That Was Then
I had always liked the Stones, but it in 1969, I fell head-over-heals when I heard “Honky Tonk Women” for the first time, that opening clang-clang of a cow bell followed by those guitar riffs rattling the tiny speakers of my tenth-grade transistor radio. The Stones’ previous LP, The Satanic Majesties Request, had abandoned the R&B bass and rhythmic guitar play that provided the propulsion for such classics as “Get Off My Cloud” and “Under My Thumb.” Not surprisingly, the Stones weren’t very good at psychedelic music. It didn’t suit them. Imagine Keith Richards sitting in a half lotus next to the Maharishi. Un-uh.
However, the next LP after Satanic Majesties, Let It Bleed, is my favorite album all time, and the opening song of Side 2, “Midnight Rambler,” my favorite song. Its violent lyrics leavened by a John-Lee-Hooker-like boogie produce sonic cognitive dissonance as Jagger threatens to stick his “knife right down your throat” while the rest of the band lays down the jauntiest of grooves. I remember sitting in the Summerville High School library fantasizing about taking over the campus and blasting “Midnight Rambler” over the intercom after we had secured the office area.
Did I mention that I was an angry young mannish-boy?
Anyway, my newly acquired infatuation with the Stones led me to explore in depth their earlier albums and to check out some the original artists the Stones had covered – Howlin’ Wolf, Slim Harpo, and Robert Johnson, to name only three. Of course, I was ravenous to see the Stones, but ’69 was the year of Altamont, that disaster of a festival that some claim sounded the death knell of the Sixties. No way the Stones ever would come down South, or so I thought. However, in ’72, they did do Charlotte, and the late David Williams and I drove up there in his notorious blue VW Bug and copped a couple of scalped tickets for $25 each. I remember someone chiding me for paying that much to see a concert (a beer cost 25 cents back then). By the way, Stevie Wonder was the opening act.
I saw them again in ’75 in Greensboro and again in ’94 in Columbia, but my interest in the Stones had waned by the 90s. Except for their recent blues cover album Blue and Lonesome released in 2016, Tattoo You of 1981 is the last original Stones’ record I’ve purchased.
This Is Now
My wife Caroline and I love New Orleans, and when I saw the Stones were playing at Jazz Fest, I foolishly bought tickets from a third-party vendor for a lot more than $25 a pop. Of course, the tour was delayed because of Mick Jagger’s heart valve replacement operation, but we did manage to get our money back. In the rescheduled dates, I saw that they were playing in Jacksonville just south of where my Dionysian advisor Furman lives, Fernandina Beach. (You can read about our anthological adventures here).
To break up the trip, Caroline and I spent Wednesday night on St. Simon’s Island with my late wife Judy Birdsong’s brother Mike and his lovely wife Patti and Mike’s son Matt. We dined at the Crab Trap where Mike’s older son Michael works as manager. Talking about delicious fried flounder. Oh my God, as the kids say. It was a good wholesome warm-up for the festivities to follow – that is, if you consider drinking high end Irish whisky and more beers than AMA recommends wholesome.
Caroline had booked a room at The Schoolhouse Inn on Amelia Island about two miles from Furman’s beach compound. A converted schoolhouse, the Inn features spacious rooms with old-fashioned educational touches, like vintage photographs of principals ass-thrashing young miscreants with sticks. I meant to take a picture but didn’t.
The Sweltering Chill
In a way, we were doing a college reunion. In addition to Furman and his wife Jeanie, our entourage included old party mates Joe and Kathy, Steve and his wife Christi, Cheryl and Chris, Bill and Dana, Furman’s brother Bill and his wife Veronica (who had already seen four previous shows on this tour), plus various offspring and friends of Furman and Jeanie. We spent Thursday night on Amelia Island drinking at the Green Turtle Tavern, where Jagger supposedly ended up later that night, though I’m always skeptical of rumors like that. The next day at lunch, we met Amelia’s legendary harmonica-blowing street musician Felix from whom I bought a tee shirt/sartorial business card.
So we turned in rather early, awoke the day of the concert, lounged around the pool, did lunch at an old-fashioned seafood restaurant, and headed over to Furman’s. He had hired three vans to deposit us at TIAA field in time to catch the opening act, The Revivalists.
Here’s the set list, provided by Ronnie Wood himself.
Here they are doing “Street Fighting Man,” courtesy of First Coast News:
First and most importantly, the sound was fantastic, unreal, more like music you would hear in a studio than in a football stadium.
Highlights – and there were many – included Darryl Jones’ bass solo on “Miss You”; a killer rendition of “Midnight Rambler”; one of my favorites, “Monkey Man”; and the last song played, the second song of the encore, “Satisfaction.”
Here’s a rendition of Darryl’s solo from Rio in 2016 via João Paulo Moreira Lima.
O my brothers and sisters, I have had in the course of my 66 years many a day of mighty fun, and let me tell you, Saturday, the day after the concert, ranks right up there at the apex. We all gathered at Furman’s and reviewed the show, shared memories from bygone days, and after the “raising of the flag” ceremony, we went swimming in the ocean on a perfect sunny day that featured some of the coolest clouds ever.
All Good Things Must Come to an End
Caroline and I left Furman’s and Jeanie’s around ten-thirty and made our way back to the Inn for a final nightcap of Jameson’s before we hit the way.
The next morning, we bid good-bye to the excellent staff at the Schoolhouse and took the back roads back to our own little barrier island on the Edge of America.