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THE ROLLING STONES 1978 US TOUR (WRITTEN ENTIRELY BY GENE M. BROXSON)


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The Rolling Stones are the most famous, most successful and most celebrated rock band in history. When they play concerts, they are met with grand applause, hysteria and glorious adulation. Their reputation precedes them--they are not just any ordinary band, they are known as the "greatest rock and roll band in the world"...no other band can make that claim and be taken seriously. When they take the stage, the exhilaration and excitement is incredible and almost indescribable–an adrenaline rush of sheer energy and raw power that has to be experienced rather than read about or discussed. However, in 1978, during their Summer US tour, the Rolling Stones were met with negative critical concert reviews, and many audiences expressed dissatisfaction, disappointment and even boredom at some of the shows. To understand this, we must examine the context of the time in which the phenomenon occurred.

The Rolling Stones were born in the turbulence and change of the 1960's, and their impact upon The United States during this pivotal decade cannot be overstated. They had an enormous effect on the morality, sexuality, social attitudes and adolescent behavior of American youth. From the very start, the Rolling Stones were about youthful rebellion: their defiant stance on religion, sex and drugs; their attitudes and ideas about social order and the establishment; their long hair and style of dress, and their hedonistic, reckless lifestyle made kids love them and parents hate them. In this respect, they very well may have been the most influential and important rock band of the 1960s.

Second only to the Beatles in popularity in the 1960's, the Rolling Stones’ attitude and image, one of darkness and depravity, and the malevolence and menace in their music, became much more the voice of a generation, filled with all the violence, conflict and change of the 1960's. Their music seemed to have an undercurrent of sexual lust and violence, with sinister connotations of perversion, narcissism, sadomasochism, even satanic influence. These were heavy themes in light of the times: psychedelia , flower children, and the Summer of Love. In fact, it was the Rolling Stones themselves who brought the peace and love rock festivals of the Woodstock generation to an abrupt end with the murder of a black man by the Hells Angels at the front of the stage during their ill-fated free concert at the Altamont Speedway. It has largely been held as one of the most significant events in rock music and brought the 1960s to a dramatic close. By the end of the decade, the Rolling Stones were by far the most popular rock group, the most famous and over-hyped "greatest rock and roll band in the world" and the only band to truly survive the 1960's.

The Rolling Stones ruled the early and mid-1970's. They were the highest paid, most photographed, most notorious rock band on the planet. They were what other rock musicians pretended to be. They were the unparalleled rock fantasy of decadence, drunkenness & debauchery. They were rock icons who held a position of power above the entire rock scene. They were the high class of the rock world. No other group could even come close to their legendary status. They were the most accomplished, acclaimed, and sought-after rock group in the world, and their unprecedented fame and success easily made them the biggest box office draw in the US music industry.

During the early to mid-1970's, Mick Jagger was the ultimate rock superstar: an androgynous, leering sex symbol of lust and perversion; a singer whose twisting, full, pouting lips came to symbolize sexuality and seduction, even obscenity, long before the familiar Any Warhol corporate symbol for their records (the famous mouth and tongue trademark). He was an unequaled performer who strutted and moved sexier than any white man ever had on stage, who left his audiences in a state of hysteria, volatility and rioting at his concerts; a limp-wristed, flamboyant, faggot figure of primp and posture, in rhinestones and sequins, glitter and glamor, with a theatrical taste for sadism and violence.

Throughout the 1970s, Keith Richards was the ultimate outlaw rock guitarist, with his rockstar crow's nest hairstyle, studded bell-bottom pants and high-heeled snakeskin boots; a heroin-addicted junky, whose high cheekbones and wasted, gaunt features gave him an appearance of stylish, effeminate elegance, yet, at the same, he exuded more foreboding than any punk guitarist could ever dare mimic. Standing in the shadow of Mick Jagger onstage, he lived in the shadow of death offstage: an outcast, an outlaw, a rebel; he lived outside of society, on the edge, on the brink of death, he was rock 'n roll personified, he wrote songs and played with an intensity that was inimitably his own style. Though many have tried to mimic him, they have all failed--Keith Richards’ guitar-playing might be derivative of his musical influences, but his persona has always been unique and entirely original--there was never anyone like him before and there will never be anyone like him again. As time has passed and rock music progressed, it has become evident that, in many ways, all rock guitarists were cast in the mold of Keith Richards.

Up to the mid-1970s, it seemed there was no band to challenge the Rolling Stones in their undisputed supreme reign of fame and power in the rock world. But the music business is fickle. Styles and trends change. By the later 1970s, disco was in and the Stones were out. Punk rock was in and the Stones were out. The new trends and fashions moved away from the classic British rock super-bands like Led Zeppelin and the Who, and, as a result, a new generation of fans considered the Rolling Stones ancient, obsolete, aging dinosaurs, no longer dangerous and no longer relevant. Disco music, and especially the Bee Gees songs in the soundtrack album "Saturday Night Fever" dominated the record charts and radio air-play. The Rolling Stones had not been on the charts and receiving air-play since "Fool to Cry" in April 1976. Moreover, the Stones did not play disco music, so disco fans considered their sound old and time-worn, and, accordingly, they were left out of the new hip dance scene. Disco was the big thing in the nightclubs and nightlife, Punk rock was the big thing in the rock music scene–and both of these new trends were decidedly and absolutely against the Rolling Stones.

