Posted on January 14, 2019
by Steve Janowick
It was the summer of 1972.
The most popular rock and roll band in the world at that time had just wrapped up recording. And that was no small feat. Recently exiled from their homeland, England, because of superfluous tax burdens, they took up residence in France to make their album in a grand chateau rented by Keith Richards. The band, fueled by all the excesses of the day, holed-up and plugged away, eventually completing what would be their magnum opus, Exile on Main Street.
It was now time for them to take it on the road-and the rock tour would forever be redefined.
The early 70’s was a very strange time in America. The confidence, optimism and Norman Rockwell vibe of the 50’s and early 60’s acquiesced to a turbulent powder-keg of moral ambiguity come the 70’s. The Vietnam War, civil rights and the presidency of Richard Nixon are the usual go-to variables that historians love to blame for this social upheaval. Maybe so. But throw in a contentious generational gap, that was now a chasm by 1972, and you have the perfect recipe for a rock and roll band, already defined by existing on the fringes of decency, to let it all fly.
And that’s exactly what they did.
After ten years of sweating it out on the road and prolific studio output, the Stones were a tight musical machine. And they put that precision and raunchy showmanship on full display for stadium-sized crowds speckled across America.
But it was the ‘behind-the-curtain’ tales before and after the shows that placed that tour firmly at the peak of the rock and roll tour folklore mountain. The plane flight orgies. The hotel room destructions. The fistfights. The insane consumption of drugs: all the while delivering killer shows to their fans each and every night.
And, thankfully, The Stones had the foresight to put it all on celluloid in both a documentary movie and a concert footage feature. The latter was so obscene and lewd that it was eventually banned. But both helped cement their legend as a band, and this tour in particular as the standard bearer for all to follow.
Fast forward some 47 years later and the boys are still together and getting it on for their No Filter tour this summer. And, that’s a shame. For a band that was so legendary and groundbreaking to be, at this point, standing up there performing as very old senior citizens and caricatures of their former selves, is quite sad and depressing-at least to me. In their desire to cling to some semblance of their past glory and be the highest paid cover band of all time, The Stones are chipping away at their legacy. A legacy that lives in the hearts and minds and memories of so many of us. A legacy that their contemporaries, The Beatles, who broke up after a decade of output, will always enjoy-because they knew when to call it quits.
Most of the time longevity is a positive thing. But in the case of a rock and roll band, especially one that helped define the very genre decades ago, it’s not so positive. Sometimes our past memories are better than our present realities. Sometimes watching a documentary is better than seeing the actual show.
I know its only rock and roll, but I like it…better in 1972!
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