By Brett Peruzzi, Managing Editor
BOSTON – The most notorious concert in Boston by The Rolling Stones, fifty years ago this month, almost didn’t happen.
On July 18, 1972, the Stones were scheduled to play Boston Garden as part of their Exile on Main Street tour. Fog at Logan Airport prevented their plane from landing in Boston. Their flight was diverted instead to T.F. Green Airport in Warwick, R.I. Before they left Warwick for Boston, some members of the Stones entourage, including Keith Richards and Mick Jagger, got into an altercation with police after Richards allegedly assaulted a photographer who was trying to take photos of him.
Richards, Jagger, and three others were arrested and taken into custody. Meanwhile, at the Garden, over 15,000 fans were waiting. Opening act Stevie Wonder hit the stage at 8 p.m. and played an extra-long set to buy some time, but as hours ticked by, Boston Mayor Kevin White decided to step in. Concerned that there would be a riot if the Stones didn’t play, he called Rhode Island officials and pressured them to get Jagger and Richards released so the show could go on.
It worked. Jagger and Richards were charged, had their mug shots taken, and were granted bail around 11:30 p.m. Interestingly, the two Stones gave their address at booking as Nellcote Villa, France, a mansion where they both lived for a few years in the early seventies to escape from the UK’s high taxes. The basement of the mansion was also where they began recording tracks for their double album “Exile On Main Street” that the tour was supporting.
Their limo was given a police escort and raced northward up the highway to Boston. Mayor White took to the stage himself at the Garden, announcing he had sprung the Stones from jail and that they were on their way. Then he persuaded the MBTA to keep service running later than usual, to ensure the thousands of fans who had taken the T would be able to get home.
Finally, the Stones caravan pulled in behind the Garden, and they took to the stage at 12:45 a.m. In a 2006 article in the Boston Phoenix about the 40 greatest concerts in Boston history, the dramatically delayed 1972 Garden show by the Stones came in at number three. Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry was quoted as saying about the show, “It was the kind of thing that made the Stones what they are,” he noted about the events leading up to the concert by the rock and roll outlaws. And once they started playing, he remembered, “they kicked ass.”
Fittingly, the Stones closed the show at 2 a.m. with “Street Fighting Man.”
Do you remember when The Rolling Stones played at Sir Morgan’s Cove in Worcester ?
In the company of both celebrities and criminals