The punk rock bands and fans hated the Rolling Stones and everything they stood for: the magnitude of their popularity and success; the superstar celebrity status of Mick Jagger and the fashionable, high-society, jet set social circle he had become a part of. The punks hated their huge concerts, played in super arenas and football stadiums, because they lacked the intimacy of small clubs with close proximity to fans. They hated their long setlists of major radio hits as opposed to the simple, punk-like, three-chord-progression songs of groups like the Ramones and Elvis Costello (that had simple, basic appeal for a younger audience). The punk subculture thought that the Rolling Stones had "sold out" to commercialism and corporate rock, and felt that their music, filled with multi-tracked overdubs, had lost its raw edge in the mix. When you consider that the late 1970s punk rockers disfavored a band even acquiring a record contract, it becomes clear that they were very much against commercial success, and the fact that the Rolling Stones were the most commercially successful rock band of the time, meant that the Stones were the very anti-thesis of punk rock, and, for this reason, the punks hated them.

By the spring of 1978, Keith Richards was facing life in prison due to a heroin trafficking charge in Toronto, Canada. His future with the Rolling stones was very uncertain. The last studio album, "Black and Blue," was largely dismissed as a bland disappointment. The Rolling Stones seemed out of touch, too rich and too famous. Their decadence and super-stardom seemed to have alienated them, at least to some extent, and, even with the classic rock fan base, their popularity was slipping. One rock critic assessed their position in the music business with this statement: "What the Rolling Stones need right now is another ‘Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out!’" It really looked like it might be over for the Rolling Stones. However, as previously stated, they are not just any ordinary band. Other rock groups lose their popularity and fade away into obscurity, but the Rolling Stones are masters of the music business, and they not only survive and retain their popularity, they conquer their critics and ascend to the top--and that is exactly what they did in 1978. They came out of the shadows to kick the shit out of their punk detractors by recording a monumental masterwork of rock music, "Some Girls," to, in effect, show them and others how it was done.

The Rolling Stones were pioneers of both raw rock music and the juvenile delinquent posturing that defines the true essence of the punk rockers. The Rolling Stones were the original punk rock band in the early 1960s, and, in the 1978 "Some Girls" album, they returned to their basic raw rock music roots and the Andrew Loog Oldham-inspired bad boy image that made them figures of infamy and notoriety in the 1960s. In the true stride of champions, when the chips were down, they went into the studio and recorded a modern rock masterpiece that could not be ignored. The album has been said to have been about the shallow world of the music business and the excesses of stardom. It was filled with accusation and innuendo, decadence and disillusionment, greed and corruption, cynicism and contempt, loneliness and lust, and, most importantly, the vanity of fame and the ego-driven hunger for wealth and success –all delivered with the high volume intensity and sheer force of the Rolling Stones music at its best.

The songs on the "Some Girls" album were full of attitude, outrageousness and controversy. Many songs contained lyrics that cut sharp and deep; unforgettable, inflammatory lines spewing sexual slander and racial slurs that dripped with sarcasm and punk venom: "we're talking heroin with the president;" "you're a rag trade girl, you're the queen of porn, you're the easiest lay on the white house lawn," "black girls just want to get fucked all night," "lies, lies, lies, you dirty Jezebel, why, why, why, why don't you go to hell?"and, of course, the unmistakable, scandalous, salacious nature of Stones autobiography in song, "get out of my life, go fuck my wife, don’t come back." Some songs on "Some Girls," such as 'Beast of Burden" were poignant and touching, sung with real affection and conviction, and were surprisingly unguarded and revealing, but the more outrageous and offensive songs on the album caused quite a controversy (with political figures, community activists and women’s rights groups). Even the gag album cover was controversial, it featured a trashy wig add with famous faces, one of which was Lucille Ball. She was not amused and sued over her face being used on the cover, so a new one was issued with the disclaimer "cover under reconstruction."

The album"Some Girls" fused the best influences of both disco and punk music, an absolute rock blockbuster that went straight to number one on both British and American charts. The single "Miss You" went straight to number one on both British and American charts as well, overtaking many of the latest, most prominent disco singles in popularity and air-time. "Some Girls" went beyond platinum and became the biggest selling record of their career. It was widely acclaimed by rock critics and others; even people who disliked the Rolling Stones had to admit that it was a great album. "Some Girls" was a smash hit record that shook the rock world and reestablished the Rolling Stones as a powerhouse rock band and a musical force to be reckoned with. It brought the Rolling Stones right back into the mainstream of American music. They were back on top. The album was issued on June 9, 1978, and, the following day, the Rolling Stones set out on a summer tour to promote it, a tour designed to create hysteria by way of exclusivity, a tour that would be very different from any they had ever done before.

The 1978 US tour was put together very quickly, in light of the fact that Keith Richards was facing a lengthy prison sentence in Toronto on heroin trafficking charges. At the start of the tour, only twelve dates were actually booked. On this tour, the Rolling Stones intended to go back to their roots, back to rock and roll basics, and back to the simplicity of club and theater shows (as opposed to the large sports arenas and huge football stadiums that they had been playing in since 1969). Because major tour announcements and their name itself caused sell-out ticket runs, general panic and hysteria, and much of the ensuing craziness, paranoia and pandemonium (Stonesmania) that surrounds them during a Stones tour, for the small venue shows, it would be necessary to employ both secrecy and pseudonyms; in effect, some dates were unannounced, and, for some club shows, the band played under a variety of different names. The tour was to be the very opposite of the 1975 Tour of the Americas. The dissimilarities are listed below:

The 1975 Tour of the Americas (TOTA) was announced to the press on a flatbed truck with the Rolling Stones playing "Brown Sugar" full volume as the truck rolled down 5th Avenue in downtown New York City. The press announcement made the national TV news and the entire tour was almost immediately sold out. A billboard advertising the tour dates was bigger than several city buses. In contrast, the 1978 US tour was kept under wraps--there was no major press conference to announce it, the tour dates remained very secretive, with many being unannounced altogether.

