Friday, October 27, 2006

The Rolling Stones Stories

In 1981 the Rolling Stones toured North America--for the "last time." Seriously.

Tickets were $29, if I remember correctly, which was absolutely outrageous. It was going to be their last American tour, though, so I and two of my friends decided that we had to go.

It was our last chance, you see.

The concert was held at the Cotton Bowl, in Dallas, and there were 100,000 freaking people there. We were on the floor of the stadium, and it was a combination carnival/madhouse/freak show of epic proportions.

I have many memories of that day, but most vividly, I remember the drug vendors. Most of them had rainbow suspenders attached to cardboard boxes and they looked like a very stoned version of a cigarette girl. They walked the floor of the Cotton Bowl, hawking their merchandise like carnival barkers: "Acid--five dollars a tab. Doobies. Get your doobies here. I've got speed." I wish I could remember the rest of the pricing, but all that stuck in my mind was the price of LSD.

I know, that sounds impossible, but believe me, that's exactly what happened. And there were police officers on the floor of the Cotton Bowl, but I think they were just there to stop fights.

Here's the funny thing: the Rolling Stones were the second-best band on stage that day. ZZ Top absolutely blew them away: crystal clear sound, big sound, and they sounded absolutely tight. The Stones were sloppy, muddy-sounding, and Keith Richards was so blasted he could barely stand up.

I asked you guys to send in your Rolling Stones stories and got a few very good ones. First off, here's one from David Gloier:
In '94 (I think that was the year, the one where Bryan Adams fell and busted his ass on the wet stage), as we were walking back to our car through the lovely neigborhood that surrounds Fair Park in Dallas, guys are selling bootleg t-shirts on the street. A black Suburban-type vehicle pulls one of those Starsky and Hutch type skid stops right in front on us and two or three guys jump out, guns drawn, shouting, and take down the two guys selling the t-shirts. The cops come and haul the guys and the box of shirts off. The other guys holster their guns, get back in their vehicle and drive off, I guess to bust other bootleg t-shirt sellers. The way the whole thing went down, you would have thought those poor guys selling the shirts were a threat to the survival of our society. The guys in the truck never showed any sort of badge or ID, so I assume they were employed by the Stones.

It was a great end to a great evening, since I had missed Cops on tv, being at the concert and all.

Here's a second one from David as well:
In November of '89, I drove to Dallas to see the Stones at the Cotton Bowl during their Steel Wheels Tour. They played Friday, Saturday, and, I think, Sunday. I went to the Friday show. We were sitting in the second row of the upper deck, just up from the right end of the stage. If you've never been in the Cotton Bowl, the first rows of the upper deck are great seats. The upper deck isn't set back, so you're looking right down on the action. Anyway, we take our seats before the opening act, Living Colour, starts their set. After they finish, about four guys show up and take seats directly in front of us. These guys are completely shitfaced and before the Stones take the stage, the guy in front of me passes out with his chin resting on his fist in "The Thinker" pose and vomits down his arm a few times. The Stones start their set and this guy doesn't move an inch for the entire two and a half plus hours. Well...almost the entire time. Just as the band finishes the last song of the last encore, the fellow in front of me wakes, stands up, and starts clapping furiously, spraying chunks of semi-dried vomit all over his buddies. Great end to a great show.

Next, from Michael Rozek:
In 1989 the Stones played the Los Angeles Coliseum during their "Steel Wheels" tour. It was my first year at USC (which is walking-distance to the venue), and a friend with an extra ticket invited me to tag along. We arrived to our seats early to catch the opening bands (Living Color and Guns n' Roses), so not too many folks were in their seats, with the exception of the gentleman sitting to my left. He was in his 50's with long grey ponytail hair and wearing full combat camouflage.

When we sat down, without saying a word to me, he started to hand me a joint that he'd been enjoying. Now, I had just turned 17, and being a youngster who grew up with Nancy Reagan constantly barking at me to "just say no", I knew just what to say. He didn't seem offended, and we talked for a bit while he toked away. He was a *huge* Stones fan, and had been to many shows over the previous 20 years, and as it turned out, he had no military affiliation at all, just enjoyed the style. My friends and I were treated to quite a few stories of his history as a Stones fan.

On to the interesting part: About 1/2 way into the show, Eric Clapton came out as a surprise guest to play a few songs with the group. It really was a surprise, and it was cool to be at a show where not one but two rock "legends" were on stage together. While I was excited about it, camo-guy started to cry. Not the "eyes getting glassy" tearing up, but a full blown "I can't control the funny noises I'm making" loss of control crying. He was *so* moved by the fact that he was in the presence of Clapton and the Stones, that he just broke down. It was actually kind of touching in a strange way, and It was one of those life lessons where I subsequently started to appreciate things on a different level.

Finally, a story about the current tour from Sean Garagan, and it doesn't even involve puke, firearms, or drug vendors:
The month of September is actually quite pleasant in Halifax. The temperature normally ranges from the low 20’s in the day to the low 10’s in the evening (this is all in Celsius so don’t start feeling too cold). We get very little rain and the leaves start their colourful journey towards oblivion. However, the day of the Stones concert, the temperature never got above 14C and dropped to around 8-10C by the time the sun went down. That would have been fine except for the rain. What started out as a light shower turned into a downpour as Alice Cooper started to play. He did not let this stop him, he and his band got soaked but put on an amazing hour of music with many of his classics and all of the show you would expect from him. Kanye West was entertaining in his own way but I think I may have had my first “Is that what the kids today listen to?” moments.

After that, the anticipation built up. We all knew it was only a matter of minutes before the Stones started. Being in the presence of that stage all day long and having none of the other acts actually make use of its features only heightened the thrill. The lights went dark, a glow showed up on the big screen which grew until it covered the entire stage at which point fireworks exploded and the first bars of “Paint it Black” were met with a scream of excitement I have never and will probably never again experience. The next two hours was filled with all of the Stones classics and some new stuff. It is indescribable what it is like to be in the middle of 50,000 people all singing the songs with the Stones. The crowd completely ignored the rain and went all out. The band must have sensed this and felt pity for us because they gave the most energetic, emotional show I have ever seen. They gave 200% and more to the crowd. The rain only seemed to push them further.

We even lucked out in our spot. We did not know about “stage B” which has the drum set and a 30x30 section around it come out into the crowd. We were about 25’-30’ away from that stage when it stopped, close enough to have Mick Jagger and Ron Woods look us in the eyes. All in all, it was probably the best music experience I have ever had and one that will be quite hard to top. I have been looking forward to seeing the Stones play for much of my life and to have a dream fulfilled so completely is an incredible event.

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