Josna Rege

157. The Day Mick Jagger Called

In 1970s, Music, people, Stories, United States on August 6, 2012 at 1:09 pm

(from garyrocks.wordpress.com)

Back in 1972, during the spring semester of my first year in college, it was announced on the radio and in the local alternative press (either The Phoenix or Boston After Dark) that the Rolling Stones would be embarking on a U.S. tour in the summer, with a mid-July stop in Boston, and that the tickets were to be made available on a first-come, first-served basis. We didn’t waste a moment: Andrew and I sent away for them immediately, and waited impatiently for confirmation of our reservations. Then, as the summer approached, came another announcement: there had been a change in plans, and the tickets were to be allocated randomly, not in the order of reservations received. Shortly afterwards, we learned that the show, to be held at the cavernous Boston Garden, was sold out, and we had not got tickets, despite having been so quick off the mark.

We were bitterly disappointed and furious with whoever had changed the policy in midstream. It was our cherished dream to hear the Stones perform live. Their songs, played incessantly on the record player in the tree house (See TMA 4. The Tree House), had been the soundtrack of our lives, and that is no mere cliché. We had a precious poster, entitled 209 reasons  why the ROLLING STONES is the WORLD’S GREATEST ROCK AND ROLL BAND, that listed every single Stones song released to date, and we knew every last one of them. (Sadly, that now-rare poster was stolen when vandals broke into the tree house toward the end of high school.) Of the three of us I was the most verbal, so I knew most of the words (except for the ones that Mick Jagger deliberately mumbled), but Andrew went one better: he could identify the songs by their instrumental lead-ins. Even today, when I hear a song from Aftermath (1966)—the first album on which the Stones performed their own compositions rather than covers of other artists’ work—I flash upon Andrew, Michael, and me singing along together, or just chatting companionably as the tree house swayed gently, keeping us safe from the demands and depredations of the outside world.

Determined not to take this gross injustice lying down, I decided to write to Mick Jagger, making a direct appeal to his sense of fair play. I plotted my strategy carefully, using the letterhead of David R. Godine, the publishing company where I worked (sorry, David!), so as to make it seem like official correspondence, sending the letter to the box office at the Boston Garden but starting off with a sharply worded warning to anyone reading it who was not the addressee, and presenting our case in colorful and persuasive language that would charm and intrigue him. This was high-stakes writing indeed, and I’m sure I worked on that letter harder than I had worked on any of my college essays to that point, revising a number of drafts before finally sealing the envelope and dispatching it.

July 18th came and went and by the evening of July 19th I had still not received a word in reply to my letter. However, I was undaunted, because I knew that the Stones had been held up the previous night, arrested in Rhode Island in an altercation with a photographer, and having arrived extremely late for their first Boston concert, sprung by the unlikely figure of Boston’s notorious Mayor Kevin White in order to avoid a riot. Before I left Andrew’s parents’ house for the night I reminded Andrew to listen out for the phone, because Mick Jagger would be calling. He laughed indulgently: “Yeah, right!”

I received a phone call at the crack of dawn the next day: before Andrew even uttered a word, I said, “So, he did call.” He was surprised: “How did you know?” That was a silly question: what else could he possibly be calling me about at 5:30 in the morning? Here’s what had happened, as Andrew told it to me:

Mick Jagger, Spring 1972 (dailymail.co.uk)

When the phone rang he stumbled to get it, still more than half asleep. When he heard a voice asking for me in a familiar and distinctive accent, he thought someone was taking the mick, so he told them to knock it off. But the speaker on the other end of the line persisted, and all at once it dawned on Andrew that this was the call that I had been anticipating so confidently. It was Mick Jagger, calling from the Garden after the show.  He said that the band was about to board the plane for Philadelphia, apologized for the mix-up in the ticket sales, and asked if we were in the tree house—that part of my letter had clearly piqued his curiosity. Absolutely flabbergasted, feeling as if he were in a dream, Andrew managed to accept the apology and mumble a few words of thanks before the call was over. He hadn’t even thought to ask for tickets to the next show!