The 1975 TOTA concerts were held in the biggest arenas and football stadiums in the United States. In contrast, many of the 1978 US tour concerts were held in tiny clubs and theaters with the Rolling Stones playing unannounced under false names such as "The Cockroaches," "The Great SouthEast Stoned Out Wrestling Champions" and the "London Green Shoed Cowboys."

The 1975 TOTA concerts featured a grand mechanical opening lotus petal shaped stage with a twenty-foot inflatable phallus, a confetti-spewing Chinese dragon, Mick Jagger swinging over the crowd on a rope--it was a very big, extravagant stage production. In fact, the 1975 TOTA was the most glitzy, glamorous, extravagant, and spectacular rock tour in history. It was designed to be a huge spectacle, a major theatrical production–the ultimate concert experience. In contrast, the 1978 US tour was very basic, no special stage, no gimmicks, no inflatable phallus or other stage ornamentation--just the band onstage.

The 1975 TOTA tour costumes that Mick Jagger wore (a different one each night), were elite designers cheesecloth and other high-end stage garb that cost several thousand dollars each, and were very high fashion. In contrast, the 1978 US tour had Mick Jagger in a very simple F-train outfit: golfing cap, sportscoat blazer, plastic pants with tape and Italian shoes--it could not have been more different from the extravagant 1975 TOTA designer stage garb.

The 1975 TOTA boasted six sold-out shows at New York’s Madison Square Garden, a total of nearly 115,000 seats, something no band had ever done before. In contrast, the 1978 US tour played one small show of 3,000 seats at New York’s Palladium theater , pretty much for special guests only (it was a very exclusive, star-studded date, attended by many top-name celebrities, it was not much of a public concert–the scarcity of tickets, the exorbitant scalpers price of the few that were available , and the secrecy of the show itself, made this gig almost unattainable to the common fan). It could not have been more different from the heavily-publicized six sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden.

The 1975 TOTA had the Rolling Stones augmented by percussion (Ollie Brown) , grand piano, organ, synthesizer (Billy Preston), brass players at some dates, a steel band and big group of samba dancers for the "Sympathy for the Devil" encore in the major cities. In contrast, the 1978 US tour featured only the five Rolling Stones and two keyboard players (Ian Stewart and Ian McClagen). It was to be so back-to-basic, that Charlie Watts brought out his old 1960s drum kit for the concerts.

The 1975 TOTA had the Rolling Stones playing a two and a half-hour set with 26 Stones classics--a super-show designed to more than satisfy the crowd. In contrast, the 1978 US tour featured only a handful of Stones classics, the setlist was comprised mostly of songs from the just-released "Some Girls" album, a record so new that many concert-goers hadn’t had sufficient time to listen to, so they were unfamiliar with the songs. This was a big factor in why crowds were disappointed when they saw the band live--they played very few of their most popular songs.

The 1975 TOTA had the Rolling Stones playing in top form, very well-rehearsed, and Mick Jagger was doing the most impressive live performances of his career. Rock critics and fans that saw the show were ranting and raving about how it was the best they had ever seen (like in the article LA Friday Night in Rolling Stone magazine written by editor Jan Wenner himself). In contrast, the 1978 US tour had the band playing erratically, sometimes brilliant, other times poorly. As a result, the 1978 US tour was full of bad press and bad reviews from concert goers--this will be explained in detail below.

HOW COULD FANS AT A ROLLING STONES CONCERT IN 1978 BE BORED WITH THE ROLLING STONES PERFORMANCE?

1. The Rolling Stones were not in top form on the 1978 US Tour, and, in fact, were not in any condition to go on the road. Prior to 1978, the Rolling Stones came onto the stage like roaring lions, delivered a powerhouse high energy performance that left audiences shaken and raving with excitement. But during the 1978 US tour, at some concerts, the Rolling Stones seemed lack luster, lacking in energy, tired and burned out. In a recent TV interview, Mick Jagger admitted that during the 1978 US tour, when the Stones were promoting "Some Girls" the band was not in shape for the tour. This should have been obvious to anyone that knows the band. Mick Jagger was thin, rundown, ragged out, burned out from the rockstar lifestyle, and, specifically, his overuse of cocaine. He was not in good shape and was not up to the tour. His performances were erratic, he was missing vocal cues, sometimes singing flat, and did not have the dynamic, effortless energy that usually characterizes his live performances. Some shows were great, others were not. Rock critics observed that he did not appear to be enjoying himself and that his heart was just not in it on many of the shows. According to Mick Jagger, because of Keith Richards ‘impending legal matter, the Rolling Stones were persuaded to set out on a tour that they just were not up to (I have always believed this, and was very surprised to hear Mick Jagger actually admit this fact in an interview where he was specifically talking about the 1978 US Tour).

Keith Richards was in much worse shape than Mick Jagger. Years of continuous heroin use had already taken an adverse affect on his playing, but during the 1978 US tour, he was actually trying to kick heroin altogether and his playing was not as good, and, in fact, when he finally got off heroin for good, his playing never was as fluent as it had been during the heavy heroin years.

Ron Wood has a definite drinking problem, but incredibly, during the 1978 US tour, he was in better shape than either Mick Jagger or Keith Richards. Ron Wood's guitar-playing on the 1978 US tour was actually some of his best. There is no doubt that Ron Wood was drunk on many of the shows, but his playing was still pretty good. It was almost as if he recognized that Jagger and Richards were below par, and he rose to the occasion to do some of his best playing with the Rolling Stones ever.

Both Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman were playing as good as ever on this tour. They are, and have always been, the most reliable rhythm section in rock and roll.

