ON JULY 26, 1972, Mick Jagger celebrated his 29th birthday on stage at Madison Square Garden as The Rolling Stones brought down the curtain on what was arguably the most chaotic tour of their career. Promoting their Exile On Main St album, musically speaking The Stones were in ferocious form, as this rough-edged soundboard recording of Jumping Jack Flash taken from the soundboard at their NY show proves.
But music was just part of what informed The Stones’ touring cavalcade. By this point in their career, the band had managed to bisect the worlds of music and celebrity, creating their own social enclaves, and enjoying what Keith Richards described as a piratical lifestyle.
Said the band’s tour manager of the time, Pete Rudge: “With the Stones you'll meet Mick's little gang – the Truman Capotes and the Princess Lee Radziwills. Then on the other hand you'll meet Keith's little gang – the Kenneth Angers and William Burroughs. You can be exposed to every aspect. You can meet anybody, and that tends to rub off. Everyone acts like guards for the Stones because they're that little jewel in the middle of the ocean. Everyone gets possessive about it and defensive.”
Rudge’s protective stance was easy to understand in the light of the supposed fatwa invoked against Jagger by the Hell’s Angels in the wake the hubris of Altamont three years earlier.
“With the Stones you'll meet Mick's little gang – the Truman Capotes and the Princess Lee Radziwills.”
Indeed, violence appeared to dog The Stones wherever they went. Audiences clashed with the police at assorted venues, starting at the first show in Vancouver on June 3 where 31 cops were treated for injuries, while 61 people were arrested at Washington’s RFK Stadium on July 4. Jagger himself also ended up in jail following an altercation with photographer Andy Dickerman at Boston Airport on July 18.
By the time The Stones rolled into New York for the first of three shows, they had come close to total burnout but remained remarkably positive, Jagger taking time to discuss the tour as well as reliving his days at the London School Of Economics with TV host Dick Cavett who quizzed him with glee on Keynesian economic theory.
Eventually, the tour’s final night on July 26 at Madison Square Garden passed without incident and saw Atlantic boss Ahmet Ertegun throw a party at the St Regis Hotel to celebrate the singer’s birthday. The guests included Muddy Waters, Bob Dylan, Count Basie, Woody Allen and several other members of the glitterati including Zsa Zsa Gabor.
Since then, of course, Sir Mick has become the consummate socialite but, as The Stones’ recent shows have proved, he has lost little of his power as a performer which is why we wish him well as he turns three score and ten.