WEEK OF 19 NERVOUS BREAKDOWNS
Steve Morse, The Boston Globe, 22 September, 1981 (reprinted with permission)
The whole Rolling Stones mess has left psychic scars that will be hard to forget. By the end, it had deteriorated into a nasty, pitched battle between clubowners, fans, politicians, promoters, and the media, each desperately wanting a piece of the action.
It feels like a week-long purgatory has ended. Or maybe a jail sentence. Or maybe just a bad dream.
There were no winners in all of this. The band didn't get to play their sneak concerts. The fans didn't get to see them. The media behaved recklessly. And the toll, financially and psychologically, was overwhelming.
Friendships were severed. Relationships were left reeling. And reporters were left glued to the phone, tracking down non-leads, swirling through off-the-record statements, getting unfathomable I Ching quotes from Stones tour producer Bill Graham and being humbled to the point of complete frustration.
All because the band, as Graham said, wanted to play a few "throwaway gigs." But there are no throwaway gigs with the Rolling Stones. Now that Led Zeppelin is gone, the Who has changed, and John Lennon is dead, only the Stones remain to carry the banner of rock's '60s heyday.
It was no wonder the local demand to see them was so great, because there are thousands of fans here who have never seen them and who won't rest until they do. Those fans have put up with myriad Stones clone groups touring the area, but this was the real thing.
And so the hysteria kept building, causing the band to cancel last night's planned sneak concert at the Opera House. Despite the grandstanding of Mayor Kevin White — who had also offered them a free City Hall Plaza show while naively assuming there'd be only 40,000 people there (try 400,000) — the band chose to put a lid on the madness, rather than fuel it even more.
"The Rolling Stones have changed governments, and they're not going to be that concerned about a mayor," Stones publicist Paul Wasserman had said earlier. Putting the issue into perspective, he added: "With all the attention the Stones received, you'd think there was no other story. Hey, isn't Boston having trouble getting its schools opened?"
The reason, of course, the media went whole hog was that the band so arrogantly left them out of last week's lone sneak concert at Sir Morgan's Cove in Worcester. The battle lines were drawn.
Although that night's mood was quite peaceful — the waiting crowd of 1500 was demoralized by the rain — irresponsible reporters highlighted a couple of bottle-throwing incidents, thus causing the band to become personae non grata in Boston until Mayor White tried to intervene.
"One minute we were lepers. The next minute we were tulips," as Graham said.
Behind the scenes, promoters also lashed at each other. Boston's Don Law and Providence's Frank Russo were again claw to claw. Russo missed out on the coup of a lifetime when the Stones slipped through his fingers for a Providence show Saturday, chiefly due to illness within the band. "We owe you one" the group's entourage later told him.
The week's events were an intolerable merry-go-round. The band itself behaved badly, having not scheduled Boston in the first place and then announcing last-minute cancellations which left fans stuck out in the rain and cold, waiting for tickets.
Although Graham said the band will return to "the scene of the crime" to later play Boston, thank God that for now the treasure hunt is over.
As one exhausted source said, "My wife's about ready to walk out the door. And so is my dog."
All original material copyright © Gilbert Scott Markle. All rights reserved.