2. During the 1978 US Tour, the Rolling Stones played sloppy, drunken performances. On many shows they were blowing the opening, missing chord changes, ending songs awkwardly, playing out of tune and not well-rehearsed. They seemed unconcerned with bad press and reviews, content to rest on the laurels of past achievements and their legendary status as a super-band. Whether red hot or lacking in energy, they played with callous indifference (In Fort Worth, Texas, Mick Jagger said to the audience "If the band is lacking in energy, it’s because we’ve been out fucking all night). On stage, Mick Jagger openly displayed a very cynical, sarcastic, contemptuous and arrogant attitude (In Passaic, New Jersey, Mick Jagger said to the audience, many of whom had paid scalpers exorbitant top prices for tickets "Well, we come here to have a good time, I don’t know how much you had to pay tickets, but I didn’t have to pay much).

3. During the Rolling Stones 1978 US Tour, the performances were erratic. On previous tours, the Rolling Stones were more consistent. Almost all of the shows were good, and many were just unbelievable. But on the 1978 tour, one show would be fantastic and the next one was terrible. A perfect example of this was when the Rolling Stones played the Capitol Theater, Passaic, New Jersey, on June 14, 1978. It was an incredible performance–the best show on the entire tour. The next day they played a very disappointing show at the Warner Theater, Washington, DC, June 15, 1978. Mick Jagger was ill and the band played nothing like they did the night before.

4. During the Rolling Stones 1978 US Tour, the concerts were very short. Many fans were astonished that the sets were so short. Previously, the Rolling Stones played very long sets, sometimes two and a half hours, a full set of 26 songs. On the 1978 tour, they played only 17 or 18 songs–very short sets (probably because the punk trend of short sets was popular in 1978). These significantly shortened concerts left the fans feeling angry and cheated.

5. During the Rolling Stones 1978 US Tour, the songs were kept short, simple and basic. A good example of this is the song "Honky Tonk Women." In 1975, this song was an extravagant affair with massive staging, lighting, and technical grandeur–it had two different solos from two different guitarists and ran six full minutes. In 1978, it was back to the basic three minutes, one guitar solo, and no fancy stage spectacle. Other more developed, lengthy and complex songs like "Midnight Rambler" and "You Can’t Always Get What You Want" were not played at all (probably because the punk trend of basic three-chord songs was popular in 1978). This back-to-basic approach was in no way as spectacular and effective as the former flamboyant, more developed, and longer songs. The audience had been blown away with the grand stage production and longer, more impressive songs of previous Stones tours, but the no-frills simplicity of the ‘78 shows left audiences feeling disappointed and bored. There seemed to be something lacking in the performances, there should have been something more. Compared to previous, more spectacular Stones tours, the 1978 concerts were lackluster and bland.

6. During the Rolling Stones 1978 US Tour, the set-list contained very few Stones classics, and was comprised almost entirely of new material. This was a disastrous mistake on the part of the Rolling Stones. It was a good indication of just how arrogant and out of touch the Rolling Stones were to think they could get away with this at huge football stadiums full of drunk, rowdy fans. Superstars like Mick Jagger and Keith Richards receive so much adulation and acclaim that they begin to think that they are incapable of failure, and can do whatever they want without fear of repercussion. The huge crowds at the stadium concerts have paid a lot of money to see the band, and they expect to hear the classic songs that made the band famous. At first they are full of excitement and energy as they anticipate the killer performance full of the classic Rolling Stones songs that they love, but when they realize that the band is not playing their favorite songs, and instead is playing new material that they are unfamiliar with and don’t want to hear, they are very disappointed and unhappy. When you factor in the stoned, drunken, rowdy state of mind of these concert-goers, their unhappiness and disappointment can result in a dangerous mob-mentality of anger and destruction. Angry, disgusted fans at stadium concerts often throw trash at the stage to express their displeasure (they do not care how famous you are) and this happened several times at the stadium shows on Rolling Stones 1978 Tour.

At the time, many fans did not understand what the Rolling Stones were trying to do. The Stones wanted to go back to basics, shorter sets, simplified songs, no frills performances devoid of stage spectacle, no back-up players, fewer Stones classics, almost all new material–a complete departure from the extravagance of the 1975/1976 tours (only the Rolling Stones could go from the 28-songs for 150,000 fans at Knebworth Fair 1976, to the short, basic sets for 300 fans at El Mocambo Club 1977). The 1978 audiences came to the stadiums to party, rock out, and hear their favorite Stones songs, but when the Rolling Stones did not deliver, the drunk, rowdy fans felt cheated, became dangerously angry, and threw trash at the stage.

An objective review of this matter reveals that the fans may have been justified in feeling cheated by the Rolling Stones. They paid to see the most famous band in the world, a band that has nearly two decades of rock classics in their song catalog. The fans at the stadium shows paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to see a mediocre performance of less than 90 minutes with no encore. Even worse, here is a list of Stones classics the band did not play at the stadium concerts:

Gimme Shelter
Sympathy for the Devil
Street Fighting Man
Live With Me
You Can’t Always Get What You Want
Midnight Rambler
Bitch
Wild Horses
Stray Cat Blues
Angie
It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll
The Last Time
Get Off of My Cloud
Under My Thumb
Paint it Black
19th Nervous Breakdown
Let’s Spend the Night Together
Rip This Joint
Heartbreaker
Satisfaction

It is easy to see why the fans were disappointed, even disgusted and angry. Keep in mind, some of the performances were not very good either. It is difficult to understand why the Rolling Stones would delete so much of their most popular material just to present a show that was not typical of a Rolling Stones concert, or was not what one would expect to see at a Rolling Stones concert (to please the punks?) It is also difficult to comprehend that the Rolling Stones would risk their reputation by booking and performing concerts that were clearly below their standard. It just goes to show that Mick Jagger and Keith Richards are not infallible, despite their vanity and superstardom.

