In my previous Gigging Years post, I’d written about going to see a group of ageing rockers. At least, to the teenage me, after celebrating 20 years together, they must be ageing.
Later the same year, I was heading to see an even more ageing group of rockers. Quo might have pretended to be together for 20 years, but the Rolling Stones definitely had been. Even today, people make comparisons between them and The Beatles – in the ’60s, it seems you were either a Beatles fan or a Stones fan. So the Stones were definitely a ’60s band, unlike Quo, who were linked more with the ’70s.
So, in the summer of 1982, presented with an opportunity to see these dinosaurs of rock, it was a no-brainer to go. Keith Richards already looked as if he’d died, and surely there was no way the rest of the band could keep going much longer. So this could be our last chance…
A group of us went, including Zim and my then girlfriend (you’ll be pleased to know I did eventually move on), Sarah. Not having a car, we went by train to Leeds, so I suspect it was an early start since the gig started in the afternoon. From Leeds Station, we still had to get a bus out to Roundhay Park, which was where everything was taking place.
Having looked up a few things up to be sure of my facts, I’ve realised this was the first time the Stones had toured in the UK for 6 years, so no wonder we thought it would be a major event. And it was. The stage was enormous, with a central platform flanked by two long runways that came out at an angle into the crowd. This video from the beginning of the gig might give an indication of scale.
Obviously, when I say into the crowd, there was still a barrier between the runways and the crowd, but it meant Mick (because it was he who used them) could be seen more easily. And it’s important to note that, back then, there were no massive TV screens for the people at the back to see more clearly. Which was why we as a group moved as close to the front as we could get. Sadly, not right up against the barriers, but certainly within 20-30 feet of them. Our view was excellent.
Before the Stones appeared, we did have support acts. I can only recall two, but an internet search tells me there was a third, George Thorogood. This isn’t a name that immediately springs to mind but, as chance would have it, Bad to the Bone came on my CD player yesterday. I couldn’t have told you who sang it, but happened to glance at the display and saw Thorogood’s name there.
The two supports I do remember were Joe Jackson and The J. Geils Band, two completely different styles of music.
Joe Jackson was already into what was being referred to as his ‘Jumpin’ Jive’ phase, and the set reflected that, but I preferred his earlier material, particularly It’s Different for Girls and Is She Really Going Out With Him? Maybe it’s a teenage angst thing, but I could really relate to them at the time. Because of this, I suspect I wouldn’t have enjoyed his future tours so much, so I’m really glad I saw him when I did.
The J. Geils Band had a more rock-based sound, and were very entertaining, in spite of only ever having two hit singles, the best known being Centerfold . Not that I felt a great hankering to watch them again. It really was a case of ‘Been there, done that’ in their case, which is fortunate as John Geils died a few months ago.
Of course, we did eventually get to the main event, a taste of which I’ve already provided. From that, you may have noticed Jagger’s somewhat distinctive dress sense. You may have also spotted the how lack-lustre Bill Wyman was. It was apparent throughout that he wasn’t the most dynamic of performers, but I guess he did what was required of him. Charlie Watts, on the other hand, seemed to have a great time on drums.
Looking back on it now, Keith Richards looks remarkably healthy, considering our thoughts regarding his life expectancy. Ronnie Wood still felt like he was new to the band, having only been an official member for 6 years. It’s funny how the passage of time can change your perspective.
I’ve mentioned the “Stones vs Beatles” thing and, if I had to make a choice I’d probably go with the Stones. But, having seen them once, I’ve never had an urge to go and see them again. It’s good to look back and know I’ve seen them. Even better, that I saw them in what I now realise was their prime. He may have seemed old to me at the time, but Mick Jagger was only 39, and in great shape. Their subsequent music hasn’t been bad, but nothing’s ever matched up to their work from the ’60s and ’70s.
It’s also an issue that, nowadays, to see them you’d need to take out a small mortgage and would still be reliant on the TV screens to be able to get a close enough view. I might have been happy to shove my way to the front when I was 19; at 54, I’d rather not. So, it was a great experience, and one I’ll be grateful for having, but I won’t repeat it.
As a final taste, I’m including a longer than normal video. It’s the last song before the encore, but it includes most of the things you want to see from the Stones: alcohol, fags, guitar riffs, lots of energy, a shirtless Mick, a disinterested Wyman, and the scale of the crowd. I’m sure the sex and drugs took place on the bus to Sheffield…