In our years growing from young baby boomers to middle-aged baby boomers to aging baby boomers, so much has changed: transportation, communication, technology of every type. But there has been one constant, and it’s not what everyone might have predicted: The Rolling Stones. From Pittsburgh, Tim Menees looks back to the first time he saw them. He calls this essay “Finally Satisfaction: My Stones Review.”
Slide guitarist Brian Jones was still alive. Base guitarist Bill Wyman had not retired to endorse gizmos to find buried treasure. Riff guitarist Keith Richards had yet to fall out of a palm tree.
Thus, on December 2, 1965, the Rolling Stones, Version 1.0, climbed onto the Seattle Coliseum’s revolving stage, setting off thousands of shrieking, bouncing teenyboppers.
A friend and I were sitting just a few rows back, thanks to a pair of freebies from KJR radio’s star DJ Pat O’Day. In Seattle in the ’60s, Pat O’Day was king. I was a student at the University of Washington and promised him I would write a review for the UW Daily. Then I got hit with a final or a term paper or an earthquake and missed the deadline… by 53 years.
Today O’Day has his own real estate company in Washington state’s San Juan Islands. He was gracious when I fessed up. This clearly hadn’t nagged at him as it had at me, and he happily turned to logistics: “The revolving stage was my idea.” Public address systems, in the primitive years before mountains of Marshals, couldn’t reach the back of arenas and stadiums, so he set up the stage in the middle with the speakers hanging above it.
R&B Diva Patti Labelle, Brit piano rocker Ian Whitcomb, gritty girl group the Shangri-Las, and local heroes The Wailers and Paul Revere & the Raiders got things going.
However the girls didn’t want “Louie Louie.” They wanted “Satisfaction.”
The Stones played a short set. In those days, O’Day reminded me, groups performed only their hits plus one new song. Their set list included a cover of Chuck Berry’s “Round and Round” and during the sound check Mick told Pat, “The ladies love it when I grab my balls. Now I can grab them all the way around.”
He had yet to leap across the stage like a danseur noble. He wore a sports jacket for his still fairly tame James Brown moves. One of his latter-day costumes on display at the Rock & Roll Museum in Cleveland could have easily fit a 14-year-old girl.
When the Stones finally hit the opening chords to “Satisfaction,” they blew out most of their power. As electricians crouched over the amps, Mick and Charlie Watts did a harmonica-drums blues improv.
Every bar-hopping garage band has been there — power failures, equipment glitches, broken guitar strings — but bars don’t employ stagehands to get the music back up.
The Stones would age into “The Greatest Rock & Roll Band in the World” (though not always gracefully), today playing to SRO stadium crowds, their shows no longer concerts but Events. That night, however, it was not SRO. I’d recently been in London, later dubbed “Swinging London,” and they were huge. But stateside? “Satisfaction” had hit Number One.
“Do you know why they didn’t sell it out?” Pat O’Day asked me. I did not. “It was a school night and parents wouldn’t let their kids go.”
Boy, things have sure changed.