COME ON PEOPLE! THIS ISN’T A SPECTATOR SPORT
I’m always hearing voices on the street
I want to shout but I can’t hardly speak
I was making love last night
To a dancer friend of mine
I can’t seem to stay in step,
Cause she come every time that she pirouettes over me
For some reason, I’m looking forward to owning the newly remastered Exile On Main Street. It’s an excellent album–I get that–but it has never been my favorite Rolling Stones album. That honor goes to Beggar’s Banquet. It’s even possible if I put my mind to it, Exile isn’t even my second favorite Stones album. Or third favorite. Let It Bleed and Some Girls, the latter for sentimental reasons. It was the first Stones album I bought. No hand-me-down with that one.
What attracts me to Exile is all the myth surrounding it. The accounts have varied throughout the years, but it sounded like a never-ending party with recording sessions thrown into the mix. A Sodom and Gomorrah in Nellcote, France. Mick and Keith have downplayed the stories lately, but it’s hard to imagine it being as sedate as they now claim. The whole scene reeked of rebellion and rock n roll and all things anti-establishment, and I suspect that’s what always draws me to it. I might be pushing 50, with a family, but I can still live vicariously through other people’s decadence, dammit!
I saw the Stones once, for the Some Girls tour. According to one website, that historic date was June 26, 1978. I went by myself. My friends at the time either weren’t interested or out of town. Or maybe they were broke. My parents weren’t thrilled about me going, especially by myself. I was 16 and I had already landed in trouble a couple of times in the past 12 months. Nothing that really needed the law involved, even though it did get dragged into it one time. The Stones were still considered bad boys of rock n roll at the time, and not the old farts the media always calls them whenever they hit the road these days. So, I suspect my parents saw visions of me becoming a member of the Hell’s Angels, a heroin addict or a flamboyant lead singer. I don’t know. I just had to plead my case several times.
My main reason for going was because word was it was going to be the last tour for Keith Richards. He had recently been busted in Toronto with beaucoup drugs–a major amount. There was talk he was going to do a long stretch in prison. I was 16, of course, and naive enough to believe a person that famous would actually go to prison for what might be the rest of his life. Even then, there were talk of Keith Richards surviving a nuclear holocaust, so it was logical he could serve the time being tossed around, come out, form a band and start rolling again.
The fact that Mick Jagger allegedly slept with the wife of Canada’s prime minister didn’t help Richards’ case. I remember seeing a picture of Margaret Trudeau in Creem (a music magazine, not a jack-off rag) and my 16-year-old mind claimed her listworthy.
So, I was going to see the Stones by myself and possibly see one of the last shows ever by Keith Richards.
The show was sold out and I had a seat way up in the Greensboro Coliseum. Beyond nose-bleed. I could see the stage, but there was no way I was going to catch minor details of the show. In high school, I tried my best to be a Jordan Catalano, but I was nothing more than a Brian Krakow. Milling about the coliseum en route to my seat, I saw all these really cool-looking people–female patrons who were pushing the envelope when it came to indecent exposure (not that I would declare it indecent), people who looked like they belonged in a rock band. Even the groupies who looked road-worn and well past their prime looked cooler than me.
Also in the crowd, some scary and dangerous-looking people. I figured they were either former members of the Manson Family (can someone be a former member?) or bikers. There were a ton of people my age who looked like they had clocked more hours in detention than in the classroom. In addition, there were several members of the military present, on leave and ready to cut loose. Not a great mix, I deduced. I feared for a moment by parents might have been right and I might actually be living the last hours of my life.
Is there something about being 16 that makes everything in your life such a big drama? Has there been research? Conclusive research?
Luckily for me, I was seated with a bunch of other Krakows and I actually looked like the coolest one in my section. I could have run that section if I wanted. I can still remember this one couple in front of me: A very thin balding man with binoculars (like an anorexic Wally Cox, or ESPN reporter Brian Clayton) and his companion, a heavyset woman with a Mama Cass hippie-style Muumuu. It cracked me up at one point during their conversation when Mama Cass told Wally Cox/Brian Clayton that she wants a daughter so she could name her Angie. Wally Cox/Brian Clayton took her hand and said (I’m totally quoting on the spot here), “Maybe tonight will be the night we make our Angie.”).
Of course, he was going to have sex later, so the joke was really on me. At best, I might successfully conjure an encounter with Cheryl Tiegs in my head later when I was alone.
I was eventually spared the two oddball lovebirds when Etta James, the opening act, came out. I actually knew of her and even knew one of her songs, but I wasn’t here to see her. And it became obvious she didn’t want to see us. She performed what could politely be called a contractual obligation show. I don’t know. It’s possible she wasn’t feeling it that night. However, I suspect Ms. James had had some bad experience somewhere in the South back in the region’s less-than-stellar past.
She hustled off after a brief set and it took an eternity for the Stones to get on the stage. I feared Keith had OD’ed, choosing this random spot on the band’s tour to end it all rather than face Canadian legal system. The band finally appeared and the show sucked. It was obvious they didn’t want to be in Greensboro either. I could see their expressions of course, but I could make out what appeared to be apathy in their slouches. Plus, Mick wasn’t exactly tearing up the stage with his dance moves. The show was a major letdown.
But I was 16 and told my friends the rest of the summer how they missed the best show ever. The Rolling Stones, man, and I was there. You weren’t.
Of course, Keith Richards never went to jail. I think he got hit with a fine and a tsk tsk from the judge. Maybe even probation. The Stones continue to roll on, minus Bill Wyman, and people still rush to see them. I suspect now it’s because the fans know it won’t be long before one of them dies, and if it’s Mick or Keith, then that will be the end of the Stones. I hope the Stones would also call it quits if Charlie Watts kicked it. Ron Wood, I don’t care about. I mean, he’s been with the band since 1975, give or take, but he’s still the “New Stone” to me.
I’ll eventually own the latest version of Exile and I will dream of the days that I never had as a hedonistic young man. It’s what I do best.