Thursday, April 8, 2010

Rip This Joint

Twirling a .38 on his right index finger, Mick turned to Keith and spoke in his best John Wayne accent.

“Throw your gun to floor, partner, and reach for the skies.”

Keith placed his own pistol on the metal chair beside him.

“You won’t get any problems out of me, Sheriff.”

The two old friends laughed, if only to release the tension.

“You scared?” asked Keith.

“Shitless. You?”

Keith nodded his head. “A bit, a bit. That was a bad scene today, for sure.”

The evening’s show at the Montreal Forum had turned from festive to frightening. That afternoon, French separatists had blown up The Rolling Stones’ equipment van. Thankfully, no one was hurt, although new gear had to be flown in from California. The local police had assured the band that all was clear at the concert venue. Jagger and Richards weren’t so sure. The terrorists had made some very clear threats to the band’s well-being.

The tour was a monster as it was. The Stones were the last ones standing in the summer of 1972. The Beatles, gone. Dylan, disappeared. Who was left to see, who was left for the press to glom on to? Just the Stones. They wore their status royally – a Lockheed Electra with a giant Stones’ tongue licking the clouds as it flew the band from city to city. There were two film crews, a slew of celebrity hangers-on, Truman Capote scribbling reports from the road, and a mass of bodyguards. Still, Mick and Keith weren’t quite secure and carried loaded .38s with them, even in the concrete-walled dressing room below the stage. Through the thick walls, the heavy bass thumping of Stevie Wonder’s band Wonderlove could be felt, if not heard.

“What’s that, ‘Uptight’?” wondered Mick aloud.

"I don’t give a shit what it is, I hate that cunt!” spat Keith. He hated the tour, hated the large stadiums that separated him from the audience and, after six weeks, he hated Stevie Wonder.

Richards was still pissed off at Wonder for bailing on the first show in Fort Worth. It didn’t matter one bit that Stevie’s drummer was totally fucked up and couldn’t go on. Keith didn’t believe that story. He knew that Stevie had been partying too hard and was the one who needed to sit one out. For fuck’s sake, if I can make every show with the amount of shit I put in my body, why can’t he? Keith thought.

“Lay off on Stevie, he’s cool.” Mick, always the diplomat, once again trying to keep Keith in check.

“No, mate, no. He’s not cool. Very unprofessional to miss a gig. It’s just not done.” Keith was not going to let this one drop. “You heard what he did to Jeff Beck, right?”

“No.” Mick was half-listening, straining to hear the rhythm from above.
“No? He wrote ‘Superstition’ for Jeff. A solid song, no doubt. And Jeff needs a hit, you know. Then, the bastard takes it back for himself. It’s sure to be a number one. That ain’t cool, Mick.”

“No, it’s not. Jeff Beck, now there’s a cunt.”

Keith had to smile at that. True, son, true.

Mick was still troubled by the day’s events. There were more bad omens. 3,000 forged tickets had been sold, and the fans rioted, causing the concert to start late. Mick thought the cops were distracted from searching for more bombs due to the mayhem in the streets. Cops arrested thirteen and more people were injured in the melee. The vibe was just awful.

Jagger reflected on Altamont, not even three years earlier. That was a bad scene too. Anytime someone is murdered at one of your shows it’s a drag, for sure. But Mick never felt in danger himself. Call it selfish. Nobody ever accused Mick Jagger of being overly concerned with the welfare of other people. The bomb, though. Someone wants to kill him, and the other Stones.

“They do hate the English, that’s the point,” Mick said.

“Who’s that? The blacks?” Keith wasn’t sure where Jagger was coming from.

“No, not the blacks. These French bombers. They’re anti-English speaking, anti-English culture, anti-English everything. That’s why they blew up the van. And we are English, in case you’ve forgotten.”

Keith smirked. “I heard the cops say it was American draft dodgers, not the French. Relax, mate. The cops did their job and gave us the all clear. I wouldn’t-”

A muffled boom shook the walls. At first Jagger thought it was Wonder’s band, but, no, it was too loud. And now there was no rhythm at all, just the sounds of muted screams.

Security pounded on the dressing room door. Mick jumped up to open it; Keith grabbed his gun.

“Guys, guys, we gotta get out of here. Another bomb went off near the stage. It’s chaos, we have to run.”

“Stevie?” asked Keith, suddenly concerned.

“Nah, there’s no one alive anywhere near the stage. We gotta get you out of here. The limos are waiting.”

Keith and Mick briefly exchanged a look of horror before they were whisked out of the Forum, surrounded by a phalanx of bodyguards.

The STP (Stones Touring Party or Stop Tripping Please) was a massive undertaking in the summer of 1972. Intense press scrutiny followed the band’s every move. On the afternoon of the July 17 show in Montreal, French separatists succeeded in blowing up the Stones’ equipment van. Three other bombs were supposedly planned to go off during the rest of the day. While the Montreal police inspected the Forum from top to bottom and found nothing, Mick Jagger was fearful a bomb would go off during the show.

Stevie Wonder did miss the first show in Fort Worth on June 24 due to drummer problems. Although Wonder had promised Jeff Beck first crack at the song, Motown insisted “Superstition” be released as a single to promote Wonder’s new LP Talking Book. It would go to the top of the charts the following year. Jeff Beck’s version, on Beck, Bogert & Appice would be released later in 1973.

The day after the Montreal fiasco, Mick and Keith were jailed in Rhode Island after a fight between the band’s entourage and a photographer.

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