THE NEW LEADER
September 24, 1981
IT'S ONLY ROCK AND ROLL BUT HE LIKES IT
By Larry Lewis
North Brookfield – Sitting comfortably near the fireplace in his home on Barnes Road, sipping coffee and listening to the stereo, Howard Ferguson appears the picture of contentment, befitting a man who is chairman of the town's Board of Selectmen.
But the music chosen by Ferguson isn't the soft tones of WSRS radio. Nor is the topic of his conversation the latest figures from Wall Street. Instead, he is listening to Tattoo You, the newest album from British rockers the Rolling Stones. He can't hide his pleasure at the success of the group's stay in town at Long View Farm.
In his capacity as a selectman, Ferguson has been monitoring events since shortly after the Stones' arrival on Aug. 10. "I didn't know they were here until about a week after they arrived. One day I was driving by the farm," he said, "when I saw a man in a jogging outfit. We started talking and became friends."
The jogger turned out to be Jim Callahan who, with Bob Bender, make up the Stones' security staff. Callahan is described as "a fantastic person" by Ferguson.
Since their initial meeting, Ferguson has visited the farm on several occasions, meeting lead singer Mick Jagger and key personnel. One night, he was introduced to Jagger at 2:30 a.m. "Security is very tight. You don't get to meet them by accident."
"Mick is a straight guy, he's great," says Ferguson. "He's very levelheaded. He's into physical sports, weightlifting – a very pleasant person.
"One day I drove by the farm and there were about 10 cars parked along the road." At Long View, Ferguson warned Jagger who had been preparing for the Stones' upcoming tour, in part, by jogging on local roads, that it might not be wise to jog now. "Jagger got into a car, drove himself past all the parked cars and nobody recognized him. He parked further down the road and jogged from there." Ferguson reflects, "For someone (Jagger) who's been through the ropes growing up, I've got to give him a lot of credit." In fact, the group's visit has done a lot to change Ferguson's opinion of them. "They've turned my whole attitude around," he notes.
Ferguson emphasizes his wish to clear up what he feels has caused some confusion and bad feeling. An article in another newspaper, stating that the town's selectmen were against allowing the Rolling Stones to hold a concert for local residents, was misleading. "They (Stones) wanted to play in town but were concerned with how to set it up. The selectmen didn't give a definite 'No' to any request, because there never was a formal request from the group. We never gave a formal denial."
"The chief (Police Chief Harbig Thomasian) and I worked on this. In fact, yesterday (Sunday) I delivered to the studio a petition with 126 names asking that a concert be put on. I haven't heard anything yet." On Monday, Ferguson was still hoping something could be worked out before the group leaves this week.
Part of the reason the Stones wanted to put on a local performance for the town was reportedly to thank residents for their cooperation in accommodating the famous group. In general, townspeople have stayed away from the farm; most of those trying to get into Long View have been from outside the immediate area.
"The biggest problem has been after the bars close," says Ferguson. Would-be Stones spotters have spent many a night parked along the back roads near the farm, hoping to hear the music drift across the fields as the group rehearses. "It's not a serious problem, however, Ferguson notes. "We've been very fortunate. People are curious, but they've moved when asked."
If a local concert could have taken place, Ferguson would have expected it to be held at the elementary school. "It would have been totally unannounced, by invitation only," he says, while admitting that such a method might have created some personal headaches afterwards. Rumors that a show might take place at Poor Boy's nightclub in town were scotched by Ferguson, who explained that the club was just too small to legally allow enough fans inside.
Another problem would have been the question of where the crowd would go after the concert, both those who attended and those who couldn't. Reportedly, many people followed the Stones back to North Brookfield after the group played in Worcester last week.
In any case, Ferguson says "The Rolling Stones have a tremendous amount of respect for the town. They love it here."
Ferguson is obviously proud of recent events but doesn't believe the group's visit "is overwhelming to the town." He thanked local residents for not bothering the band during its stay.
At one point, he notes, "I think I saw my family about two hours in three days."
As side two of Tattoo You closes, Ferguson admits, "It's going to take a lot for me to forget this." Clearly, he has been affected by the sincerity of the friendships he's made during the visit, indicating how hard it is to say good-by to new-found friends.
He jokes that he has become "a 37-year-old hippie" and suggests with a big smile that his guiding motto may become the well-known phrase "Crank it up."
"This is ridiculous, but it's fun."
All original material copyright © Gilbert Scott Markle. All rights reserved.