The mob was now undulating — pressing forward, getting pushed backwards, pressing forward again — shouting, getting very wet. Waiting for the Rolling Stones.
"All right then, Kathleen, I won't go either."
It was 7 PM on the night of the performance at Sir Morgan's Cove, and Kathleen was being self-effacing again. Stu had given her twenty tickets to give out to Long View staff and friends, and she'd already given out nineteen.
"Danny Avila wants this one last ticket for a friend of his, and I suppose I did say to him yesterday that he could have it. I just don't know what to do, except just not go myself. We could use the coverage here at the Farm, anyhow."
"Well, I'm not going then, either. You're a fool, Kathleen. Here you are — for a month one of the most important figures in the lives of the members of the greatest rock 'n' roll band in the world — like they said on TV last night — and you're not going to go to the concert so that a friend of Danny Avila's can?"
Danny Avila goes to high school in North Brookfield, and does odd jobs around Long View Farm.
"I think you're crazy," I concluded. "And I won't go either, then."
"Stu," I said, "did you hear the latest? Kathleen's not going to the show tonight. She brought you to Sir Morgan's Cove two weeks ago, and now she says she's not going to the show. Not enough tickets."
Ian Stewart had been standing in the doorway to the office, and he apparently found our little debate amusing.
"She's daft all right, but I think we can solve the problem another way."
"How so?" I asked.
"You'll drive, Gil. You'll drive the Escort. That'll solve a problem for me, since I don't want to do any driving tonight, and you can both come in with me. It'll be you driving, me, Kathleen, and Happy, who's doing his first night tonight as Security. How's that?"
Kathleen and I looked at each other. "Well," I said, "I will if you will, Kathleen."
"All right," she said. "I'll go."
We left Long View for Worcester about an hour thereafter — the four of us. Happy at ramrod alert in the backseat, Kathleen almost immediately asleep, and snoring, and Stu in the front seat. It was raining, and raining hard sometimes. The windshield wipers were going on "fast".
"So what d'ya think, Stu?" I asked. "Is this gig going to happen or not?"
"I certainly hope it does happen," Stu said. "Oh, I expect it will. Mick wants to have the last word, of course, but he wants to play tonight, too. We're really quite lucky that it's raining, you know. Also lucky that that bloke at the radio station went off the air at 6 PM. All that talk about Cincinnati was ruining my sense of humor towards the end. Had to expect it, though. Something like that always happens, just when you think you've got everything so well worked out."
"I think you did a great job, Stu," I said. "A really great job. You should be proud of yourself."
"Well," Stu said, "still not good enough to captivate Miss Holden's attention, there in the back seat. Look at her. No, watch the road instead. I can tell you she's sleeping, though. Right, Happy?"
"Yes, sir!" Happy shot back. This was Happy's first 'trying out' for an empty slot on the Stones' traveling security team — the team that would go on the tour, and Happy was thinking in military terms.
We took a back street way of getting to Sir Morgan's Cove, and slid into a parking place only a block or so from the club, just across the street from the Stardust Lounge — the local strip joint. Lady Dee, a down-to-earth sort, whom you'd say is the main act at the Stardust Lounge, was standing in the doorway as we passed, talking to a knot of reporters who were all taking notes. The liquor stores on the street were obviously doing a landrush business. People were buying beer by the case, and taking out liquor in flask-sized bottles. There were residents hanging out of their windows overhead, in the rain, taking it all in, and shouting to their neighbors.
"Down this way," I shouted to Stu, Kathleen, and Happy, and we pitched into the thickening crowd, and toward the orange-slickered Police Line now only a few feet away. Somehow, we had to get through that.
I moved ahead of Stu, and became group battering ram.
"Hey, Gil," someone in the crowd shouted. "Take us in with you. Hey, Gil! Really! Hey, Gilly!"
I tucked my head down, and forged on toward the Police Line, saluting the first helmet I came to.
The police were all wearing helmets that night, and carried nightsticks. Not down at their sides, either. These guys were carrying their nightsticks at shoulder level, horizontal, and a half an arm's length in front of them. To salute the cop you had to deal with the nightstick.
"Officer. Just let us by here, will you? I'm Gil Markle, from Long View, and I've got a member of the band here."
"Back behind the line, buster. I'm not interested."
"Listen, I mean, this is a member of the band. Look right here. Here he is. His name's Ian Stewart, and he's a member of the Rolling Stones."
I demonstrated Ian Stewart with a wave of my hand. Stu had just caught up behind me. His face was dripping rainwater, and he was squinting, trying to see through it. Stu, as famous as he is, does not exactly look like a member of the Rolling Stones. Never did. Stu looks older, as though he's a man in his middle years, with a good bit of history behind him.
"Who, him? the cop growled.
"Ian Stewart, officer, a member of the Rolling Stones. A band member. Now if you'll just let us be, we'll not... "
"O'Leary, get your ass over here," the cop shouted. "We've got a problem case on our hands."
