Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Rolling Stones - "Let's Spend The Night Together"

On February 11, 1983, the documentary film of The Rolling Stones’ 1981 American tour, “Let’s Spend The Night Together,” opened in New York.

In support of “Tattoo You,” the '81 tour was noteworthy for several reasons: playing to 3 million fans, the 50 US dates grossed 50 million dollars, the highest for years to come in the touring world. The tour produced a live album, “Still Life,” and the film itself grossed another 50 million. It was the first major rock tour to secure corporate sponsorship: the fragrance company Jovan paid 1 million dollars for the rights to have their name on the tickets. And, the final date of the tour, December 18 (Keith’s birthday) in Hampton Roads, Virginia – is regarded as the first pay-per-view for a live music event, and memorable, also, for a fan jumping onstage and facing the wrath of Keith Richards, who bashed him with his guitar.

I don’t recall the film lasting very long in theatres, at least here in Ontario, but I was one of the few who did catch it at the time (there weren’t many people in the theatre I saw it in, but I’ve had that same experience with "Rock N Roll High School" and "Spinal Tap," as well, among others). I remember being thrilled to see the Stones on the big screen, especially since live concert films made such rare appearances on them in those days, outside of the midnight Zeppelin screenings.

My biggest memory of the film was seeing the interaction of the players up-close and it fascinated me; there’s times when Keith and Charlie make eye contact, maybe a wink and a nod between other players, and that’s just stuff you can’t fathom when you’re actually at a concert that size. Years later, when I picked up the guitar and started jamming regularly with friends, I came to know, firsthand, the importance of that eye contact – especially with the drummer when you’re finishing a tune.

My first live Stones experience was at Buffalo’s Rich Stadium on September 27, 1981, the third date of the tour. It was a full day affair, with gates opening at 10am for a noon start. My day started at 6:30am in a Hamilton, Ontario mall parking lot, hooking up with the bus package that was included in the price of my ticket, the first and only time I’ve ever done the bus thing for a show. I expected tickets were going to be so hard to get, that I gave in to the bus idea since it seemed like one of the few options at the time. I think the bus package was $50 or $60 (hey, it’s almost 30 yrs ago!), which included the $15 for the actual ticket. Yup, $15 to see The Rolling Stones, Journey and George Thorogood with about 90,000 other people.

In those days, tickets for the shows were unique and pretty cool items, and the Stones one was no exception. I love the fact that tickets are now scanned instead of being ripped, because you get to keep the whole thing; the ’81 tickets had a little section that was ripped off when you went through the gate, so the one in my collection isn’t 100%. Add in some wear n’ tear and damage due to rain at the show, and I’m pleased that any of it survived. This isn’t mine, but here’s a full version of what they looked like:

After the band’s legendary debauchery in the 70s, it was probably a miracle that they all survived, so the big news before the tour started was that Jagger was photographed training for the road. A rock star getting in good shape for a tour? This was unheard of, at least for a band of this stature. Clearly it worked: The Stones played about 2 ½ hours, and I swear Mick Jagger never stopped running around the whole time. Talk about major cardio.

The other big news were the rumours that the ’81 tour might be the last time The Stones went out on the road. Laughable, all these years later, of course, but it certainly got a lot of attention. This “last time” rumour has surrounded every tour since: one of these days, it’ll turn out to be true, so enjoy live Stones when and wherever ya can.

The Rolling Stones - Hot Rocks 1964-1971 - Let's Spend the Night Together Let’s Spend The Night Together

The Rolling Stones – Let’s Spend The Night Together
(from the film of the same name)