My eyes open, I check the time and it’s 5am. My mind wanders for a brief moment and I realise today is the day. I’m going to see the Rolling Stones.
At the naïve age of 16 I was introduced to the song Gimme Shelter. The varied vocal styles and high pitches earnt this track the status of the most annoying thing I had ever heard. Then I discovered Bridges to Babylon, fell in love with Laugh, I Nearly Died and developed a liking for The Worst. I soon came round to Gimme Shelter and appreciated the song for what it was, what it stood for and the amount of talent that it took to produce the song.
I read the book The Sun & The Moon & The Rolling Stones, and before I continue, I’d like to say that what Rich Cohen has produced, is something to aspire to. It’s written from a long-time fans point of view, a journalists point of view and from the point of view of the Stones themselves. The most impressive part is that the alternations in the angle is seamless and it makes for great reading. The bit about the recording of Country Honk out in the street and Keith insisting he saw Muddy Waters painting in Chess Records. The bit about Keith writing Satisfaction in his sleep or the mystery about Brian Jones death. Don’t forget the terrifying Altamont incident or when Ron Wood joined the band. This book gave me a passion for the band. It wasn’t a case of a few tracks that were well written, it was about each member and their journey and where the songs came from.
After this small obsession begun I realised I had to learn more. Who were these people that Mick and Keith were so in to? What was inspiring Brian Jones? I looked up Muddy Waters and the Rolling Stones and found this understated performance at the Checkerboard Lounge of Baby Please Don’t Go and to this day it is still one of the most magical videos I have ever watched.
I delved deeper into the Stones discography and listened to all the songs I had read about that had an interesting story behind them. To this day Let It Bleed remains my favourite album. Opening with the iconic Gimme Shelter, featuring Country Honk with its outdoor noise and don’t forget the Doors were present when they played this! This album is not done, there’s Midnight Rambler with the dynamic mid-section, the sorrowful You Got The Silver and the water droplet-like piano at the start of Monkey Man. The album ends with You Can’t Always Get What You Want. There is so much going on with this song that I don’t even know where to start. With that said, listen to it, all of the layers, not just the surface, and just let it take you away.
The day arrived when I would finally see this band. Two original founding members would be stood in front of me. These people knew Brian Jones and they played the Marquee Club and they have been to Chicago. Seeing them would be like a window into experiencing everything they experienced.
Before I knew it the stadium stood in front of me. They had come a long way since the times I had been reading about. The clock moved round and the time crept closer and closer. I stood in the middle of the London stadium surrounded by thousands of people. A man standing in front of me answered a young man who had pointed to the patch on his denim jacket and said ‘You saw them at Hyde Park’ to which he replied ‘Yes, all of them’. The revelation then hit me that this man had been at that famous Hyde Park show that they put on for free in 1969, just two days after Brian Jones had died.
The music through the speakers stopped, the crowd went quiet and then the intro to Jumpin’ Jack Flash begun. ‘Oh my god it’s Charlie Watts!’ Then I saw Keith, Mick and Ron appear in that order. The people I had read about, the band whose records are sat in my room, the artists who I watched in YouTube videos and on DVD, were stood in front of me. I couldn’t believe it. There, only a few feet away, was the Rolling Stones.
By the second song of the set my voice begun to strain and fade. I had never screamed and shouted so loud, and tears begun to stream down my face. I was lucky to be only a few rows back from the pit – I could touch the barrier. Mick came skipping down the right-hand side of the stadium and I could see him clear as day. The man who fronted one of history’s biggest rock and roll bands, the man whose voice has been heard all over the globe was singing right at me.
The setlist for the show was brilliant. Remember how I said Let It Bleed was my favourite album? They did You Can’t Always Get What You Want, Midnight Rambler and of course Gimme Shelter! Mick introduced Just Your Fool by saying ‘Now we are going to play like we did at the Ealing Club’ and he went off on the harmonica. There were several references to them being from Dartford which makes me proud as I am from Kent too and it made me feel part of it, like for a split second we had something in common. I couldn’t believe my luck that Keith did The Worst and I was so pleased that they did an extended version of Miss You. When Satisfaction started to play, I looked at Keith and thought ‘You wrote this in your sleep’.
I cannot believe I have seen the Rolling Stones live in concert and I could not be more grateful for the opportunity. I know I will never meet them, but that is okay. Sometimes they say it is best never to meet your heroes and this way I will remember them and my experience of them in a good light.
Many thanks to my friends, (and somewhat adopted family), Darren and Victoria who provided me with the best gift any person could receive, two tickets to see the Rolling Stones.