Authors: Robert Greenfield
Anyone Who Had a Heart: My Life and Music
(with Burt Bacharach)
The Last Sultan: The Life and Times of Ahmet Ertegun
A Day in the Life: One Family, the Beautiful People, and the End of the Sixties
Exile on Main St.: A Season in Hell with the Rolling Stones
Timothy Leary: A Biography
Dark Star: An Oral Biography of Jerry Garcia
Bill Graham Presents: My Life Inside Rock and Out
(with Bill Graham)
Haymon’s Crowd (novel)
The Spiritual Supermarket
STP: A Journey Through America with the Rolling Stones
Copyright © 2014 by Robert Greenfield
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher. For information, address Da Capo Press, 44 Farnsworth Street, Third Floor, Boston, MA 02210.
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Ain’t it time we said goodbye : the Rolling Stones on the road to exile / by Robert Greenfield.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-0-306-82313-8 (e-book) 1. Rolling Stones. 2. Rock musicians—England—Biography. I. Title.
Published by Da Capo Press
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10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
FOR IAN STEWART,
who was the bravest of them all
Oh, who listens to Chuck Berry anymore?
I mean, I haven’t listened to that stuff in years.
For God’s sake, I listen to the MC5. Rock ’n’ roll’s
not over. I don’t like to see one thing end until I see
another beginning. Like when you break up with a
woman. Do you know what I mean?
NO ONE EVER FORGETS
their first tour with the Rolling Stones. For those fortunate enough to have gone along for the ride and survived with enough brain cells still intact to tell the tale, it remains a life-changing experience of the first order. Although they did not know it then, when the Rolling Stones embarked on their farewell tour of Great Britain in March 1971 after having announced they were about to go into tax exile in the South of France, it was the end of an era. For the Stones, nothing would ever be the same again.
Once the band decamped to the South of France to record
Exile on Main St.,
the album now widely recognized as their masterpiece, all the subtle seeds of dissension and conflict that had been sown during the farewell tour suddenly burst into full, riotous bloom, with consequences that would prove disastrous for all concerned.
Forsaking their hard-earned legacy as the illegitimate sons of Chuck Berry, the Stones crossed over from the outlaw world of rock ’n’ roll and became international superstars. When they went on the road in America during the summer of 1972 to play in huge
arenas on what became the highest-grossing rock tour in history to that point in time, nothing was as it had been in England just fourteen months before.
As the only journalist who accompanied the band on their farewell tour of England, I was then just twenty-five years old and more or less straight out of Brooklyn by way of a hippie commune in California as well as a long, hot summer spent wandering aimlessly through Europe in search of true love, spiritual enlightenment, and some kind of a career as a writer. Returning to England at the end of August 1970 to attend the Isle of Wight Festival as a journalist, I then spent the next six months working in the London bureau of
When the Stones announced they were about to go on tour, I came up with the bright idea of accompanying them to each and every gig. While I had never before seen the band perform and had no idea what I was going to write about them, I wanted to be able to observe the Stones at close range without making anyone aware of what I was doing. Never taking notes where people could see me do so, I instead spent a good deal of my time on the tour going to the bathroom so I could scribble down everything I had just seen and heard.
What I did not then know about the Rolling Stones was how practiced both Mick Jagger and Keith Richards already were at the art of deception. And so while I was having the time of my life riding to gigs in the back of long black limousines while partaking of whatever happened to be going around at the moment, a real-life rock ’n’ roll soap opera of major proportions was unfolding right before my eyes.
For what both Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were truly saying farewell to on this tour was not just Great Britain but also the way in which they had related to one another to this point in time. Although the music they made together onstage during those ten days in March was absolutely brilliant and the future of the band seemed bright with rosy promise, their long-term friendship was about to finally fall apart, never to be repaired again.
Through all that follows, I will occasionally be jumping in with my hat in my hand in italics just like these to amplify and clarify what I have since learned was really happening between the buttons and under cover of night on that tour. For want of a better term, let’s just call it a continuing conversation between the wide-eyed, twenty-five-year-old true believer in rock ’n’ roll I was back then and the somewhat cranky and cynical senior citizen I now somehow seem to have become.