The Rolling Stones were the ultimate bad boys of rock – with leather jackets and arrests for peeing on a service station in England, these guys were anti-establishment. Most kids liked the Beatles, but hip kids tended to like the Stones and all they stood for. Three years before Altamont, the Stones in ’66 were the image of pure, raw excitement.
The show on June 28, 1966, was like being given an audience with the Pope! Early that summer, we were listening to Bob Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone” with the great Al Kooper organ parts. “Monday, Monday” by the Mamas and the Papas was released that spring and getting heavy airplay. The Stones were on a tear, releasing “19th Nervous Breakdown” in March and “Paint It Black” two weeks before the concert. A hot new band from Long Island, the Young Rascals, had a hit with the infectious “Good Lovin.” But Aftermath, the latest Stones album, was on everyone’s turntable.
We pulled into Buffalo in early afternoon and the radio station was blaring, “Nothing but the Stones, all day, all night!” On the bill was an all-star lineup featuring The Standells, The McCoys, The Ike & Tina Turner Revue, and the Stones. Our seats were great – Section 15, Row A, Seats 4 thru 10 – and cost $5!
The auditorium was like an airplane hanger. Our seats were at the side of the runway that extended from the main stage, and we could see three sets of equipment lined up for the show. The runway was very wide, about 20 feet, and I remember the opening act was able to put most of its gear right on the ramp. There was a large black curtain draped across the back of the stage, behind the amps.
At 8 p.m., a DJ came out and thanked everyone for supporting the local radio station. After a brief introduction, he shouted, “Let’s get the show going!” and out ran The Standells. They opened with their hit, “Dirty Water” and sounded good, considering the cavern they were trying to fill. They were dressed in black and sang only a handful of songs, but were well received.
As the stage was cleared and set or the McCoys, the drums and amps were pulled further onto the runway. “Hang on Sloopy” was still a very real, infectious riff that had been a huge hit earlier that year. As Rick Derringer led the band, you only noticed how short he seemed – he had to adjust the mic stand down about a foot. And, their drummer stood up to play. They made a point of announcing the drummer was only 16. Even at this early point of his career, Derringer was an excellent guitarist and the obvious focus of the group. At about 9:15, they thanked the cheering crowd and left the stage.
In a blast of sound from an open G chord, the grinding rhythm and blues machine that was The Ike & Tina Turner Revue appeared, Tina and the Ikettes in full throttle! The Ikettes had all the moves, and white-suited Ike was in complete control of the band. He strolled back and forth between the drums and the bass player, watching everything very carefully. Meanwhile, out front, Tina was singing “Shake a Tail Feather” with the Ikettes leaning over while she howled, “Bend over let me see you shake a tail feather!” They were pure sexual excitement, and we had never seen anything like it!
The perfect formula moved everyone. People who had never heard of The Ike & Tina Turner Revue before went out the next day to find a record. When Tina sang, “I’ve been loving you a little too long” and tilted her head back so her hair cascaded down her back, you knew this was real gospel! After 50 minutes, they left the stage, every one of them dripping sweat as they headed down the sidesteps.
The room was then buzzing in anticipation and the final stage was set. We watched nearly breathless as the tarps came off the Fender Dual Showman amps. Mick Jagger had an EV664 microphone in the middle of the platform. On the far right stood a mic for Brian Jones, while Bill Wyman and Keith Richards shared one on our side. Charlie Watts was on a small riser only about a foot off the stage. The crew left and the house lights went down.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s all about to happen – The Rolling Stones!”
As Watts rolled into “Get Off of My Cloud,” he threw two drumsticks into the audience, and it was pandemonium from the start! Split far to the right was Jones, with a sweater, jeans, and leather boots, and his white Vox Teardrop six-string. He stood 15 feet from the band, and had perfect blond hair – an obvious favorite with all the girls on his side of the stage. Jagger wore his trademark jacket that peeled off as soon as tension hit the breaking point. Wyman played his vertical Framus almost straight up and stood close to Richard, who was playing his Epiphone Casino. The fuzz line for “Satisfaction” was next, and all of a sudden the crowd on either side of the runway exploded! Jagger was off down the ramp, prancing while the line repeated. Next came the new hit, “Paint It Black,” which the week before had introduced America to the sitar.
Jagger turned “Spider and the Fly” into a theatrical piece. It was a big hit live: “Then she said hi,” he hissed. “Just like a spider to a fly, come right into my web!” Then Keith took over again with the riff for “The Last Time.”
“19th Nervous Breakdown” had the guitars trading the opening lines – Jones picking out the tremolo parts underneath Richard’s fuzz lines behind “You better stop, here it comes, here it comes…” And those dramatic, almost frantic opening chords. The song also featured Wyman’s great sliding bass parts behind the chorus.
The final song was “Under My Thumb,” which has a terrific guitar/bass line for live performance, and was repeated at the end into the big finale, with Watts rolling around the set and then – boom! They were up, waved to the crowd, and were gone!
There was no encore. As suddenly as they had appeared, the Stones were gone and the house lights went up to a rousing ovation. We wondered if there wasn’t some sort of union time limit because it had ended so quickly. Legend has it certain bandmembers turn ed up at a downtown bar and drank with the second shift plant workers into the wee hours…
Our car pulled into the night, headed across town. We were exhilarated! Awestruck! We’d just seen The Rolling Stones and had a glimpse of the future of rock and roll, years before Springsteen was hailed on the New Jersey shore.
Two years later, Jones would be dead and the first phase of the Stones’ career would abruptly end. Brian Taylor would fill the void for Exile on Main Street, and later, Ronnie Wood would complete the lineup. But this night, all the players had been perfectly in place and the show was Magic. We had witnessed a truly unforgettable rock and roll event.
Rolling Stones photos: Dennis and Sherri Buhrmann.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Jan. ’00 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.