Like A Rolling Stone
As Michael Corleone said in ‘The Godfather, Part III,” ‘…just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.’ Yes, The Rolling Stones are coming to Prague this summer, and I, of course, will be there. It seems no matter how old I am whenever the Stones tour those of us attuned to the sound of the old tribal chant drop everything for the ancient and increasingly archaic call of music and community Or maybe it’s only rock ‘n’ roll -- and I like it, like it, yes I do.
The boys and I go back nigh on forty-six years, nine concerts in all. I remember a few poignant details from each one (even in my youth, I was never so stoned or drunk as to forget where I was or what I was hearing). My first time: Madison Square Garden, 1972, when I was so scared that someone would try to steal my ticket that I safety-pinned it to my underwear. And New York again in 1975, when my date dyed her hair blue to match a lyric from ‘If You Can’t Rock Me’, the single off of ‘It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll’.
I was in London (specifically, Knebworth, a village fifty miles north of London) in 1976, when the Stones headlined a festival that featured one of the last hurrahs of Lynyrd Skynyrd. My twenty-four hours in line outside the festival grounds placed me within spitting distance (sometimes literally) of Mick Jagger, and the bands’ set was nearly three hours long.
I was barely twenty years old. For the next decade, adulthood temporarily intervened. I didn’t see the band perform live again until the Steel Wheels tour of 1989, this time in Boston. There were 50,000 people in the audience and the stadium echo was supposed to produce a noise something akin to a jet plane landing, but somehow the Stones’ sound engineers produced headphone-quality music in that most inauspicious space.
I’ll skip lightly though the Voodoo Lounge, Bridges To Babylon, Bigger Bang, and 50 & Counting tours – not because they weren’t as memorable, but because in the years between my late thirties and my mid- fifties they were as routinely dependable and richly worth celebrating as a family reunion. Every five years or so, my co-workers at Harvard could expect the day when I would come into the office breathless, sweaty, and extremely nervous. They knew: Stones tickets must be going on sale that day.
There was the time the concert ended at midnight, and by the time we drove out of the parking lot, it was three in the morning. We sang along with Bob Dylan songs all through the two-hour drive home. And then there was the time I failed to procure a pair of tickets (the nerve!), I was reduced to entering the Stones’ ‘Lucky Dip’ lottery – and won. The seats were in the top balcony of the Boston Garden, but ten minutes before the show started someone from the band’s crew came up to all of us and handed us floor passes.
So on July 4th (which is not a special day in the Czech Republic, except perhaps for being remembered as the day the Rolling Stones played Letnany Airport) I will be sitting up in the rafters (I’m too old to stand) for a Stones concert for the ninth time. Could this be, as the band suggested fifty-three years ago, ‘the last time’? I don’t know. But I do know that if Mick Jagger, Keith Richard, Charlie Watts, and Ronnie Wood are still alive, and I am, I’ll be there.