THE ROLLING STONES 1972: “GET RID OF THEM OR I WON’T GO ON”
Back in the early days of promoting arena rock concerts, The Beatles were without a doubt the most celebrated and well known of all the concerts I did at the then Pittsburgh Civic Arena. The Stones came to town on November 24, 1965 two months after The Beatles, but they did poorly in comparison having sold only 9,131 tickets for a gross of $32, 614. The next time they came, I assured them that they would do well. I went to WDVE FM to ask for some favors in playing their records and hyping the show. The show was presented by WDVE, who did almost all of my concerts. Consequently, the show which played on July 22, 1972 was sold out to over 14,000 and grossed $80,380.70. It was the largest crowd I ever had up to that point.
On the night of the show, Bob Harper, the program director of DVE and a good friend of mine, was backstage with all of his disc jockeys from the station. In return of the favor of the station giving me a lot of free spots for the show, I agreed to permit their jock’s to go onstage to introduce the acts. They were proud of the fact that their station did such a good job promoting the Stones concert.
PLEADING WITH MICK JAGGER
It was intermission and I was at the box office, when the phone rang. John Woods, the box office manager, answered the phone and after he hung up he said to me, “Mick Jagger, wants to see you in his dressing room.”
That was never a good sign to me. Anytime the artist wants to see you in the dressing room, you can expect that it will be a problem. When I reached the dressing room, Mick said to me, “Who are all those people behind the stage?”
“They are the disc jockeys from WDVE. They are doing the emceeing for the show.” I replied.
“Well I don’t want anyone back stage and I don’t want anybody emceeing the show. Get rid of them now,” he demanded.
“But Mick, you don’t understand. They are with the show. Their station did a great job playing all of your records with heavy rotation, promoting you and presenting the show. I put their name on the ads and they have been promoting that they will be here. In addition, it is in your contract that they can announce you,” I pleaded.
“You will have to get rid of them. I don’t want them here and I don’t want anyone introducing us,” he insisted.
“I can’t do that. I have to live with these people and this is a big deal for them,” again I pleaded.
“Either you get rid of them or I won’t go on,” he insisted.
That was always the gun that the act held to your head – either you do this or that or I won’t go on. All acts can be and are unreasonable.
WHEN DOES MICK WANT ME ON STAGE? (HOW ABOUT NEVER)
I walked back stage and was met by Bob Harper. “What time will it start? This crowd is getting impatient. They want the Stones,” Bob anxiously remarked.
“Bob, we have to talk,” I said as I explained the way things went with Mick.
Bob responded, “We have a deal. You can’t do this to me. You go back and tell him that.”
I agreed with Bob and I wanted him to emcee as well, but I knew these acts had the power and sometimes you had to listen to them even if they are wrong. Not only will the Rolling Stones not do the show in the present circumstances, which could cause a riot, but the agent will never use me to promote their agency’s other acts.
“Bob, I can’t. He’s adamant. He doesn’t want anyone behind or on the stage but the group,” I firmly stated.
“Well you tell him that if we don’t announce him, WDVE will never play another Rolling Stones record again. I will break every Stones record in two on the air and tell the audience what he is like. Go on tell him,” he yelled.
I could barely hear him due to the loud roar of the crowd shouting in unison repeating, “We want the Stones.”
LISTEN TO THAT SCREAMING CROWD!
I returned to the dressing room to approach Mick and he quickly asked, “Well did you get rid of them?”
I told him what Bob had said and his reply followed as, “Do you hear that crowd screaming for us? You tell him that I don’t need him or his radio station and that he will have to play my records anyway whether he likes it or not.”
It was one of the most difficult things that I had to do. I didn’t think it was right, and I worried that I had injured my relationship with my friend Bob and WDVE.
I GUESS MICK WAS RIGHT
DVE knew they would have to play the Stones on their station. The Stones were too strong of an act not to have their records played. Sure it was hurtful and embarrassing for the guys at DVE, but they had no power. That was the same with me as a promoter. I was at the mercy of the act and I had to take their side. Later, I was able to talk the whole thing out with Bob. Of course Bob and DVE got over the incident.
I continued to give DVE all of my concerts not just then but for the next thirty years. Because of my shows, DVE was known as the concert station in the city. But not having the station’s jocks on the stage eventually became the norm. The strong acts didn’t want to be introduced. They just wanted to walk on stage unannounced. In addition, the audience didn’t like the corny taunting of the jocks.
I played The Stones many times since then, selling out stadiums and arenas with grosses into the multi millions of dollars. It is a far cry from the $32,614 gross in 1965. There aren’t that many acts that could gross those kind of numbers. Until then, The Stones can continue to be as arrogant as they please. Everyone in the industry including promoters and radio stations needs and depends on acts like them. They will continue to sell out large facilities and people will pay exorbitant ticket prices as well as the 25% service charge and handling fees to see them. By the way, there’s no need to worry Mick. You were right. No disc jockey will emcee your show. And WDVE, Pittsburgh’s premier rock station, probably plays The Stones more than any other group today.
- Pat DiCesare