further from the people in the street, the ones we work for. “You know that I was at Altamont…and that was one terrible day for me…but up until then it was a good tour. We had a few people yelling ‘Paint it black, you devils’ so…OK, OK, give us a few minutes, we’ll paint it black…”
Chip downs his orange juice and pries off the top of one of the four Heineken’s that go along with breakfast. “Who knows?” he says, squinting up at the smoggy sunshine. “Why do we do this? I’m getting like 1200 bucks a week for it…not great pay…and it’s been four months work already, and sometimes in the morning I say fuck it, I must be an asshole. But then on stage when it’s working right and I’m almost falling into Nicky’s piano, I know why. Take a look at all of us, Peter, Jo, Alan, it can’t be the money. There’s not enough to pay them for what they’ve been through. So you tell me why? Why are we all going this?”
It’s just a five minute drive from Mr. Monck eating his breakfast to Danny’s house. Danny’s house has a white brick fireplace and good carpets in the living room and a pool in the backyard. It’s his father’s house and Danny’s been living in it since his stepfather got too heavy, insisting he grease back his long hair before he came to the dinner table.
“This is my world,” Danny says when he takes you into his room, which has posters and music magazines stacked neatly on the lower shelf across from where his albums are.
In June, Danny graduates from high school, and he’ll probably go on to junior college in L.A. His father offered him a trip to Europe as a graduation present but instead Danny asked for a set of JBL speakers to go with his Garrard turntable.
“This is my sixth copy of Sticky Fingers,” Danny tells me, as he drops it on his stereo.
“Yeah, the first five wore out, man.” What’s it like when an album wears out? “Oh you know. You can’t hear the highs anymore.” Like a lot of L.A. kids, Danny first got into music through the Doors. He began hanging around their office when he was 13 and 14. “I actually spoke to Jagger once you know,” he says. “After a T. Rex concert at the Palladium, I saw him in the dressing room and I said, ‘Hey man, how do you keep your head together?’ And he said, ‘I don’t man.’ I was just blown away. A kid again. Like Jagger is so amazing, man. I’d like to just observe him for a long time. There’s nobody like him. He and the Stones are the class of the rock world.
“I’ve had my friends tell me about Alice Cooper or the Faces and I’ve seen ’em work. I even dropped some reds to listen to Grand Funk and they were still terrible…they’re good live but their albums are nowhere…
“But the Stones, man. Every energy freak in L.A. is gonna turn out to see them. Dudes are takin’ dudes, y’know. ‘Cause who wants to worry about being cool at the concert and not gettin’ up and dancin’ because the chick you’re with sits next to you in Algebra every day…Shit…
“I’d been after the biggest fox in school for a year and a half, askin’ her out and stuff, and gettin’ told no. She heard I had Stones tickets and she came over and asked if I had a spare. ‘Get down, bitch,’ I said, ‘I ain’t wastin’ it on you’…”
As it turns out, Danny will be going to every one of the Stones concerts in L.A., the Pallidium, Long Beach, and the Forum. Why?
“To see if they deliver, man. If they’re good, it’ll be one thing. But if they deliver, can you imagine? I’ll be a slur that whole weekend. Like the time the Dead played six hours and I was high on it for three fucking weeks. That’s why I’m going. Everybody else? You’ll have to ask them. Maybe because everyone else they know is.”
So I asked kids who live out in the suburbs, good kids who drive Porsches and Peugeots, who said they’d stop at nothing to get inside. “What kind of badges they gonna be using, man?” Larry asked. “If they’re metal, I can have one done in a day and a half at the metal shop in school. I mean, the only way I got tickets for the Forum in the first place was to impersonate a May Co. employee and then break into the store.”
“Dig it,” said a kid with a surfboard at State Beach. “There isn’t a kid in the world who wouldn’t break in to see them. It’s Jagger, right? He’s a trip. Jumping Jack Shit himself. He’s rich, he’s cool, he’s got a house in the South of France. I figure the Stones are a rip off, so why not rip them off?”
“Dear Mr. Graham,” began the letter in Bill Graham’s San Francisco office, “To stand in line for 10 hours is one fucking bummer. To stand in line because some computer can’t get it’s shit together is a little better than being front row center at Altamont. The entire day left me with sticky fingers and a bad taste in my mouth. Jim Reed.”
“Dear Bill,” began the letter received after Mr. Graham announced that all those shut out of tickets for the first show at the L.A. Forum would have a chance at buying for the second; “You’ve restored my faith in rock ‘n’ roll. Thanks for the letter. The tickets I’d like are…” It was signed Jim Reed.
