In 1969 The Rolling Stones did a major tour of the United States.
It was my third year at Penn State, my second in Mifflin Hall, and we had an influx of fresh blood that year.
There was Dave Royer from Lancaster, PA. Dave was a musician, he played the guitar and probably other instruments as well, and his knowledge of rock music was wide and deep. I think it was his idea to try to go see the Stones when they played in Philadelphia.
Jon Graves hailed from the Germantown section of Philadelphia. He probably got the tickets for us.
And Carl Gruber was from New Cumberland, near Harrisburg. He and Jon had some sort of friendly rivalry going on. I still remember the time Carl ended one of their sessions with “I know why they call you Graves. Cause you’re all a bunch of deadbeats!”
And then there was me. I was the driver. Given how much I hate driving today, it rather amazes me that I made the round trip (three hours each way) in one night back then.
There may have been one or two others who made the trek with us, but those are the only ones I remember for certain.
I was not especially a Stones fan in those days. Some folks claimed they were the greatest rock band, but I reserved that distinction for the Beatles. Still do. The Beatles were far more versatile and their music was much more interesting as music than anything the Stones ever did.
Still, I liked them well enough, and hearing Dave talk about them made me really look forward to the concert.
So on Tuesday November 25, 1969, we headed to Philadelphia.
The venue was the Spectrum, an indoor sports complex which has since been torn down. We had upper level seats, pretty far back from the stage, but of course the sound system filled the place.
The opening act was B.B. King. I’d have paid the $7.50 just to hear him.
When the Stones came on, I really didn’t know what to expect. What I got was some great rock music punctuated by an androgynous Mick Jagger prancing and dancing back forth at the front of the stage as he swirled his scarf around this way and that to the enthusiastic encouragement of the audience. The scarf was so long that he risked meeting Isadora Duncan’s fate were it to get tangled up in one of the other band member’s guitars, but whatever. I have no idea if his movements were choreographed (they looked random to me), but as I said, the crowd was eating up everything he did.
It was a fun show, and we all had a great time. And yes, we were all stone cold sober.
And we had a long drive back. I don’t really remember, but we probably got back around 4 or 5 AM.
Two postscripts to this story:
One of the three gentlemen that I mentioned—Dave, Jon, Carl—is Black. Can you guess which one?
Eleven days after this concert, the Stones gave their infamous free Altamont Concert at which four people lost their lives and many more were injured.