THE ROLLING STONES’ 1972 AMERICAN TOUR | STP– STONES TOURING PARTY

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“Some of my most outrageous nights– I can only believe actually happened because of corroborating evidence.  No wonder I’m famous for partying!  The ultimate party– if it’s any good– you can’t remember it.” 

–Keith Richards 

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Keith Richards & Mick Taylor of The Rolling Stones on stage, 1972 –Image by © Ethan Russell -

The Rolling Stones embarked on their 1972 American tour to support the release of Exile on Main Street– which in and of itself was a push into new territory for the band, both musically and commercially. What followed rewrote the game for The Stones and the music industry, and basically set the stage for a decade of big, balls-out tours that went from being simple promotional vehicles the pop culture events. Nothing like this had been done in Rock ‘n’ Roll prior and all subsequent tours would follow the ’72 tour blueprint for scale, attempted musicality, logistics, legal entanglements, drugs, women, hilarity, hangers-on, and general debauchery.

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Mick Jagger & Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones on the  STP tour, 1972 –Image by © Ethan Russell

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After months in France at the now legendary Villa Nellcote recording Exile, Keith Richards (after being thrown out of France for drug charges) went to L.A. and there the album was remixed and completed for release in May of 1972. At this point a tour was in order. The Stones had not toured America since their Altamont disaster in 1969 (which led to heightened security– private planes, limos, and higher stages to reduce public access to the band), and being the biggest band in Rock and needing some cash, they set out to put together a tour like no other. What followed that June and July of ’72 is the stuff of legend. You could make the argument the overused term “party like a rock star” was born here. The private plane with the famous tongue logo, the glamorous celebrity hangers-on, the travelling press core, the massive amount of drugs, and a much publicized four day orgy at the Chicago Playboy mansion are a few of the legendary tales to come out of the tour. The tour was covered by the press of the day like a Presidential election. What is interesting for me is that at this point the innocence of the 1960s, that somehow rock could change the world, was completely gone. The Stones killed it. The Stones were now a fully formed massive enterprise with the associated money deals, merchandising, and horde of lawyers, handlers, and spiritual advisors. This tour was not about changing the world– it was about money, fame, cynicism, celebrity and pushing the limits in every way possible. The “Me Decade” had officially begun.

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Guitar virtuoso Mick Taylor of The Rolling Stones on the  STP tour, 1972 –Image by © Ethan Russell

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The Stones’ STP Tour brought together a blend of high and low society, almost unthinkable in rock music a mere 10 years earlier. Mick Jagger and wife Bianca were members of the global jet set. While there were other famous and glamorous frontmen, Mick was by this point at another level and his ego and paranoia grew along with it. The tour had a traveling press core– Truman Capote (by this point a total drunk and addicted to tranquilizers), Terry Southern, and Robert Greenfield all covered the tour for various news outlets. Even the Kennedys, who seem to pop up at every moment of cultural importance, followed the tour. Lee Radziwill and her husband, the artist Peter Beard, were after-party regulars. Capote, after focusing on New York society ladies, must have felt he had gone to Mars with this assignment, and left the tour (along with his own entourage) in New Orleans only to reappear at the final shows at Madison Square Garden. Southern, and especially Robert Greenfield, gave a more complete accounting of the tour and wrote some fine stuff.

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Mick Jagger & Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones on the  STP tour, 1972 –Image by © Ethan Russell

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Every stop on the ’72 tour had its attendant bedlam in the form of crowd riots and arrests. Throw into this bubbling cauldron– Hells Angels putting a bounty on Mick’s ass over the lingering Altamont mess, Keith’s increasingly dark drug use and carrying a gun throughout most of the tour out of fear of the Angels as well, the verbal needling between dueling divas Bianca Jagger and Anita Pallenberg, Mick & Keith getting thrown in jail in Rhode Island for getting into a fight with photographer Andie Dickerman– and you have Rock ‘n’ Roll my friends!

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Frontman Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones on the  insane STP tour, 1972 –Image by © Ethan Russell

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Interestingly, The Stones (& company) were probably never better musically– once they all got into their groove. With the swirl around them, they were dialed-in on stage. During the Exile recording The Stones brought in a lot of supporting musicians, and driven by Keith, really stretched themselves musically. The horn player Bobby Keys was the greatest example of a great supporting player who would become part of the inner circle and would be a key contributor to The Stones’ sound in the 1970s. Robert Greenfield summed up the tour best, “The musicians completely locked into one another and on time, like a championship team in its finest most fluid moments. But only the people, who listen, like Ian Stewart, and the Stones themselves and their supporting musicians, are aware of the magic that’s going down. Everyone else is either worrying about logistics or trying to get off.”

Indeed, indeed…

–Eli M. Getson

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1972– Mick Taylor and Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones perform with Stevie Wonder at Madison Square Garden. The concert was the final performance of the group’s 30 city, 3 month tour of the United States and Canada. –Image by © Bettmann/Corbis

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Frontman Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones on the  insane STP tour, 1972 –Image by © Ethan Russell

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A view of Mick Jagger from the crowd on the Stones’ American tour, 1972 –Image by © Ethan Russell

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Mick Jagger on the harmonica. The Rolling Stones N. American tour, 1972  –Image by © Ethan Russell

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Mick Jagger, Mick Taylor & Keith Richards on the infamous STP tour, 1972 –Image by © Ethan Russell

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Mick Jagger and Bobby Keys on stage during the STP American tour, 1972 –Image by © Ethan Russell

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The Rolling Stones onstage during the infamous STP American Tour, 1972 –Image by © Ethan Russell

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Related TSY posts:

THE ROLLING STONES @ ALTAMONT | WE’RE NOT IN WOODSTOCK ANYMORE… KEITH RICHARDS & GRAM PARSONS 1971 | SUMMER IN EXILE @ VILLA NELLCOTE

THE ROLLING STONES | ROAD WORN, FORLORN & ALMIGHTY GUITAR PORN

1969 DESERT TRIPPIN’ | GRAM PARSONS, ANITA PALLENBERG & KEITH RICHARDS

MARIANNE FAITHFULL | SISTER MORPHINE

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