“It’s cock rock,” said the pamphlet they were handing out in the street in Seattle. “Isn’t it a drag to be told that the only real men are those who want to be like John Wayne or Mick Jagger? Wouldn’t you rather just be yourself? Rock music should be everyone’s music. Rock culture should be everyone’s culture. There will be no free men until there are free women.”
“Don’t waste your life on dope and music,” the burly soldier for God outside of the Palladium in L.A. shouted through a megaphone, “It’s people like you going to see rock and roll concerts that’s got the world so screwed up. More Bible, less Rolling Stones.”
“I’ll have 10 bikes, 40 men on foot, men in cars, two helicopters if I need ’em and five thousand men to back me up,” the L.A.P.D. sergeant told Peter Rudge. Under a starburst chandelier over an orange knit carpet around a polished wooden table sat the promoters and employees of the Hollywood Palladium. “Anything comes down that street without a ticket goes right back up it,” the Sergeant said, “They come on motorcycles, give ’em tickets. The city can use the money.”
Downstairs a Yorty for President party was going on. The people there would have been disturbed by the hair upstairs but not by the sentiments expressed.
“All our vents are wired,” one of the Palladium people said proudly. “They’ll be cops watching from across the street. ‘No Stopping’ signs on the streets, no garbage cans around, nothing that can be lifted or thrown within the vicinity of the hall. And the L.A. police will be there when we need them. They’re crack.”
“Yes,” Peter Rudge sighed, “but they’re not what rock & roll’s about, are they?” “I remember,” Bill Graham said one mellow tour night, “When a kid would run up the stairs of the old Fillmore, give in his ticket, grab an apple and rush out on the floor and be swallowed in a circle of dancing, happy people he’d never seen before. Those days are over…the days when it was a life experience for everyone. When I’d get up at seven and be happy to start work.” He sighed, “Now I don’t know what’s going on. It’s changed, though. That much I’m sure of.”
The Rolling Stones 1972 tour of America and parts of Canada began with Marshall Chess hanging off a pay phone in an air terminal full of charming old biddies waiting for charter flights to Malaga and Oakland A’s baseball fans in flowered shirts. Marshall Chess is saying, “Yes, the Prime Minister, yes…Tell Mr. Trudeau that if we are not permitted to land at Vancouver there will be a delay that will make 17,000 people feel…aroused.”
After a bus ride through foggy smogged-out L.A. on a Saturday morning with the bank temperature clicking at 67 degrees and Peter Rudge, the man responsible, saying “We’re about to hit the beaches, we’re about to hit the beaches,” the Rolling Stones tour party has arrived to find their charter airplane will not be allowed to land in Vancouver. Will not.
Robert Frank, photographer and filmmaker, the man who shot the Exile on Main Street cover and filmed the very long, weird business meeting between Alan Klein and Mick Jagger in New York is getting all the confusion on film, all the officials passing the buck and shrugging their shoulders, mumbling about hijacking. (Frank, a total professional, immediately established his credentials on the bus ride to the airport as he takes hold of a passing joint, puts it to the lens and films it, then passes it on without missing a beat.)
Wandering through the terminal, trying for a beer at the flyspecked lunch counter are Bob Gibson, Hollywood press agent extraordinaire, a tour doctor, a tour make-up man, two tour accountants, the tour roadies, Alan Dunn, Jo Bergman, Pete Rudge…”So you see sir, we need your help in this matter as quickly as possible,” Chess tells the Prime Minister’s press secretary up in Ottawa. Full co-operation will be forthcoming, he is told.
But the plane has to leave immediately and takes off without permission to land in Canada. It touches down instead at a small suburban airport in Washington state. The local folks are lined up and gawking. A fleet of six shiny Cadillacs await outside the port wing of a big charter plane with a funny red stuck-out tongue on the side.
A door opens and out come the visiting dignitaries…Keith Richard first in a silver and black striped suit that glows in the dark, a two-foot long yellow scarf covered with Tibetan prayers that used to hang as a window shade somewhere looped around his neck; Mick Jagger in a faded blue work shirt open to his waist and clinging white trousers.
No sooner do they hit the concrete than they’re off, running down the runway to dig the green mountains, the trees, two kids pointing and giggling. Mick runs back and sticks his head into the turbo jet, then plays with the propeller. The locals stand with their minds blown, and mouths open. Cadillacs zoom out towards Canada.
At the border, the immigration men and customs officials don’t have a much easier time of it, as a wave of weird-looking people in silks and velvet and ruffled shirts descend on them, Eclair 16 and Super 8 cameras whirring. They wave all six limos through after a perfunctory search and it’s on to Vancouver and the first gig.