Funnily enough, I wasn’t disappointed, either that we weren’t going to see the Stones in concert after all or that I hadn’t been there in person to take the call. (Of course there was no phone in the tree house, but why on earth had I given him Andrew’s parents’ phone number?). None of that mattered: Mick Jagger had actually called and asked for me! My happiness was complete.

Postscript: A year later, in the winter of 1974, Eve, Andrew’s sister and my dearest friend, wrote to me in London, where I was studying for a year, from the East Village in New York, where she was living at the time. She had been hired as a waitress for the opening night of a new club, The Bottom Line, and had waited on none other than Mick Jagger! She reported that he had been as kind as he was good-looking and that although she had been almost overcome with shyness she had told herself that she would never forgive herself if she didn’t take the opportunity to speak to him. At last, screwing up all her courage, she had approached the table and told him how much she admired his work. He accepted her tribute graciously and left her a generous tip to boot. She was still basking in the afterglow of the experience.

Another year later, in the immediate aftermath of my graduation from college in June 1975, the Rolling Stones returned to the Boston Garden, and this time Andrew and I did get tickets. At last we got to see the show we had anticipated for so many years. But it was a disappointment. This was the period when rock concerts were making the transition from musical performances to spectacles, the beginning of the shift to projected images on big screens and lots of sideshows. The Stones were on the leading edge of that shift, and the show was like a three-ring circus, with a red, inflatable tongue shooting crudely in and out  like a giant phallus, and other similar special effects which seemed to be crowd-pleasers but which left me cold. Though I was barely twenty, with crowds of teenagers around me in the massive arena, I suddenly felt too old for this. Throughout the concert I felt alienated, unable to allow myself to be caught up in the experience. To be honest, I would have preferred to be listening to the Stones on the record player in the old tree house, with just Andrew and Michael for company.

In an unguarded moment early in my teaching career, I found myself mentioning in class that Mick Jagger had once called me. The story soon spread well beyond that classroom and probably did more to raise my reputation among the students than all the hours I had spent assiduously preparing my lesson plans. I was asked what I had written in that letter to make the man pick up the phone and dial my (well, my boyfriend’s parents’) number, but that information is mine and will remain mine alone.

I’m still a fan of the Rolling Stones but, to be honest, there’s very little of their music composed after the Seventies that I truly love. More than forty years and many albums later, I think that there are still only a few more than 209 reasons why the Rolling Stones is the world’s greatest rock-and-roll band.

Tell Me Another (Contents to Date)

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  1. Once again the history of our musical tastes converge. I LOVED the Stones as a young teen, and managed to see them on, I think, their first US tour, in 1965, at Mechanics Hall in Worcester. Totally great, and only their natural, and considerable swagger in terms of showboating. Blues covers – “Little Red Rooster”, “Heart of Stone”, etc, etc. Then again in ’66, I believe, I saw them at Boston Garden when they performed treasures such as “Hey, You Get Off Of My Cloud”. And finally, at the Garden again, ’72, when a friend of friend had to forfeit his ticket and I was the exuberant recipient. It was incredible, and I’m so sorry you missed it. And – this is cruel to tell you, I know – Stevie Wonder opened for them and blew my socks off.

    • And once again, Ann, I am totally overawed. You saw the Stones in 1965 and 1966—unbelievable!!! I bow at thy feet. I love “Heart of Stone.” Could the 1966 concert have been at the Manning Bowl in Lynn, Mass? Apparently the playlist on that tour included “The Last Time”—one of my faves from that era. And amazing–you were at that fateful 1972 concert (Which one, I wonder? Did Mayor White come on to calm the crowd?) fully 8 years before we were to meet. Now I don’t mind so much having missed it, knowing that you were there. “Hey, You (Get Off of My Cloud)” was one of the songs at the concert in 1975 that left me cold because of all the gimmicks they used. I love Mick’s swagger and consummate showmanship; it’s all the other hoopla I can do without.

