JFK was President. Sam Walton greeted shoppers for the tenth day of shopping at the first Walmart in Rogers, Arkansas. AT&T had launched the first commercial satellite, Telstar, two days before and successfully broadcast the image of an American flag from France to Maine. Prince Charles was 14 years old. It was July 12, 1962 and if the Teen Prince had the opportunity in the dormitory at Gordonstoun he might have tuned in to listen to BBC Radio’s Jazz Club program and heard the first performance of a new blues band featuring Mick Jagger (vocals harmonica), Keith Richards (guitars) Brian Jones (guitars), Dick Taylor (bass), Ian Stewart (piano), & Mick Avory (drums) broadcast live from the Marquee Club on Oxford Street. Also on the card that night was Blues Incorporated, a band Mick had sung with on a few occasions that featured the drumming of one Charlie Watts.
The Rolling Stones were born that night over 53 years ago and save for Ronnie Wood replacing Brian Jones after his death in 1975, the band has been the most enduring act in Rock N’ Roll history. Twenty four studio albums, seven record labels, Forty four concert tours, eight number one hits in the USA, Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame inductees and one Knighthood. They first played Detroit June 14,1964 and have been to Motown 17 times since- but not since 2005. The members are now between 68 and 72 years old so when the Zip Code Tour dates were announced I did not hesitate or flinch at the ticket prices. I had two tickets within an hour of them going on sale.
Music is in my soul. It is integral to who I am. I have been singing and playing guitar since the 2nd grade. Some form of band or choral group has always been part of my life. A day does not go by without me sharing some song of the day or musical reference with my family, friends or fellow employees- sometimes much to their chagrin. It is as if I feel compelled to provide a music history education to whoever happens to be around when the muse strikes. From the time my 32 year old son Steven was old enough to say the words “I want…” he knew what Mick said- “You can’t always get what you want” - always sung. The day the Finance Director of our China subsidiary, Xu Yun, resigned I declared the song of the day to be Scandal’s “Goodbye to Xu (You)” Must have played it on my computer ten times that day chuckling with a certain self-satisfaction each time.
Seeing the Rolling Stones was not just a concert for me. It was a bucket list thing. Something I would regret for the rest of my life if I didn’t do it. When the first chords of Jumpin’ Jack Flash reverberated off every pillar, post and impervious surface of Comerica Park I smiled ear to ear. Four musicians belting out their life’s work through singing, guitar riffs, drum beats and dancing with enthusiasm and pure joy. Nothing to prove to anyone, just making themselves happy by making their fans happy. Mick Jagger put on a 2 ½ hour aerobics class. Ageless, Timeless. The energy just kept flowing as each of Mick, Keith and Ronnie took a tour down the runway that extended into the crowd on the Comerica Park field. The smiles on their faces as they moved from song to song served as proof that time was on their side. Honkey Tonk Woman, Start Me Up and a highly energized strut-fest version of Midnight Rambler, kept the crowd of
40,000 plus on their feet.
There were many epic moments, but for me, the ultimate lasting impression was created by Mick and back-up vocalist Lisa Fischer’s powerfully haunting version of Gimme Shelter. Watching the guitar riffs, Richards and Woods put the crowd into a trance as the soaring voice of Fischer pierced the summer night’s sky. Mick sang and strutted, Lisa hit notes high over Detroit, the guitars echoed the refrain as Charlie set the beat for the swaying crowd. It was then I realized I was in the presence of greatness- rarefied air- a concert for the ages and the ageless. Enduring, lasting, transcendent of time and place. That night, for me The Stones cemented their place in Music History as the best Rock Band EVER. And it only got better. Brown Sugar, You Can’t Always Get What You Want featuring a local college choir and Satisfaction- the ultimate final encore.
As I write this, five days after the concert, I still feel the pure joy unleashed by the music and I am left with a sharpened sense of the magnitude of what the Rolling Stones have achieved as musicians and entertainers- relevant to young and old alike across a period of time that may represent the greatest period of change in human history. It may be only rock n’ roll but I like it, like it, yes I do!