The first gig is a riot. An actual riot. A 12 and a half-foot stage has been set up at one end of a huge ice hockey-type arena. There are no reserved seats and 17,000 kids cover the floor and all the seats in the stands. It looks like one great garage sale of bare midriff bodies and long hair. The sweet smell of burning incense hangs over everything.
Marshall Chess has a fistful of tickets he doesn’t need so he goes to the back door to give them away. A tidal wave of screaming, clawing kids engulf him and are about to tear him apart when two security men wade in and pull him out. He flings the tickets over his head and shouts, “Have a ball,” and then the shit comes down.
BANG! Doors fly open and are jerked back closed. Two kids hit an unprotected exit and come flying into the backstage area. Two bearded security heavies throw punches at them and they go flying back out. “Chain for the door,” one of the guards screams, “a piece of chain for the door.” Just as Stevie Wonder’s band comes off after a hot set, 50 kids slam into the roll-up corrugated metal door. The door’s actually going, giving way, a foot and a half off the ground before someone sees what’s happening and lets out a piercing scream.
Peter Rudge, a tour accountant, two of the chauffeurs, and some ushers fling themselves on it and hang there, like soldiers defending the last perimeter.
“We’re isolated here,” Rudge shouts, “we’re blind. We need a policeman with a walkie-talkie. Who’s in charge of your security? I want him here now.” There are 185 Vancouver police outside the arena but most of them are battling with “a sea of kids, maybe a thousand of ’em out front,” an usher says. In front of the stage a girl in a red T-shirt keeps sobbing. Her eyes are rimmed red with what could be acid and she keeps saying, “I know you can help me if you want, I know you can. I just have to go backstage.” She’s wearing green socks and no shoes.
“And we’ll be on in about four minutes…” Chip Monck says in his kindly way. A beer bottle splinters into blown glass in back of him on the concrete floor that runs around the stage.
“Keep in mind that it’s not as comfortable for the people outside as it is for you,” he says. Five cops are in the hospital already, from rocks and flying bottles.
The Stones come on stage and open with “Brown Sugar” and the crowd is there in body only. They’re quiet and watching as though a movie of the Stones was unreeling in front of them. The Stones get to “Rocks Off” and two kids come across the stands in back of the stage cursing all the way, “Chickenshit motherfucker cops. Cocksuckers.” They get up to the backstage tunnel, uproot a section of the heavy iron pipe railing that runs down the stands and heave it over the side. It crashes down.
Three ushers lay one kid out and go to work on him. His friend runs away, then comes back and wastes one of the ushers with a kick that opens up one side of his face. They lead him away bleeding.
The Stones get to “Sweet Virginia” and Mick says, “Sing it to me, sing it to me. I didn’t hear the chorus.” But the crowd doesn’t know the song. They keep watching.
The show lasts an hour and 40 minutes, Keith blows two guitars, and the Stones get to test which songs they’ll be using on the rest of the tour. “The first one’s always a dress rehearsal for us,” Mick says the next morning.
The A&P down the block from the Seattle arena had sold all its beer and wine two hours before the show started and the two Seattle cops at the front door were shaking people down pretty good. A can of Bud, a bottle of Almaden Pink Chablis, a .25 automatic pistol. They were ready. There were only 75 of them outside and they smiled and were polite when you spoke to them.
The arena stood in the shadow of the Space Needle, part of the complex of parks, fountains, and museums built for the Seattle World’s Fair in 1959. Earlier this year, the smooth round stones that formed the floor of one of the fountains had come up and gone through the great plateglass walls of the arena. So the cops knew.
Things were quiet outside all through the first show. Stevie Wonder began his set for the evening performance, and there was some kind of minor disturbance in front, so minor that no one seemed to have seen it. The first anyone knew, four cops were carrying a black kid into the hall. The kid was no more than 20 and he looked wasted. His wrists were cuffed together as were his ankles and they had him face down about three feet off the ground, like a dead tiger at the end of a hunt in India. “What’re you doin’ to my brother?” a blond and bearded freak cried but they slammed the backstage door in his face and kept on moving.
As soon as they were backstage, two of the cops let go and they dragged the black kid across 30 feet of marble floor through two doors then across the parking lot. The parking lot had a concrete-gravel surface and the kid moaned and made a lot of noise.
