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Landmark Day - The Finale - Stones at Madison Square Garden, NYC 1969 (Read 179 times)
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Landmark Day - The Finale - Stones at Madison Square Garden, NYC 1969
Nov 10th, 2017 at 5:36pm
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Stones at Madison Square Garden, NYC – 1969

Last one. I originally started out to write about just the music, but it’s obviously evolved into something totally different.

Biggest shows on the tour. One evening show and then two the next day. Finally press coverage in regular newspapers. No one knew that a movie was being made, an album recorded, or a free concert in California was being considered. All three shows were sold out. There were murmurings that some fans were unhappy about the $8.50 cost of tickets. (A Fillmore East show was about half that.) No big deal on this end. Thanksgiving turkey never tasted better. Then it was hop on the train to the Garden, find your seat – again, on the floor towards the back – and make plans to rush the stage before the Stones came on. (We did learn the next day that desperate fans without tickets tried to crash the concert, but were stopped by the police and security. Apparently it was a pretty wild scene as they stormed the gates.)

Terry Reid, an up and coming British rocker, was added as the opening act. Half hour set, followed by BB King and then Ike and Tina Turner. On one number, a strange figure joined the Ikettes, women who sang backup and danced with Tina. She had on a winter coat and white fur hat. A murmur went through the kid that it was none other than Janis Joplin! Unfortunately, she didn’t stay on stage and do a duet with Tina. That would have been something.

Finally the warmups ended, the lights came on, and we knew we were in for a good hour wait. The rest of the crowd didn’t. Security was lax and people started walking down to the front of the stage which was only about five feet high. There was a space of about 15 feet between the stage and the first row of floor seats which was quickly filling up. My friend and I decided to make our move early. We plowed into that area and decided to set up in front of where Keith Richards would be playing. The people who had legitimate front row tickets were freakin’ pissed. The view from their “dream seats” was now ruined by all these freeloading hippies streaming in by the minute. I remember one guy had all this expensive camera gear and he was screaming at people who just totally ignored him. As the time went by, bodies were so packed and as people were wearing their winter coats, some fans were passing out and a few had to be carried away.

Finally, the lights went down, all you saw on stage were the glowing lights from the amps, shadows moving around, then came Sam Cutler’s intro, spotlights on, Jagger’s Uncle Sam hat and “Jumping Jack Flash!” The crowd was into every number, the Stones sounded great, and “Gimme Shelter” the movie captured the scene. (I wish there was just a movie of the concert itself!) I remember the lights going on before “Honky Tonk Women” and staying on through the end. Jagger throwing a basket of rose petals into crowd after a wild spin on stage. (I picked some up after the next night’s show, but they dried up quickly and crumbled up on me.) Because of the short height of the stage, some girls climbed up and rushed Mick, but were grabbed and carried off to the side. Toward the end of the show Ian Stewart joined in on piano behind a barrier set up behind Charlie Watts. You could not see him from floor level though. It’s documented that Hendrix watched from the side of the stage, but you couldn’t see him either.

It was fantastic seeing the show from that close! And there were two more to go!

The next day started with the “Breakfast Show” at 11:30 a.m. as I remember. By this time, seeing BB King and the Ike and Tina Turner Revue was getting a little tedious, but one had to get in on time and get to your seat. For this show, my friend and I were sitting up higher and to the side of the stage. The big surprise was that Jimmy brought his mother who was probably about 50 at that time and certainly no rock fan. But she was Greek and spoke broken English and he wanted her to see the group that he had gone crazy over for the past few years. She was willing to go because “Paint It Black” reminded her of the music from her homeland. We passed on our stage rush for this show, saving our energy for the finale that night when we again had floor seats
.
Back for the last show, on Stones’ overload at this point, before I left my house I had a big decision to make. I wanted to savor the music after the Stones had moved on. I also wanted to remember the moment visually. So before there were bootlegs, I was considering taking a mini cassette player with me to record the show. The idea of holding it up and changing tapes in the middle of a scrum didn’t seem like a good plan. So I grabbed my mom’s 8mm camera and decided to shoot a quick film at the start.
Same scenario, we got within about 15 feet of the stage, when they came out for “JJ Flash” I pointed the camera and got about five minutes of footage. No sound. In color. Watched it a few times and filed it, later transferring it to DVD a few years ago. It’s decent, not great.  The show was another story. Another great performance. The Stones moved on and we all know what happened at Altamont.

Later in the spring of 1970, Rolling Stone Magazine wrote an article about records called “bootlegs” and mentioned there was a Stones release called “Live R Than You’ll Ever Be” taken from the tour. Holy shit! I had to track that one down, pronto! Back to Greenwich Village in NY and scouring the headshop/record stores and sure enough I got a copy for five bucks. Raced home to open it. White sleeve, label said “Lurch Records,” and it sure was the Stones sounding as good as when I saw them live. (This record supposedly forced Decca/London to release an official concert recording – “Ya Ya’s.) Finally, at the end of the year, “Gimme Shelter” went into a limited release – which meant traveling to NYC to see it at some out of the way artsy movie theater.

It was so good and I’ve seen it so many times now that  I can’t separate my memories of the concert with scenes from the movie. I’ve looked for myself in the crowd, blown up pictures, think I see me, but I looked so different with long hair and I don’t really remember what I wore, so I’ve never been 100% positive.

All I do know is that I can listen to any of the ’69 tour bootlegs, “Ya Ya’s,” watch the movie, again and again and marvel at how well the group played, how Mick Jagger demonstrated that he was the greatest showman in rock history, how young they were at the time, how fresh the music was – for me, as a Stones fan even to this very day and someone who’s seen them about 30 times, it was never better.

(I was fortunate enough to have a little blurb about the show published in the Ya Ya’s booklet with the box set released a few years back. Of course, I received no acknowledgement from the record company beforehand that they were using it. And a complimentary copy of the set was out of question! But I never expected one anyway. Come on. It’s the Stones way of doing things!)

And down the road apiece, maybe I’ll share the experience of spending a day chasing the Stones around when they were in NY for an Ed Sullivan Show rehearsal. That was a wild day!
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Re: Landmark Day - The Finale - Stones at Madison Square Garden, NYC 1969
Reply #1 - Nov 10th, 2017 at 6:39pm
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What a great read. Thanks
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Voodoo Child in Wonderland
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Re: Landmark Day - The Finale - Stones at Madison Square Garden, NYC 1969
Reply #2 - Nov 10th, 2017 at 9:23pm
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Gazza wrote on Nov 10th, 2017 at 6:39pm:
What a great read. Thanks


Absolutelly!

Thanks again Kev!
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Re: Landmark Day - The Finale - Stones at Madison Square Garden, NYC 1969
Reply #3 - Nov 10th, 2017 at 11:26pm
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yea that was a nice post !
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