A FAN’S NOTES
Twenty-twenty Flight Rock
Early January in Las Vegas I hit the jackpot. I was guiding Ann through Caesars Palace pointing out examples of American Grotesque and the lack of an apostrophe. We dawdled in an expensive memorabilia store called Field of Dreams. There’s one in every major resort along The Strip. In the back amongst the cheap kitsch I came across a Rolling Stones 1981 American tour poster, five flying red tongues over a bottle green Statue of Liberty, the only one there, condition very good, priced at $10. Ann engineered its liberation from the display case and a free indestructible packing tube. Score!
I collect Rolling Stones tour posters. Some are marvels of commercial art. Some have more meaning because I was there. A few are both. My predilection is a passive passion. There’s no joy in seeking them out, they’re best enjoyed stumbled upon just as music is more fun to buy in a record shop as opposed to clicking on an Amazon thumbnail.
I’ve seen the Stones seven times between 1978 and 2005. Could’ve been nine or ten but real life got in the way. I caught the 1981 tour twice, bussing from Montreal to gigs in upper New York State, Buffalo and Syracuse. I could not withstand that particular hellish migration now. I’m 60. I was 21 then. My Syracuse companion advised me to eat a gram of hash before we reached the American border. The full body stone kicked in at the university’s field house before we boarded a shuttle bus to the Carrier Dome. I came to when the Stones came on relieved I hadn’t died in a toilet stall because I sort of remembered sheltering in a confined space, hypnotised by the toes of my black Reeboks. A porcelain toilet, stonewashed Levis down, plumbing stopped up, vaguely aware of my lit cigarette and dangling testicles.
Valentine’s Day Rolling Stones 2020 tour tickets went on sale. My God, they formed in 1962. I’ve no memory of existing in a world without the Rolling Stones. I learned the cheap seats for Vancouver’s BC Place, their only Canadian date, were selling for $255, a lot of money for massive video screen viewing and the one or two surprise songs in their Rosetta Stone set list. The last couple of times I tried to get tickets to a Stones show I was utterly galled by the tickets’ cost, admittedly inflated by the exchange rate between American and Canadian dollars. Ultimately, one of those concerts was cancelled and the other postponed.
Travelling to a Rolling Stones gig has always involved an element of medical risk. In their prime, it was recreational drugs, arrest and possibly death. In their lucrative dotage, the concern is cardiac arrest and death. My life has changed since I had to squirm through the educational film ‘From Boy to Man,’ just as my puberty intersected with ‘Hot Rocks.’ Society has changed; tastes in popular music have changed but the Rolling Stones never have except for the rare experimental album track like the jazz-inflected ‘Can’t You Hear Me Knocking’ or the Chemical Brothers’ treatments on ‘Anybody Seen My Baby.’ They remain a reassuring constant in my life and I’ve loved them all as there’s been some turnover in the cast of characters.
I recently joined a Facebook group dedicated to Stones memorabilia, trinkets, bootlegs, posters. I’ve scrolled through the posts. I said to Ann, “You know, all things considered, I’m a pretty stable and healthy individual. I mean, Jesus, look at some of this stuff. That’s in somebody’s living room.” meGeoff’s Stones’ world is mostly confined to the basement of the Crooked 9. Granted, there’s some spillover.
Still, I’ve matured somewhat. Managed the best I can. Too wise yet always tempted to spend hundreds of dollars on a Stones ticket and thousands of dollars on travel. At their age. At my age. And Ann, essentially tolerant, patient not patronising, is a willing partner in crime should an opportunity arise. Their road may go on forever, ours won’t. But Rolling Stones songs have already transported me to swinging London, Chicago, Memphis, the Mississippi Delta, Nashville, Motown, New York City and Kingston, Jamaica: blues, rock, country, gospel, disco, funk and reggae. And didn’t I retrieve some wonderful memories at a bargain price in Las Vegas of all places.