7. During the Rolling Stones 1978 US Tour, the Rolling Stones refused to perform an encore at the end of the performances. In the United States, the typical rock concert includes at least one encore performance, sometimes two. This has become an American tradition at modern day rock concerts. But the Rolling Stones are the highest class of rock super-band, their status in the rock world entitles them to deviate from the norm, at least that is what they believe. Mick Jagger is a superstar, the most famous man in rock and roll, and he is something of a prima donna (even Mick Taylor has said this). He disdains encores, and, in every aspect of his involvement in rock music, he calls the shots. He is the biggest star in rock music and thinks that he can do whatever he wants. In previous tours, at the explosive, spectacular ending of the show, with the thundering chords of "Street Fighting Man" ringing through the arena at top volume, the super trouper lights beaming brilliant white radiance from the back of the stage, Mick Jagger, in rhinestone costume and bathed in sweat, strutting across the front of the stage, thrusting his crotch like a stud, throwing buckets of water at the kids in front, hundreds of rose petals cascading down on the band , and the crescendo climax of the ultimate rock performance crashing down all around them, the Rolling Stones could get away with no encore. They were the best in rock and roll, and the high-energy finish to their super-charged performances left no need for an encore. As Jann Wenner, editor of Rolling Stone magazine, stated in a 1978 article rebutting bad critical reviews of the Rolling Stones 1978 US Tour

, "...the awesome completeness of the 1972 performances left no need for anything more." But, six hears later, with the 1978 US Tour, the performances did not have even the slightest remembrance of this awesome sense of completeness. In fact, the shows left much to be desired. The concerts were brief, lacking most of the Stones classics fans love, the band was not playing very good, on some nights they were sloppy and drunk, Mick Jagger was not delivering his usual high energy performance. The fact that previous Rolling Stones performances were so incredibly good made the 1978 shows all that much more disappointing. At the stadium shows, the fans were already bored and dissatisfied –they felt cheated, so when the Rolling Stones refused to come back for an encore, the enraged angry fans threw garbage at the stage, and, in some cases, tore down the Mouth and Tongue stage for the stadium shows. It is hard to believe that the Rolling Stones were so out of touch that they either didn’t understand how important it was for them to return for an encore (after such a short show), or they were so arrogant that they just didn’t care. In any event, the angry roar of the enraged crowd and the garbage thrown and heaped on the stage, left no doubt whatsoever about the fans reaction to the Rolling Stones Summer 1978 stadium shows.

8. During the Rolling Stones 1978 US Tour, the bad press, bad concert reviews, and fan disappointment were magnified by the fact that the Rolling Stones have an over-hyped reputation as the "Greatest Rock and Roll Band in the World" When you are the very best, people expect more of you. As previously stated, the Rolling Stones are so famous and so celebrated that their reputation precedes them. They are not just any ordinary band. They are reputed to be the finest rock group on the planet–and, for this reason, more is expected of them. In the 1970s, they were far more formidable and popular than they are now, forty years later. A chance to see the band play live, in their prime in the 1970s, was much rarer and harder to do than it is in the present day (with the over-saturation of the huge corporate-sponsored stadium tours every few years.) The Rolling Stones did not tour the United States very often. Previous tours left critics raving and audiences shaken. At many concerts there was rioting and unrest. So, in 1978, when thousands of people filled sold-out football stadiums to see the "greatest rock ‘n roll band in the world"–they expected to see a stellar performance. After the initial excitement of the first five or six songs, the audience becomes restless, even bored, thinking collectively "is this all there is? It seems there should be something more–this just isn’t all that great .. The greatest rock and roll band in the world–what a joke!" There was a collective sense of disappointment at the stadium concerts that was simply incomprehensible given the performances in their vintage years. Critical reviews for the smaller venues were also not good, but far better than the stadium shows. One reason is that, at the small clubs and theaters, even the arenas, you could see the band pretty well. But, at the stadium shows, the Stones could only be viewed from a distance by most fans, they looked like little ants. This was a very basic, scaled down, and plain Jane show, and, without the stadium classics, the short sets, the distance to the stage, and no encores, it is easy to understand the fans disappointment.

A REVIEW OF SOME ROLLING STONES CONCERTS ON THE 1978 US TOUR

The first gig on the 1978 US tour was on 6-10-78, at Civic Center, Lakeland, Florida. The band played under the name "The Great SouthEast Stoned-Out Wrestling Champions." A Stones insider was busted for cocaine backstage, and it set a tone of nervous tension for this first show. The band played a good show, sixteen songs for the very fortunate, small venue crowd.

The second gig on the 1978 US tour was on 6-12-78, at Fox Theater, Atlanta, Georgia. The band played under the name "The Cockroaches." The band played an even better show than the night before, seventeen songs for another small venue crowd, delighted to see the most famous band in the world at such close proximity.

The third gig on the 1978 US tour was on 6-14-78, at Capitol Theater, Passaic, New Jersey. This was the best show of the entire 1978 US tour. The band was in top form–they rose to the occasion playing a blistering set with ferocious intensity for another ecstatic small venue crowd.

The fourth gig on the 1978 US tour was on 6-15-78, at the Warner Theater, Washington, DC. This show was not very good compared to the first two shows, and terrible in comparison to the show the previous night at the Capitol Theater, in Passaic, New Jersey. Mick Jagger was starting to get sick, the band was somewhat drunk, and they just didn’t play that well. However, it should be said that the small venue crowd just loved every minute of this rare theater show, so, in this respect, it was a very successful concert.

The fifth gig on the Rolling Stones 1978 US tour was on 6-17-78, at JFK Stadium, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This was the most important show, because it was the first truly public concert, and it was a total disaster for the Rolling Stones. This was the most heavily advertised concert with the most press coverage. It was a star-studded event that was attended by much of the rock world. JFK Stadium was sold-out, filled to capacity with 90,000 Stones freaks and drunk, rowdy fans. The Rolling Stones were well aware of how important this concert was; the small venue shows were secretive with a minimum of press coverage, but this first public show, sold-out with 90,000 fans in attendance, would receive heavy press coverage, and, more importantly, would be heavily reviewed by rock critics and other writers who had not seen the band in several years.

