Show Must Go On
"He'll be in the front seat of the van, you can be sure of that...
Either he'll like what he sees, or he won't. If he likes it, we'll play.
If he doesn't, we won't."
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, there wasn't much happening, and no
particular indication from the band members that they were aware of the
pandemonium raging in the outside world on their behalf; or, if they
were aware of these disturbances, that they cared much. After all, the
Rolling Stones had changed
around. So what's
a small club in Worcester, Massachusetts? No, there was sleepy
Keith and Woody, for a start, were actually asleep and had been since
noon, when Woody crashed in the Game Room and Keith collapsed in a
gangling disarray of limbs on the couch by the fireplace, in the
Farmhouse. Half on the couch, half off it an empty bottle of Jack
Daniels clutched tightly in one hand. Snoring. Keith and Woody had been
up all night, needless to say, and knew very little about the
circumstances surrounding tonight's possible surprise performance in
Worcester. Only that
might happen somewhere, since all
the gear had been taken up off the stage and packed into a yellow
rental truck during the wee hours, just before dawn. That had to be a
sign of something.
Charlie Watts had slept some, which was unusual for him, but the reason
was that his pleasant wife whose name is Shirley, and who doesn't
look like rock 'n' roll at all was arriving at Boston's Logan
Airport that afternoon, from England. So Charlie had dragged himself
out of his third-floor bedroom about midday, shaved, put on a clean
shirt, and presented himself at the rendezvous point downstairs, which
was the coffeepot, for the drive into the city. Charlie was going to
meet Shirley personally at the airport, much to his credit, and Long
View staffer Kent Huff who's Kathleen's husband as you may remember
was going to do the driving. They took the long black station
wagon, and left the Farm just after noon, in a light rain. So, Charlie
Watts wasn't even
at the Farm, but on the road instead.
Bill Wyman wasn't heard from all day, and things were quiet in his and
Astrid's "cottage," adjacent to the barn. He was awake though,
tinkering with his new Apple computer. He surfaced only at the very end
of the afternoon, and then only to ask if there would be a cassette
deck brought down in time for his press interview the next day. He was
expecting Lisa Robinson, the rock gossip columnist, and was thinking
more about that than he was about Sir Morgan's Cove. Stu was taking
care of the warm-up gig; there was no need to bother himself on that
score. And, as for the chaos and mayhem which he saw reported each time
he switched on his new Sony TV set; well, they've always made a fuss
over the Rolling Stones, why not this time?
As for Mick Jagger, there we had quite another story. Mick was
oblivious not by a long shot. He was wide-awake and
alert, prowling around the Farmhouse like a caged animal, distracted,
short-tempered, and obviously concerned over
was going to happen that night. He made and received frequent telephone
calls, some on the topic of the rainfall, and his hope that it would
continue throughout the remainder of the day. He was picking at the
salad bowl in the kitchen, which John Farrell was decorating with bits
and pieces of olives, and onions, and scallions. John had just put a
"Supremes" disco-45 on the kitchen hi-fi, was dancing about in little
steps behind the counter, and doing his best to make small talk.
"Charlie left about one, with Kent driving. Just called back from
Logan. Wife's plane's delayed. Don't know how long yet. He knows he's
got to play tonight, doesn't he?"
Mick popped an olive into his mouth, spun on his heel, and snapped. "Of
course he does! Charlie knows. You don't mind if I turn that off, do
John said no, of course he didn't, and Mick killed the music with one
quick and nervous movement. Mick was always turning off the hi-fi
"Of course Charlie knows," he repeated. He grabbed two olives this
time, turned away from the counter with no further remarks for John
Farrell, and marched brusquely out of the room, stepping over Keith
Richards on the way.
Mick had good reason to be preoccupied. He needed this performance at
Sir Morgan's Cove. Philadelphia and nearly 200,000 seats all sold
out were now only ten days away. Philadelphia was ready for the
Rolling Stones, but the Stones weren't ready for Philadelphia not
ready at all. The rehearsals had just started to come together upstairs
in the barn, but the band was playing only a few songs at a time,
starting and stopping as they went. Not twenty songs in a row, tightly
paced, as they'd soon be called upon to do. Further, there was no
audience to speak of, at Long View. No people for Mick to rehearse
act in front of. No people for the band to
It had been three years since the band had last played in front of a
live audience, and that's a long time. You forget how to
things over a period of three years.
Finally, and most importantly, the group needed a shared victory a
morale boost a shot in the arm. They needed to be adored as a unit
once again welded by a worshipping and friendly crowd back into a
back into the fighting, proud, rock 'n' roll group which
most people felt was the best in the world. They needed to see that the
old magic was still there, intact, and working. They needed the people
to tell them so.
There were people enough in Worcester ready to do just that. Too many
people, in fact, and that's why Mick was pacing nervously around the
Farmhouse, snapping at his friends, and praying for rain. Too many
people, too much craziness on the streets, too great a likelihood that
tonight's event would be marred by incidents by violence
perhaps even injury to common citizens. And that was an eventuality
that Mick could not sustain that had to be avoided at all costs.
There was a financially lucrative tour at stake, and it would be
seriously compromised in advance even ruined by any adverse
riot publicity, or the publicity which would occur if, say, a kid got
killed in Worcester that night. A little Cincinnati in Worcester
tonight would bring Mick's plans down around his ears, and fast, too.
Mick knew that very well. So did Ian Stewart, who had just heard it
by a major Boston radio station, that such a disaster
might in fact occur that evening. The thought was terrifying. Predictions
like that sometimes come true of their own force and momentum
self-fulfilling prophesies. People expect a riot are told there is
going to be a riot. That attracts rioters, and creates a rioting frame
of mind. "Blamed for it already, might as well do it." So there is a
Riot is not something you talk about in advance particularly on the
radio unless you like riot, and want to see it occur.
Mick didn't want a riot tonight. No, sir. Altamont Speedway, at which a
murder occurred during a Rolling Stones concert, practically ruined the
band, and put a poison in the air which bummed people out for years.
It's one thing to have a bit of Lucifer happening in the myth division;
it's quite another to cause the death of fans. Didn't need anybody
killed tonight in Worcester, Mick didn't. Not tonight the first
night the Rolling Stones had performed in three years. That would be,
as they say, a most inauspicious beginning. It could ruin everything.
An alternative, of course, would be to cancel the gig even at the
very last minute, upon the band's arrival on Green Street, if Green
Street looked too weird, or the crowd too crazy. Mick always had that
as an option, and it was commonly accepted that the decision would be
at that point his to make, and his alone. A last ditch safety-hatch.
"He'll be in the front seat of the van, you can be sure of that," Stu
had assured me earlier that day. "Either he'll like what he sees, or he
won't. If he likes it, we'll play. If he doesn't, we won't."
But cancellation would be a disaster of another sort. It would be an
move. The media were
remember. Angry that we wouldn't tell them anything, that we wouldn't
let them in to see the band rehearse, that we kept on stringing them
along with vague promises of a Wasserman-sponsored extravaganza that
would somehow put things right. To cancel would be to jack them around
one last time one time too many. The Stones would have made fools
out of them, the media, and the entire state of Massachusetts, for that
matter. After all, the Stones
that craziness in
downtown Worcester citizens body-plastered with bumper stickers;
automobiles permanently defaced; large companies shut down for the day
because their employees wouldn't work. The Stones caused all that to
happen. And then they don't show up. Or, worse still, show
tease the world with a quick hike of the skirt, then split without
playing a note for their plush countryside estate, where God only
Cancellation would be a disaster, too. Somehow; this show had to
happen. The Cockroaches had to play in Worcester tonight.