I never win anything, I don’t collect autographs, and I usually don’t know anyone who can get me past security…..But the rock n’ roll stars were in alignment at least this one time in April 1999. (Ok, so it’s an old story.)
The Rolling Stones were bringing their “No Security” tour to Kansas City, their first trip to town in ten years. Friend and neighbor KG was organizing a group to go.
We were excited. We actually knew someone who knew someone — our friends and neighbors, the As. Their son-in-law, B.F., was a back-up singer for The Rolling Stones. We’d seen the family photos with the Stones in the A’s kitchen. Grandkids on Stones’ laps.
Mrs. A. offered to get us backstage passes, but told us we were on our own for tickets.
I didn’t want to pay $250 each. There were cheaper tickets, but KG wanted the best. I was planning to sit in the nosebleed section. I’m cheap, what can I say?
KG chided me, “Come on, just pay the money, when will you have this chance again?”
I told KG I’d win tickets. A local department store was holding a contest for tickets. I’d enter. I’d win. Easy.
KG laughed: “You’re out of your mind. You’ll be sorry.”
You know, I never doubted I’d win. (Although I’ve had that feeling about contests before and since and didn’t win, but that makes a lousy story.) The day before the drawing, I remembered that I’d have to actually enter to win — wishful thinking alone doesn’t work — so I hurried to the store and dropped two entries into the box — one for me, one for my husband. This was in the days before most contests were online. Then I waited.
KG asked: Did you get tickets yet?
“No, but I will.”
A while later — it seemed like forever — someone from a New York office called to tell me I’d won two tickets. Actually, she told me that my husband’s entry had won, so now I had to twist his arm to take me. Forms were FedExed, signed, notarized, FedExed. I practically lived on my front porch one weekend, waiting. There were deadlines that had to be met, or we’d lose out. I had no idea how complicated it was to win something. Finally the tickets arrived by FedEx.
On the concert’s eve, I was in KG’s kitchen, when we saw a long limousine pull into the A’s driveway. Who was it? We took a walk, hoping we could catch a glimpse in the window of someone from the band. We couldn’t see anything. I felt like an idiot. We laughed at ourselves.
When we got to Kemper Arena on the night of the concert, we pushed our way through the crowds to meet Mrs. A. in a large dining area — the band lounge. But there was no band, of course. A lot of people were eating and drinking. We weren’t hungry so we passed on the refreshments. We didn’t recognize anyone. We could hear the echo of the opening act, Jonny Lang. We weren’t actually in the real back stage, but, hey, we had a pass! Still, I was sorry I had missed Lang. We were here to hear music, not watch people eat.
We hurried to the concert floor. It was crowded, shoulder to shoulder. I could see Dr. A., in a suit and tie, and Mrs. A., in a jacket and skirt, near the front in the crush of people. At a break, Mick Jagger introduced B.F., who called out, “I love you, Mom and Dad.”
Dr. and Mrs. A. had faithfully attended all of The Stones concerts when the band came to town, whether in Kansas City, in L.A., where the As had a home, or in Tokyo, where they had relatives, although Mrs. A. confided that it really wasn’t their kind of music. I think it grew on them, though, over time.
Twenty thousand fans were there, and I think they all squeezed onto the stage floor. Who was left in the cheap seats? Mick Jagger was electrifying as he pranced, pouted and shouted on the long stage! What if I hadn’t won tickets? I would have missed out. It was an unforgettable, not-to-be repeated experience. Part of our exuberance was feeling a connection to our generation, resonating the patterns already imprinted in our brains since the days in 1965 when I first heard “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” at Dara’s birthday slumber party for all of the girls in the eighth grade at St. Mary’s.
The following week, Mrs. A asked us whether we wanted band autographs. I said, “Sure.” A week later, I got the photo above, signed by Mick Jagger, Ron Wood, Keith Richards and Charlie Watts in gold ink. I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it, although I’m happy to have the photo. It’s been in a file drawer ever since, until I scanned it for art for this post. I’ll have it archivally framed one of these days.
In August 2005 in Boston, my daughter’s boyfriend, R.H., worked on the crew to erect and then take down in Fenway Park what was one of the largest stages ever constructed for a rock concert. The Rolling Stones were kicking off their “Bigger Bang” tour there on Aug. 21 for a two-night stand. R.H., a college student and musician, was a lot more excited by the work than he was by the music which was not of his era. He was happy to climb to the top during the take-down. He joked about seeing the members of the band hobbling off to their limousines. By the time R.H. had been born in 1984, the Stones had been making music for twenty years.
R.H. and my daughter, L.L., are in a generation that seem to have infinite music choices. They can find it anywhere. Are there any bands that unite them, any common soundtrack to their lives? They seem liberated by it. They probably won’t be gathering twenty years from now in a huge stadium to re-visit the music of their youth. Now, though, when I see their music “mixes”, I see as many songs from my youth as I do from theirs. Too bad, the old dinosaurs of our age will be gone.
On a trip to Chicago in October 2006, my husband and I stayed in a hotel full of Rolling Stones fans, who were going to an outdoor concert at Soldier’s Field, still the same “Bigger Band” tour that had kicked off in Boston. I was wistful. There were tickets left. Should we get some? We’d come to Chicago to see the King Tut Exhibit at the Field Museum. I hadn’t even known about The Stones. The temperature had dropped into the teens. The wind was howling. We watched from our hotel window as the crowds trudged toward the stadium, which we could see from our room. I sighed. The moment had passed. The next morning, the fans were enthusiastic. They’d made their own heat. I rationalized that we couldn’t have recaptured that night in April long ago when everything came together. But, except for the cold, I wish we would have gone.