Mick Jagger was very sick, running a high fever, but decided to play anyway. It was clear that he did not feel well and was not in top form. The crowd mood was ugly. The weather was overcast and oppressive. Steve Kinney said "everyone was in a bad mood that day" The crowd gave a very unenthusiastic, even hostile reception to the support acts, Peter Tosh & the Wailers and Foreigner. There was a lot of tension, security was on high alert so backstage areas were very strict–Foreigner complained that, after they finished their chilly set, they were denied proper access to see the Rolling Stones, and, as a result, a lot of bad feelings ensued.

The Rolling Stones came on stage to a thunderous roar from the drunken, boisterous, rowdy crowd of 90,000 fans and Stones maniacs. The audience was absolutely in a state of chaotic, intoxicated elation; they were ready to rock, but almost out of control, and there was an ominous sense of aggression and hostility, a pissed-off, disgruntled, sullen mood amongst the throngs at the stadium. It was as if the pushing, shoving and jostling in the over-crowded stadium( full of wasted Stones maniacs) had left the crowd more ready for hassles and violence, than for having a good time at a rock concert.

The first four songs were played to loud, drunken shouts of raucous revelry and intoxicated mirth. There was moderate applause, but none of the glorious, overwhelming audience response that characterizes most Rolling Stones concerts. At this point, the Rolling Stones began playing seven consecutive "Some Girls" songs that the crowd did not want to hear. After several of these, it was obvious that something was wrong. The crowd became very quiet and less than enthusiastic. There was a murmur of unrest, an unsettling tone of disapproval that was nothing like the cheering and happiness of a good-time crowd at a rock concert. Eric Walford summed it up perfectly "The crowd just wasn’t into it–didn’t like what they were playing." It was so bad, that the Stones played their finish song "Satisfaction" in the middle of the show rather than the end, just to try to stir the crowd (that had pretty much lost interest in the show by many accounts). It seemed like no one was enjoying the concert, especially Mick Jagger who was quite sick with a high fever. He was very nervous, self-conscious, and was well-aware that they were bombing in front of a crowd of 90,000, in front of press, photographers, rock critics and other rock celebrities. Mick Jagger seemed to be lacking confidence in himself for the first time ever.

The Rolling Stones were not well received at this show and author, Philip Kamen, in his book, The Last Tour, wrote that "the show at JFK Stadium gutted their 1978 US Tour"

US News and World Report wrote that the crowd was unresponsive at the show and that the Rolling Stones did not go over too well "Jagger didn’t even get a rise from the crowd with the ‘really rocking on Bandstand, Philadelphia, PA’ line in ‘Chuck Berry’s Sweet Little Sixteen,’ which is pretty stiff for 90,000 fans"

Joe Hoski complained that "they didn’t play any of the old songs, just a bunch of new shit that no one wanted to hear, they didn’t even play for an hour and a half, then left the stage–the whole thing was a big drag"

When the Rolling Stones refused to play an encore, the drunk, rowdy fans began throwing trash at the stage. A black man threw the first beer bottle at Charlie Watt’s 1960s vintage drum set and the crowd applauded. Others followed after, throwing more beer bottles at the drum kit, and each time the crowd would cheer louder. They had begun to act as a collective, destructive force with a mob mentality–they were dangerous and it was actually frightening to experience. Over the next twenty-five minutes, the angry, intoxicated, riotous mob pummeled the stage with trash. Finally, the disgruntled fans tore the bright red mouth and tongue stage down to the ground.

Famed rock critic Dave Marsh wrote a scathing review of the concert for Rolling Stone magazine, in which he savaged the Rolling Stones performance, Mick Jagger’s voice, the weakness of the 1978 show in relation to past Stones tours, and attacked the Rolling Stones for being who they were and just about everything they stood for. The review was so vicious and so negative that Mick Jagger threatened to cut off all access for Rolling Stone magazine. Finally, the editor, Jann Wenner himself, had to write a defensive rebuttal article to calm things down.

In his defensive rebuttal article, Jann Wenner, editor of Rolling Stone magazine, noted that the Rolling Stones could have chosen to play six nights at the Spectrum Sports Arena in Philadelphia, rather than the enormous JFK Stadium. They could have sold as many tickets, and gotten the same revenue, but they would have had to play six shows rather than just one. He also noted that the fans would have gotten to see a better show (closer proximity to the band on stage) and could have attended more than one if they chose. Wenner did not think that the Rolling Stones were as effective at such a large venue with so much distance from the stage, saying "Led Zeppelin might be able to come across to such a large audience, at such a long distance, but the Rolling Stones can’t"

In his book, On the Road with the Rolling Stones , writer Chet Flippo (formerly with Rolling Stone magazine), wrote about the JFK Stadium show: "it was a dismal, hollow, empty, charade of a show before about eighteen million Stones fanatics at Philadelphia’s JFK Stadium"

The most memorable review of the Rolling Stones’ 6-17-78 JFK Stadium show came from a fan who wrote into Rolling Stone magazine:

So Mick Jagger likes to have huge outdoor concerts just so he can pay off the roadies, huh? Well, here in Philadelphia, the Stones walked off after less than ninety minutes, leaving 90,000 fans who spent a day or more in the mud, rain, and piss, utterly shocked and confused. The angry fans, who turned the stage into a garbage heap, are testimony to what the Stones are worth now in Philadelphia.