A plainclothesman in a white linen jacket kicked him in the chest. In the space of three minutes they’d gotten him from a public place out across a dark parking lot to the back of a paddy wagon. No one was watching as a uniformed policeman worked him over, his arms coming down like a scythe ten times or more on the kid’s back and groin. It was too dark to see what he was using. Then they threw the kid in the wagon and arrested him.
“What did he do?” one of the cops was asked. “He insulted a policeman,” was the reply. The Stones were in another part of the building, tuning up guitars, getting ready to go on. They saw none of it. Midway into their show, just before “Sweet Virginia,” Mick asked the crowd, “Who go’ free today? Angela Davis go’ free today. Fu’in’ great.”
It was not until the second show in Seattle that the music outdistanced the street fighting. As lights bounce off the mirror and pick up Mick Jagger standing in the mouth of two serpents on a pearl-white stage. “Brown Sugar” first, with Bill Wyman’s bass and Charlie Watts’ drums hitting like a sledgehammer. Then, quickly, before the audience has a chance to recover, right into “Bitch” and “Rocks Off” from the new album, the three songs an opening machine gun blast of bass lines and lead guitar.
Then Keith starting “Gimme Shelter” as Jagger built up the song to “Oh Children, it’s just a shot awaaaaaay, a shot away, a shot away” and Mick Taylor spins snarling twisting leads. The song ends with Keith falling back into the amps. Then he has to race forward to the mike in time for the beginning of “Happy.”
Mick grinning at one side of the mike, closing in to shout the chorus in harmony with Keith, Keith taking those little rooster steps of his to one side to play the lead then charging back to the mike to sing. Back and forth and back and forth as Mick wails “Bay-baay, won’t ya make me hapaayyy!”
“Tumblin’ Dice” follows. Mick is soaked with sweat. It gleams off his chest and darkens his work shirt. “Tumblin’ Dice,” although it is the single from the album, slows the set every time the Stones do it. “Gonna do a blues for ya now,” Mick says, as Keith begins “Love In Vain,” with Charlie sitting quietly, spinning his drumsticks until the first chorus. Then he starts laying down a pumping locomotive beat as Mick Taylor takes off into two solos that get tighter and cleaner each time he plays.
Then “Sweet Virginia,” with Keith and Mick Taylor perched on stools picking on acoustic guitars, Keith chopping and damping at his strings as Jagger plays a sweet harp solo over the top.
“You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” with Keith unfurling a slow beautiful opening pick as Jim Price comes in on trombone and Bobby Keys on soprano sax, and Nicky Hopkins picks up the rhythm on piano.
“Midnight Rambler” follows and is still the showpiece of the act, the one that gets the heads bobbing and the forest of hands clapping, as Mick hams it all the way, slipping off his work shirt to reveal a pure white jumpsuit underneath, picking up the black rhinestone-studded belt to whip the stage as the six super troopers pour ruby light down on him. When it is over, the white spotlight picks up Mick all alone for the first total-scream-madness ovation of the tour.
After “Midnight Rambler” it’s all rock and roll. Hold on to the amps and turn off the lights. “Bye Bye Johnny B. Goode,” with Keith playing through the breaks like the illegitimate son of Chuck Berry. “All Down the Line,” “Rip This Joint,” and “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” with Mick leaping high in the air, firing two finger pistols into the house.
As always, ending with “Street Fighting Man” in a haze of feedback, all out dancing, and a shower of rose petals. Essentially, it is the same stage act the Stones have always done, the one they know the best, with Mick introducing the band as “Beautiful but fragile Mick Taylor on guitar, our drunken Methodist Bobby Keys on sax …Nicky Hopkins on piano. Stand up lad, an’ le’ ’em ‘ave a look at ya.”
When it all went right, and it did in Seattle and again at Winterland, it was outta site. It was worth the price of admission.
Everyone was still high from the second show in Seattle as they boarded the plane to San Francisco the next day. Charlie Watts stood in back of the stewardess demonstrating the proper use of the life jacket and pointing to the emergency exit located at the rear of the cabin. Mick chinned himself on the luggage rack, then hung upside down like an orangutang. “Used to be able to do that wi’ one hand,” he noted, uncoiling himself on to the floor, “till my strength-to-weight ratio changed.”
Down the aisle Bobby Keys was saying, “Ah came back to mah room last night to get some sleep and there’s a gayngbayng goin’ on. In man bed. Chick looked like Joe Palooka.” “Loik what?” Mick inquired, with raised eyebrows. “Lahk a bus mechanic.” Mick’s eyes narrowed to slits and he laughed. “This is the most critical part right here,” he said biting down on his lip, “The power turn. If it’s gonna happen …”
He closed his eyes and settled into his seat. Bill Wyman told someone they’d have to get a game of chance going during the plane rides. “I even accept credit cards,” he said.
