"He'll be in the front seat of the van, you can be sure of that... Either he'll like what he sees, or he won't. If he likes it, we'll play. If he doesn't, we won't."
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, there wasn't much happening, and no particular indication from the band members that they were aware of the pandemonium raging in the outside world on their behalf; or, if they were aware of these disturbances, that they cared much. After all, the Rolling Stones had changed governments around. So what's a small club in Worcester, Massachusetts? No, there was sleepy obliviousness instead.
Keith and Woody, for a start, were actually asleep and had been since noon, when Woody crashed in the Game Room and Keith collapsed in a gangling disarray of limbs on the couch by the fireplace, in the Farmhouse. Half on the couch, half off it — an empty bottle of Jack Daniels clutched tightly in one hand. Snoring. Keith and Woody had been up all night, needless to say, and knew very little about the circumstances surrounding tonight's possible surprise performance in Worcester. Only that somethingmight happen somewhere, since allthe gear had been taken up off the stage and packed into a yellow rental truck during the wee hours, just before dawn. That had to be a sign of something.
Charlie Watts had slept some, which was unusual for him, but the reason was that his pleasant wife — whose name is Shirley, and who doesn't look like rock 'n' roll at all — was arriving at Boston's Logan Airport that afternoon, from England. So Charlie had dragged himself out of his third-floor bedroom about midday, shaved, put on a clean shirt, and presented himself at the rendezvous point downstairs, which was the coffeepot, for the drive into the city. Charlie was going to meet Shirley personally at the airport, much to his credit, and Long View staffer Kent Huff — who's Kathleen's husband as you may remember — was going to do the driving. They took the long black station wagon, and left the Farm just after noon, in a light rain. So, Charlie Watts wasn't even there, at the Farm, but on the road instead.
Bill Wyman wasn't heard from all day, and things were quiet in his and Astrid's "cottage," adjacent to the barn. He was awake though, tinkering with his new Apple computer. He surfaced only at the very end of the afternoon, and then only to ask if there would be a cassette deck brought down in time for his press interview the next day. He was expecting Lisa Robinson, the rock gossip columnist, and was thinking more about that than he was about Sir Morgan's Cove. Stu was taking care of the warm-up gig; there was no need to bother himself on that score. And, as for the chaos and mayhem which he saw reported each time he switched on his new Sony TV set; well, they've always made a fuss over the Rolling Stones, why not this time?
As for Mick Jagger, there we had quite another story. Mick wasnot oblivious — not by a long shot. He was wide-awake and alert, prowling around the Farmhouse like a caged animal, distracted, short-tempered, and obviously concerned over what, if anything, was going to happen that night. He made and received frequent telephone calls, some on the topic of the rainfall, and his hope that it would continue throughout the remainder of the day. He was picking at the salad bowl in the kitchen, which John Farrell was decorating with bits and pieces of olives, and onions, and scallions. John had just put a "Supremes" disco-45 on the kitchen hi-fi, was dancing about in little steps behind the counter, and doing his best to make small talk.
"Charlie left about one, with Kent driving. Just called back from Logan. Wife's plane's delayed. Don't know how long yet. He knows he's got to play tonight, doesn't he?"
Mick popped an olive into his mouth, spun on his heel, and snapped. "Of course he does! Charlie knows. You don't mind if I turn that off, do you?"
John said no, of course he didn't, and Mick killed the music with one quick and nervous movement. Mick was always turning off the hi-fi sets.
"Of course Charlie knows," he repeated. He grabbed two olives this time, turned away from the counter with no further remarks for John Farrell, and marched brusquely out of the room, stepping over Keith Richards on the way.
Mick had good reason to be preoccupied. He needed this performance at Sir Morgan's Cove. Philadelphia and nearly 200,000 seats — all sold out — were now only ten days away. Philadelphia was ready for the Rolling Stones, but the Stones weren't ready for Philadelphia — not ready at all. The rehearsals had just started to come together upstairs in the barn, but the band was playing only a few songs at a time, starting and stopping as they went. Not twenty songs in a row, tightly paced, as they'd soon be called upon to do. Further, there was no audience to speak of, at Long View. No people for Mick to rehearse his act in front of. No people for the band toperform for. It had been three years since the band had last played in front of a live audience, and that's a long time. You forget how to do things over a period of three years.
Finally, and most importantly, the group needed a shared victory — a morale boost — a shot in the arm. They needed to be adored as a unit once again — welded by a worshipping and friendly crowd back into a band — back into the fighting, proud, rock 'n' roll group which most people felt was the best in the world. They needed to see that the old magic was still there, intact, and working. They needed the people to tell them so.
There were people enough in Worcester ready to do just that. Too many people, in fact, and that's why Mick was pacing nervously around the Farmhouse, snapping at his friends, and praying for rain. Too many people, too much craziness on the streets, too great a likelihood that tonight's event would be marred by incidents — by violence — perhaps even injury to common citizens. And that was an eventuality that Mick could not sustain — that had to be avoided at all costs. There was a financially lucrative tour at stake, and it would be seriously compromised in advance — even ruined — by any adverse riot publicity, or the publicity which would occur if, say, a kid got killed in Worcester that night. A little Cincinnati in Worcester tonight would bring Mick's plans down around his ears, and fast, too. Mick knew that very well. So did Ian Stewart, who had just heard it predicted, by a major Boston radio station, that such a disaster might in fact occur that evening. The thought was terrifying. Predictions like that sometimes come true of their own force and momentum — self-fulfilling prophesies. People expect a riot — are told there is going to be a riot. That attracts rioters, and creates a rioting frame of mind. "Blamed for it already, might as well do it." So there is a riot. Riot is not something you talk about in advance — particularly on the radio — unless you like riot, and want to see it occur.
Mick didn't want a riot tonight. No, sir. Altamont Speedway, at which a murder occurred during a Rolling Stones concert, practically ruined the band, and put a poison in the air which bummed people out for years. It's one thing to have a bit of Lucifer happening in the myth division; it's quite another to cause the death of fans. Didn't need anybody killed tonight in Worcester, Mick didn't. Not tonight — the first night the Rolling Stones had performed in three years. That would be, as they say, a most inauspicious beginning. It could ruin everything.
An alternative, of course, would be to cancel the gig — even at the very last minute, upon the band's arrival on Green Street, if Green Street looked too weird, or the crowd too crazy. Mick always had that as an option, and it was commonly accepted that the decision would be at that point his to make, and his alone. A last ditch safety-hatch.
"He'll be in the front seat of the van, you can be sure of that," Stu had assured me earlier that day. "Either he'll like what he sees, or he won't. If he likes it, we'll play. If he doesn't, we won't."
But cancellation would be a disaster of another sort. It would be an extremely unpopular move. The media were mad at us, remember. Angry that we wouldn't tell them anything, that we wouldn't let them in to see the band rehearse, that we kept on stringing them along with vague promises of a Wasserman-sponsored extravaganza that would somehow put things right. To cancel would be to jack them around one last time — one time too many. The Stones would have made fools out of them, the media, and the entire state of Massachusetts, for that matter. After all, the Stonessponsored that craziness in downtown Worcester — citizens body-plastered with bumper stickers; automobiles permanently defaced; large companies shut down for the day because their employees wouldn't work. The Stones caused all that to happen. And then they don't show up. Or, worse still, show up, tease the world with a quick hike of the skirt, then split — without playing a note — for their plush countryside estate, where God only knows what goes on.
Cancellation would be a disaster, too. Somehow; this show had to happen. The Cockroaches had to play in Worcester tonight. .
All original material copyright © Gilbert Scott Markle. All rights reserved.