The initial unfavorable critical reviews of this first public, big stadium concert tainted the reception the Rolling Stones would receive from fans, the press, and other rock critics. The bad reviews set the tone for a tour that was already unstable to begin with, a tour that might very well be the last Rolling Stones tour ever. The dismal JFK Stadium concert dealt the tour a blow it would not recover from, a blow to their confidence and their pride. It was just one bad show, but as the tour progressed, there were more bad shows and more bad reviews.

The second large public gig on the Rolling Stones 1978 US tour was the 7-1-78 Municipal Stadium, Cleveland, Ohio, concert. It was another huge football stadium with several top groups billed as "The World Series of Rock." It rained heavily throughout the Rolling Stones performance. They did not play well. They completely flubbed the opening of the show on Chuck Berry’s 1950's classic "Let it Rock"... the band was drunk, sloppy, missing chord changes, ending the songs in discord rather than in unison. The crowd of 70,000 fans were more forgiving of the Stones’ poor performance than others on the tour, but many were very disappointed by the lackluster concert.

The third stadium show on the Rolling Stones 1978 US tour was the US Independence Holiday show on the fourth of July. The Rolling Stones played to a sold-out 80,000 fans on 7-4-78, at Rich Stadium, Buffalo, New York. This was the best stadium show of the entire stour. The Rolling Stones played with ferocity and intensity–they just amazed the audience, despite the fact that they played very few of the crowd-pleasing stadium classics. But when the Rolling Stones refused to do an encore, the fans became aggressive and hostile. This was the rowdiest, most dangerous crowd of the entire tour (Mick Jagger asked the crowd to please not throw bottles at Keith as he sung Happy, things were that wild)–it was the fourth of July and they were very drunk, very loud , very rowdy, and when the Rolling Stones would not return to the stage to do an encore, they trashed the stage with garbage, beer bottles, and anything else that wasn’t nailed down. They tore down the mouth and tongue stage and almost destroyed it.

The fourth stadium show on the Rolling Stones 1978 US tour was the 7-8-78 Soldier Field, Chicago, Illinois concert. The Rolling Stones played very well and the audience loved them, but everyone said they were disappointed because the show was so short and because the Stones didn’t play hardly any of their classic songs. The newspaper reports even noted that the Rolling Stones played a set light on classics and heavy on new material (that the fans didn’t like as much).

The fifth stadium show of the Rolling Stones 1978 US tour was the 7-13-78 Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana concert. The Rolling Stones played a great concert and the fans loved them. This show broke the record for highest paid, biggest indoor concert attendance in US history–a record that has not been broken to this day.

The sixth stadium show of the Rolling Stones 1978 US tour was the 7-16-78 Folsom Field, Boulder, Colorado concert. Once again, The Rolling Stones played a great concert and the fans loved them. Reviews of this great show noted that it was a "state of the art" performance.

In his article "The Road Ain’t What It Used to Be" in Rolling Stone magazine, and his book, "On the Road with the Rolling Stones," writer Chet Flippo observed at the 7-18-78 Ft.Worth concert: the audience reaction to Mick Jagger’s performance was the same as he had seen at other shows, at first flamboyantly up and excited as they anticipate that "old Stones magic" to wash over them. Then, as the excitement fades, a certain listless set in. At some of these shows, this listlessness turned into anger and stage-trashing. The show was one of the better small venue performances, but mid-way the audience seemed bored. Probably for the reasons previously stated: few classic Stones songs, lack of energy, mediocre performance, no frills plain Jane basic rock show, and disappointment resulting from higher expectations for such a legendary super-band.

The next day, at the 7-19-78 Sam Houston Coliseum, Houston, Texas concert, writer Chet Flippo wrote "that the show was not very good. Keith Richards was laying out, letting Ron Wood lead the band"

Another fan said that the Rolling Stones performance at the 7-19-78 Sam Houston Coliseum, Houston, Texas show was "the biggest disappointment of the entire summer"

A girl said that "One reason the Stones are getting so much bad press and bad reviews is that their show followed the Bruce Springsteen show into town, and that their show was miserable compared to his" Writer Chet Flippo noted that the Stones were selling more tickets, but that Springsteen was getting better reviews. Flippo also said that he would rather see the Stones on a bad night rather than Springsteen on a good night (just like everybody else).

The seventh stadium show of the Rolling Stones 1978 US tour was the 7-23-78 Anaheim Stadium concert. This was a very important concert. It was for the Los Angeles community, literally the heart of rock music on the west coast. LA is the showbiz capitol of the United States. It is the core of the Hollywood celebrity circuit. It is a city where you can not afford to bomb–it will ruin your career forever.

This was the first performance by the Rolling Stones since their five sold-out shows at the Inglewood Forum, in July 1975. These five shows were perhaps the best Rolling Stones concerts they ever played. They were the best shows on the entire 1975 Tour of the Americas. Everyone was amazed and awed at the Rolling Stones immortal, legendary performances these five nights at the LA Forum. Now three years later, the entire LA community was a buz about the upcoming 1978 stadium concerts, anticipating that they would be like the fabulous 1975 TOTA shows. Sadly, this was not the case.

The concert on 7-23-78 Anaheim Stadium was a terrible disappointment. It was almost an embarrassment to the band, in light of their poor performance before the rock world, at the star-studded event .