      • The ’66 concert may actually have been late ’65…I really can’t quite piece the dates. It was definitely at the Garden. It was a good one, but I don’t remember it all that clearly, not as well as the one before or the one after. The concert in ’72 was off the charts. And we did have to wait for hours, because one of them was arrested (?) in RI. Mayor White came out to calm the crowd, yes. There was a lot of tension. Nobody was going home, that was for sure, not after all the anticipation. It was good that Stevie W. had opened. He was so incredibly upful. That might have made a difference. It was the concert tour that Mick wore his white jumpsuit and strewed rose petals from a basket at the end. I’ll never forget his pants slightly too short and funky running shoes. We had seats very close, but behind the band.
        Ahh, I bask in the reflected glory of the early Stones.

        • Ann,

          You are the first person besides Bob Marley whom I’ve seen using the lovely word “upful”!

          The sun shall not smite I by day/Nor the moon by night
          And everything that I do/Shall be upful and bright

          (Night Shift)

          Aah, the famous white jumpsuit. And you were a recipient of rose petals. Amazing.

          xo J

        • But Jo, never let it be forgot that YOU (at age seventeen??) convinced Mick Jagger to call you. Every rose petal withers and fades to dust before that great accomplishment. A gifted writer starts her career with an unforgettable flourish. My forehead to the floor.

        • Dear Ann, you are a sweetie-pie. (But no foreheads to the floor–you are my respected (not-very-much)elder sister!) Hugs, Jo

  2. Jojo
    Saw your e-mail with the link to this story come in earlier this week, but was way slammed with work (where I am today/Sat.) Ah the fond memories of the Treehouse and the joy we had listening to the music of the Stones (the Who, the Doors, John Mayall and that first Earth Wind and Fire album. With the voltage drop in the electrical supply coming all the way from back at the Barn where the tap was made, the old record player used take a bit to get up to speed, especially if it was cold. As you note though the Stones were the sound track of our lives and when one hears the lead-in to some of the more obscure tunes being played it will transport you back to those days. Thoroughly enjoyed this piece.
    Love
    Michael

    • So glad you liked it, Michael. Hard to capture the feel of the tree house in words. I’m listening to “Goin’ Home” now, one of my favorites on Aftermath. A couple of years ago we found a pristine copy of it in a yard sale. It’s fun to have a working record player again after a long while and give some of those old records an airing. But at the same time we’ve just gone high-tech and got an AppleTV (on Nikhil’s advice), so I was actually listening to it on the TV via Youtube! (Advanced, eh?!)

      • Wow, Josna–I didn’t know this part of your history! And you probably don’t know that the Stones are very special for me. I share this passion for their music with my son, Samir. It was very special to go to a Stones concert at the Pepsi Center in Denver with him in 2005. They may have been geriatric in terms of age but certainly not in energy or musicality. I was also lucky enough to see them in 1976 (when they were young and performing in Earl’s Court in London) with my friend, Lata, who had drawn two tickets in the lottery and invited me to go along with her. There was a great deal of showmanship in that concert, yes, but Mick and Keith especially are showmen. Have you seen the movie “Shine a Light?” For me their blues influenced songs are the most amazing: especially “Gimme Shleter,” “Wild Horses” and “Midnight Rambler.” “Gimme Shelter” is mind blowing. “Ruby Tuesday” moves me to tears each and every time!!

        • Rashna! A fellow-lover of the Stones! I too adore them. My personal favorite is probably “Moonlight Mile,” though having said that there are a million more that vie for that position. And I too love “Wild Horses” and “Gimme Shelter” and “Ruby Tuesday.” Somewhere on my computer I have a list of my top 20 with links to good performances of each on youtube, I will send it to you if I can find it.
          Thanks for reminding me of Shine a LIght–I really want to see it.
          It’s lovely to discover that our friends have such parallel experiences and parallel stories! x J

  3. What a fantastic story! I wonder if any of the big music stars today would ever bother to call a fan… It kind of tops anything else (like replying on a tweet f ex).

    • Yes, now those public figures have their ownTwitter feeds and FB pages probably monitored and maintained by their staff. I think the letter definitely tipped the scales for me. But I agree, it’s hard to imagine that happening today. Thank you for visiting and commenting!

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