50 Years with The Rolling Stones-A Study in Contrast
It was more than a lifetime ago. Eras of my life have come and gone. I’ve reached for se heights, hit more bottoms than I care to admit and now I’m here with suitcases loaded with 57 years of memories and nowhere to go; at least not yet. But, still, all of modern technology just brings the past closer to me these days. As sit here in the clear, hi def glow of this big screen tv, The Rolling Stones are celebrating the final concert of their brief 50th anniversary tour in New Jersey. I got the music up loud, I’m on an old couch where I do most of my writing. My memories go back to my 14 year-old self waiting outside the Los Angeles Forum on November 8, 1969. I’m one of many waiting for the second show. The Breakfast Show it would later be called. As this crowd of ragamuffin hippie wannabes gathered outside, we listened and the music was loud enough to feel the percussive pulsating off the huge walk and to hear the “Hoo-Hoo” of Keith singing on “Sympathy for the Devil.” We got into the arena well after midnight. BB King and Ike & Tina Turner whisked by two short sets. As the band gathered on the stage Mick said, “I hope you brought your toothbrushes with ya!” It was the Mick Taylor version of The Stones. Jagger was out their with his Uncle Sam hat and dark question mark jump suit strutted about the stage while camera lights flashed the stage. The started with Jumping Jack Flash. Then launched into earthy blues slow and mesmerizing, from Stray Cat Blues to Prodigal Son. We rocked to Chuck Berry’s “Carol,” and “Little Queenie.” When the opening licks of “Satisfaction” started, we stormed the stage. I was in the front row of the loge parallel to the side of the stage. I jumped the 15 feet down to the floor and made it within 10 feet of the stage. We jumped, danced, sang in some kind of space that defied time, early morning hours or not. Nobody was going to sleep today. They left the stage and returned with “Honky Tonk Woman,” and closed with “Street Fighting Man.” At 14 the visual memory left a lasting imprint of the band right there in front of me with twenty thousand people at my back. The music was a new revelation for me and I have a feeling for nearly everyone else there. Most had come to hear the hits. But, we got a heavy dose of electrified country blues. BB King and Ike & Tina Turner set the stage. The Rolling Stones took it home that morning. This was the first time I heard and saw “Midnight Rambler.” No one expected the theatrics of the song with Mick whipping the stage with his long scarf while Mick Taylor’s guitar leads drove the song’s deep muddy blues boogie. As Mick threw the flowers over the crowd to the end of “Street Fighting Man,” we wished this show would never end. As we walked out the sun was rising over the eastern horizon. ‘
For years after, I would try to recreate that show. As with most profound experiences of our lives, it couldn’t be repeated. In ’72 I had nose-bleed seats at The Forum, so I tried to go back to my original place from ’69. But, security was tighter then. At one point my friend and I climbing up the steps trying to find a seat with usher flashlights behind us. I found one seat off the aisle. I sat down and invited my friend to join me. We squirmed restlessly trying to get adjusted. I felt a cold finger tapping my shoulder. I turned and was nose-to-nose with Jack Nicholson. He looked at me and said in his familiar voice, “there’s two of you trying to sit in that seat there. It belongs to a friend of mine. I suggest you leave.” I with more speed than any usher could motivate me with.