In his book, On the Road with the Rolling Stones , writer Chet Flippo (formerly with Rolling Stone magazine), wrote about the concert: "it was not very good, Mick Jagger’s heart was not in it, and neither was that of the great beast in the pit, the audience"

In his book, Old Gods Almost Dead: the 40-Year Odyssey of the Rolling Stones, writer Stephen Davis wrote: "If there was a weakness in the Rolling Stones live concert history, it was on the 1978 US Tour. The Stones phoned in their performance at the Anaheim Stadium, 7-23-78, from long distance, they were not really there---everyone said the shows sucked"

The heat at the Anaheim Stadium for both shows was absolutely blistering. The Stones seemed tired and exhausted. There were long pausedsbetween the songs, there was no momentum. The band was lacking energy. They were lethargic, uninspired, and just seemed burned out.
Please note that the bootleg CD for this 7-23-78 Anaheim show is titled "THE BURNING OUT"
Bob Maleski wrote that it was "a very slow concert"
Former Byrd, Roger McGuin, commenting about boredom during the show, said that "the Stones have really lost it, haven’t they?"

It was boring too. It was nothing like awesome five nights at the LA Forum–where the Rolling Stones just blew everyone away–now fans were saying that the ‘78 Anaheim shows sucked. Considering that this show was played before the core of the LA rock community, it was an embarrassment and a real shame. Too bad. These shows will never be forgotten, they will never live it down.

The eighth stadium show of the Rolling Stones 1978 US tour was the 7-24-78 Anaheim Stadium concert. This show was even worse than the one before. The band was not playing very well. They were joined on stage by former Keyboard-player Nicky Hopkins and by old friend, Saxophonist Bobby Keys, for this second to the last performance of the 1978 US tour.

After the initial excitement of the first five or six songs, the audience seemed bored and less than enthusiastic. Famed German Stones researcher Dieter Hoffmann has noted that some songs in the live set are just too long and self-indulgent ("Just My Imagination" & "Beast of Burden"). The long "Some Girls" set was not particularly inspired, and the audience seemed slowed by this, as well as with the obvious disappointment over the very few Stones classics the band was playing. About mid-way through the set, the audience began to pelt the stage with shoes, a definite sign of boredom and disrespect. The huge red mouth and tongue stage the Stones used on the outdoor stadium performances had a protruding tongue extension, allowing Mick Jagger to perform closer to the audience, almost in the midst of the front part of the crowd. This tongue stage extension gave bored concert-goers a closer shot at throwing shoes at the target, the most famous man in rock and roll, Mick Jagger. The clownish F-train outfit that Mick Jagger used on this tour may also have made him a more of a target to the listless fans: the sports-coat blazer, golfing cap, and plastic pants with tape, are more reminiscent of Bob Hope than a rockstar (as Dave Marsh noted in his brutal review of the Stones JFK Stadium, Philly concert).

The fans continued to throw shoes at Mick Jagger on the extended red tongue stage until he angrily told them after "Shattered," "I’ve got about 80,000 shoes up here, that’s quite enough." More shoes and sandals continued to be thrown at the stage until it was difficult to walk across the stage, let alone perform on it. Finally, during "Love in Vain," Mick Jagger sternly told the crowd "Alright, let’s have all your fucking shoes!" There was about a four second silence (while they removed their shoes), then everyone in near proximity to the stage threw all of their shoes at the stage. There were thousands and thousands of them, a mountain of shoes and sandals that was just incredible. The roadies had to carry them off in huge bundles. The incident is remembered as non-malicious, but I restate my simple truth, throwing trash or shoes at the stage during a performance is a definite sign of boredom and disrespect.

The ninth stadium show of the Rolling Stones 1978 US tour was the final concert of the tour. It was held on Mick Jagger’s 35th birthday, 7-26-78 Oakland Stadium, Oakland, California. It was the fourth "Bill Graham’s Day on the Green," with a long list of rock bands all sharing the bill. Of course, the Rolling Stones headlined the show. It was a great stadium show, the Rolling Stones played very well and the audience loved them. This show was particularly upbeat, perhaps because of the festival atmosphere of a super-concert with many bands. I wonder, if it had been just the Rolling Stones and no other bands, with the short setlist and few classics, if the audience wouldn’t have been far less receptive to their performance. As Mick Jagger performed this final ‘78 show, on his 35th birthday, the Rolling Stones hit single "Miss You" was the number one song on the record charts.

On a final note, due to over-publicity of absolutely no available seats, no scalpers tickets and no way in whatsoever (largely due to the most stringent security San Francisco has ever seen), Bill Graham’s 4th day on the Green became something of a Rolling Stones lore anomaly–many concert crashers gave up without a fight and didn’t show up trying to pay unheard-of sums for "the last Stones concert ever" tickets, and, as a result, scalpers were selling tickets for fifty cents, trading them for a pack of cigarettes, and even giving them away. When I heard this on the radio in my tiny hometown, Redding, California, I broke down and cried–I could have got in for next to nothing, but was so discouraged, I hadn’t even tried.

In closing, Mick Jagger knew that he and the rest of the band were not in any shape for a summer tour, yet he let himself get talked into booking the tour–it was one of the only times I ever saw him make a mistake in judgement, he has the most practical level-head in rock music.

When Mick Jagger was asked what he thought about, as he walked toward the stage with the deafening roar of the crowd all around him--what thoughts raced through his mind as he was about to step out onto that stage in front of 40,000 screaming fans in a football stadium, Mick Jagger answered that he thought to himself "this had better be good"

Rock and roll is fun. We the fans enjoy it–we grew up around it--it is the soundtrack for our lives. But rock and roll is also business, serious business. When the curtain goes up, and the crowd roars, you better be ready. Ready to rock and roll, to perform admirably, not regrettably. Because, if you are not up to it, whether you are Elvis Presley or Jimmy Osmund, you may get jeers or boos, bad reviews, or 80,000 pairs of shoes.



final note: The Rolling Stones returned to the US in great shape for another much bigger tour in the Fall of 1981. It was a complete sell-out. The Stones swept all awards, had another number 1 album ("Tattoo You") and nearly number 1 single ("Start Me Up") and received unprecedented rave reviews. The tour was the biggest, most successful rock tour in history.


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