The Rolling Stones at Washington, DC RFK Stadium July 4th 1972
I grew up in the late 1960s a huge Rolling Stones fan. My godmother’s daughter (does that make her my godsister?) was U.S. president of the Rolling Stones fan club in 1966. I had all of their records and I desperately wanted to see them perform live.
So imagine my delight when in the Spring of 1972 tickets became available for a July 4 concert at RFK stadium. They sold out quickly but I managed to score a couple. Time passed very slowly for me between that day and the actual day of the concert.
We all piled into my friend’s VW and headed out. It was festival seating so we wanted to get there early enough to get decent seats. As it happens we arrived about 1:30pm and got the perfect seats (for a baseball game – front row behind the 3rd base dugout) and as the stage was being set up at 2nd base excellent seats for that night’s show.
So there we were, with 5 hours to kill before Stevie Wonder was to entertain us as the opening act. The pungent aroma of whacky tobaccy wafted through the air and bottles of cheap wine were passed around. It was a splendid atmosphere and everything was going along swimmingly until we began to hear a loud disturbance coming from behind us. It was shouting and chanting and it was coming from outside the main gate. Apparently, some kids were trying to rush the security manning the entrance and crash the scene!
Well this was all mildly amusing until someone yelled out “they’re shooting tear gas!” Which got us all giggling right up until the wind changed direction and started blowing the gas into the stadium. We stopped giggling at that point and tried to hold our breath. This worked for awhile, until we needed to actually breathe, and then it was unpleasant to say the least. Our eyes were stinging and we were all suffering.
Finally the cops got a clue and stopped with the tear gas. The air cleared and the first act took the stage. Stevie Wonder was fine. Almost nobody cared about him (which was a shame) but he did his thing for about half an hour and then got off the stage much to the appreciation of the majority of the crowd. Such is the life of an opening act.
Then another 45 minutes went by and finally the Stones took the stage. If you’ve ever seen the movie “Ladies and Gentlemen the Rolling Stones” then that was the same tour. Probably their best tour ever. They were supporting their new album “Exile on Main Street”. Lots of good songs on that one plus they did all of their hits to date (the very same hits everybody wants to hear today). Mick noted the historic occasion (he majored in economics and history after all at the London School of Economics) and congratulated us all on our independence.
I have been to four Stones concerts over the years and every single one produced an atmosphere that was so thick you could cut it with a knife. I don’t know what it is about that band, but they do two amazing things every time. They create an amazing atmosphere as I said and they relate to the crowd as though you were an equal. Absolutely no sign of “hey I’m a rock star thanks for your bread man and we’ll play what we want or not play at all, whatever”. It’s uncanny but you really feel like they’re your buddies from next door and that they’re just hanging out with you for that 2 hour period.
Well they played for a little over 2 hours and 3 encores and then it was time to stumble back to the car and try to find our way home again. All in all just the best experience that a 20 year-old could have had back then that didn’t involve Robert Redford and the Mormon Taburnacle Choir. Oh come on, use your imagination.