Wrecked in America

In mid-June 1966, the Rolling Stones released Aftermath. It’s notable because it’s the first Stones album to contain exclusively Jagger/Richards compositions, so it represents the same artistic leap forward as the Beatles’ album A Hard Day’s Night, the first Beatles album with no songs by outside writers. It’s also the first Stones album released in stereo, and the first one the band recorded exclusively in America, at RCA Studios in Hollywood during sessions in December 1965 and March 1966. Perhaps it was the California atmosphere that led the Stones to experiment with new sounds on the album, such as sitar and marimbas.

Also like A Hard Day’s Night, Aftermath appeared in different configurations in the UK and the United States. The American version was shorter—11 songs instead of 14—had different cover art, and used different mixes. The American version omitted “Mother’s Little Helper,” “Out of Time,” “What to Do,” and “Take It or Leave It,” but included “Paint It, Black,” the Stones’ current American single, as the first track. (This review from Allmusic.com sorts out the differences.)

“Mother’s Little Helper” would get a single-only release in the States in July, a couple of weeks after the release of Aftermath. The absence of the hot new single from the new album must have been a bit frustrating for Stones fans, although it didn’t keep them from buying either one. Aftermath became the Stones’ fifth straight top-10 album in America, and the first of three in a row to peak at #2 on the Billboard album chart. It contains several Stones classics in addition to “Paint It, Black” and “Mother’s Little Helper.” “Lady Jane” sounds like a number from Elizabethan minstrels 400 years removed in time from Chicago blues, while  “Goin’ Home” is an 11-minute jam. “Stupid Girl” and “Under My Thumb” were controversial for the attitude they displayed toward women in an era of rising feminist consciousness.

Right after the album came out, the Stones came to America for a month-long concert tour. It would, in the style of that era, be a remarkably intense month, town after town, night after night, with precious little time off.

The tour was scheduled to begin in suburban Boston on Friday, June 24, but the Stones arrived in New York the day before. On that day, according to the fabulous Rolling Stones database for 1966, Bill Wyman did a session backing singer/songwriter John Hammond on a couple of blues numbers, joined by guitarist Robbie Robertson, eventually of the Band. The next day, the Stones held a press conference aboard a boat in the Hudson River to plug the tour. Another source reports that they spent some time with Bob Dylan that day also, but the Stones database doesn’t confirm it, so I dunno.

After the press conference, it was up to Lynn, Massachusetts, and a New Deal-era stadium called the Manning Bowl for the tour’s opening show. Sources conflict about what happened that night. One source says it was a rainy night, and 10 songs into the show, the Stones fled the weather. Many in the crowd of 8,000 decided to follow them, and police were forced to use tear gas to restore order. Another source says that the cops moved to calm crazed fans only about 20 minutes into the show, and used tear gas to move them back from the stage. On Thursday June 30 in Montreal, the show included another near-riot, this one because, according to Mick Jagger, theater security started randomly beating up fans.

After their first day off in 11 days, the Stones turned west, with a show on July 6 in Syracuse, then they visited Detroit, Indianapolis, and Chicago. While in Chicago, they jammed a bit with blues legend Jimmy Reed. A show in Houston on July 11 seems to have resulted in a fringe benefit: a supply of Mexican marijuana, which kept the band “wrecked every day,” according to Keith Richards, and papered over some of the ongoing conflict between Brian Jones and the others. Three days of off-time in California likely helped the mood, too, in advance of the tour’s final leg: nine shows in eight days before a tour-ending hop to Honolulu.

Here’s an incredible artifact: 29 minutes of the Honolulu show—which may have been the whole thing—with pretty decent audio quality, from July 28, 1966.

(Combined and edited from a couple of posts in my WNEW.com archives.)

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3 responses

  1. I remember (I think I wrote something about it once) the Stones played a couple of relatively small and obscure venues in the Boston area in their first touring years.
    I suspect the folks who ran the Boston Garden didn’t want them — though the Stones got there anyway, eventually.

  2. Your run-down of those song titles reminds me of a story. A few days ago my neighbor had a garage sale where I saw a pristine CD copy of Hot Rocks. I almost spent the buck and a half for it but perused the titles and realized that I never would willfully listen to those tunes, not after radio has burned them into my ears for all these years.

    Plus I always liked the Beatles better.

    1. “Hot Rocks” was one of the first albums I ever bought with my own money. I never mind hearing “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” or “Brown Sugar,” but I’m pretty much done with the rest of it too.

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