A discussion then began on the various devices Mick might use on stage. Balls of confetti that you can light and float over the audience. Guns that shoot string foam from between one’s legs. “A rope, Chawlie,” Mick said, “We could swing on stage over the amps.” “You could,” Charlie said. “I would,” Mick answered. “I know,” Charlie smiled.
He hadn’t slept well the past few nights. Hotel rooms make him jumpy. “You close the door and there you are alone. Then what?”
Champagne and orange juice is making the rounds and there’s a table of yogurt and raw vegetables in the galley. Half of the plane’s seats have been ripped out so there’s room to sprawl on the floor, walk around, and laugh.
“Jack Nitzsche,” Charlie says, “He’s the funniest man I know, Jack is. Played tambourine on ‘Satisfaction,’ y’know. Ee’ll ask you somethin’ then say ‘Well, if that’s your opinion of it. If that’s how you really feel’…Won’t see ’em for months an ‘Gimme a beer’ ’11 be the first thing he’ll say. You’ve got to meet him, honestly.”
The plane comes in through the San Francisco sunset and lands at a private air terminal and the Stones are whisked into town by those omnipresent black limousines. There follows a long discussion about whether to stay in the hotel rooms they’ve been given in a low dormitory-like building that also houses the Japanese consulate.
For the next four days, the Stones see San Francisco as they always see a town, going out suddenly on chauffeured rides to places only they can get into.
Bill Graham throws a party for them at the Trident on the night when it’s usually closed. Frank Werber, its owner and former manager of the Kingston Trio, gets permission to stay out that night until midnight before having to report back to jail to serve time on his sentence for possession of marijuana. Two nights later, there’s a plan afoot to catch the Isley Brothers at a club across the bay.
The Stones entourage files out through the lobby. Limo hopping in the fine San Francisco mist. Eye games. Is it okay to get into this one? Who’s that person? What’s your function here? Who’s a closer friend of which Stone?
As always, the games go on around the Stones. They really have little to do with any of it. When along comes a man talking loudly, telling Bobby Keys, “If you knew as much about mouthpieces as you think you do, you’d blow some that wind into your horn …”
Like a chill wind cutting through the parking lot. People wheel around. Who is this man who dares to talk that way to a member of the band? Groupies shiver in the night. He gets into a car and is gone and the limousines roll away one by one into the night, leaving those not quick enough behind.
But Bill Graham’s throwing another party, this one in a French restaurant downtown and it promises to be a quiet evening, what with the boys off and gone to dig the Isleys. The French restaurant is all gold and burgundy silks gathered at the ceiling and mirrors on the wall. Ah, chilled white wine. Ah, escargots. Gilt and continental service. Ah, four black limousines that pull to a stop outside the door and deposit Mick, Keith, and the entire gang.
“The Isley’s weren’t on,” Keith explains, sinking slowly into a chair at the head of one of the tables, “so ‘ere we are.”
Bill Graham is at another table, beaming like a proud uncle. Across from him Tommy Thompson of Life magazine is talking to Mick. Tommy is a tall, prosperous-looking man who wears loafers with chains on them. “I talked to every kid who came out of the concert,” he says, “and they all said they could see you and there were no hassles, and that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?”
Mick looks red-eyed and weary. “I remember balling her on a sink in your bathroom,” someone tells Bobby Keys. A guy at the end of Keith’s table is about to nod into the framboise and fresh cream.
“Are you living in the South of France?” Tommy Thompson asks Mick. “I bet the Chancellor of Exchequer is happy about that.” “Demiiiiiiii-taaaaaaaaaasse,” moans the guy next to Tommy into his coffee making more sense than anyone else in the room. It’s the stranger, from the parking lot, undaunted by the fancy service and the polite conversation.
“Bill,” the stranger’s voice booms out. “Bill, don’t release the film, huh? Don’t let it out. I beg ya.”
“In years to come, Jack,” Bill Graham tells him, “When you think of this moment…be very careful.” He gets up to leave and says, “Billll, don’t let that film out, huh, willlya?” “Whew,” Tommy Thompson says after he’s gone. “I thought you handled that well,” he congratulates Graham, “What’s his name?” “Nitzsche,” Bill Graham says slowly. And from just outside the door, you can hear Jack’s final comment on the evening. “A double stinger, please,” he says politely.
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 mothafucka, huh? I ask you five times to move and you don’t listen. You be quiet a second, we’ll 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.”