With that remark the helmet and the nightstick started toward my face, fast. This irregular in the service of the City of Worcester thought I was pulling his leg — I mean, about Ian Stewart being a member of the band — and had obviously taken personal offense. The police were bewildered and afraid that night on Green Street. They had no idea what they were dealing with. It's a well-known fact that the Irish of Worcester are not at their best when they're bewildered and afraid. This guy wanted to hurt me.
Thank God for Officer O'Leary — that's all I can say. O'Leary was on the scene in a second, and brought his hand down heavily on O'Rourke's shoulder, and I heard O'Leary saying, "They're O.K., I guess. That guy over there seems to know something about what's going on here, and he says they're O.K." O'Leary gestured over in the direction of a figure who turned out to be Bill Graham. Bill Graham was standing on the sidewalk just in front of Sir Morgan's Cove, and was frantically waving us over to his side.
"Now!" Graham shouted. "Do it, fast!"
Kathleen, Stu, Happy the bodyguard, and I ducked under the nightstick, which was still raised and capable of inflicting damage, and scampered into the alleyway with Bill Graham leading the way.
"Would never happen in England," Stu volunteered. "We haven't seen anything like this over there in years."
"Well, let's just hope we get through it with no busted skulls," Bill Graham said. "There's a lot at stake here."
The crowd roared. There was a Stones fan atop a flagpole, defying police orders to come down, and threatening to play "bombs away" with his beer bottle, which had made the ascent with him. Thirty-five Stones fans sitting atop the rented Hertz equipment van across the street were furiously banging their heels like drumsticks into the yellow sideboards of the vehicle — shouting and waving at the guy on the flagpole. A bottle from somewhere else smashed onto the pavement, splintering glass shrapnel in all directions. Now a police whistle, two of them, and a quick convergence of orange-slickered, cudgel-wielding law enforcement officers on a point in the crowd — some person in a black jacket — now on the ground on his stomach, now dragged to his feet and propelled by several fists and sticks into the waiting police wagon. Doors slammed shut behind him. Crowd now booing, stomping, and shouting a selection of slogans and harsh epithets in the direction of the restraining line of police officers. The mob was now undulating — pressing forward, getting pushed backwards, pressing forward again — shouting, getting very wet. Waiting for the Rolling Stones.
They didn't have much longer to wait. The long Winnebago appeared on Green Street at about 11:45, filled with Rolling Stones, their girlfriends, and Alan Dunn. The crowd couldn't tell that's who was inside, of course, since there were curtains across all the windows of the vehicle. They knew, however. There was no doubt about it. Inside that Winnebago were the Rolling Stones. Out of sight, of course. The Rolling Stones almost always stay out of sight. But it was them. Myth made palpable presence. The crowd roared, exhilarated beyond expectation. The police line held.
The large van squeezed into the alleyway beside the club, effectively stoppering up the passageway against the crowd outside. The side door slid open, and the members of the band dashed out, through the rain, under the waiting awning, and up the rickety back stairs to a spare and empty room which had been put aside for them. They were there only a few minutes, until Mick led them downstairs again.
"Easy does it, Keith," Mick said. "Watch your step."
It was Mick first, picking his way down the wooden stairs one at a time; then a rambunctious and well-oiled Keith Richards, who was not watching his step at all, if the truth be known. Then Charlie Watts; then Bill Wyman; then Woody; then Woody's friend Ian McLagan. Stu was already onstage, fiddling with the electric pickup on the piano. They filed out onto the hot stage — one by one — without notice, announcement, or warning of any kind. They just walked on out there, one by one. Mick first.
When this occurred, there were several hundred fans who'd been waiting three and four hours in heat well over 110 degrees Fahrenheit, and who were now becoming impatient and unruly. But they all stopped whatever they were doing, or saying, and became deadly quiet — mouths agape. Perfectly mute and paralyzed within their astonishment. They simply could not believe what they were seeing. For this split second, inside Sir Morgan's Cove, all you could hear were the floor fans blowing hot air uselessly around the room, the humming and hissing of guitar amps, and the patter of rain on the awning outside the rear stage entrance. Signaled somehow by the sudden silence inside the club, the crowd outside stopped its roaring as well, and became quiet, full of anticipation. And so there was a brief moment when all the people inside the club, and all the people outside the club, were perfectly quiet. An eerie silence — too haunted by human energy to last more than an instant. It was broken by a shrill scream of unadulterated, hundred-percent recognition from a girl inside, close by the stage. She had recognized Mick, and Keith, and there was no doubt that it was the two of them, at least. She screamed, and an instant later the entire club erupted with a joyous roar which spread out the doors and windows, out the back along the alleyway, and into the streets. There the roar became twice itself in loudness, and covered an area now substantially the size of a city block.
It was at that moment, to the best of my recollection, that the Rolling Stones started playing. I looked overhead, up and through the rain onto the shaky porch of an old Worcester three-decker apartment building. There stood two elderly women, in each other's embrace, shouting up at something higher still, which was not a porch full of neighbors on a taller building, or a passing aircraft, but the sky.
Here were two old women, shouting at the sky, the night the Rolling Stones played Sir Morgan's Cove. Two at least, I mean. Two I saw myself.
All original material copyright © Gilbert Scott Markle. All rights reserved.