Mick Taylor, the boyish guitar wonder who joined the Stones at 21yo to replace Brian Jones, and then contributed some of the most recognizable classic guitar parts during their classic period between 1969 and 1974. That would be the period that includes Let it Bleed, Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out, Sticky Fingers, Exile on Main Street, Goats Head Soup and It's Only Rock 'n' Roll. Sticky Fingers was my go-to album all through high school. The album I played before swim meets to get me worked up. The album I could play in my head in its entirety to pass the time while working in the over-loud pineapple cannery.
In a moment my mental picture of Taylor went from:
I had to remind myself that, yes, we're all getting older (if we're lucky -- Brian Jones, for example, isn't, but that's a different story). And there's a certain inevitability to getting older, including but not limited to this: we aren't going to look like we did when we were 21 or 25 or even 35. Not Taylor, not me, not my kids.
Why does it matter? It probably doesn't much, beyond the fact that it feeds into a memory I recently had. My sister drove her 15yo son up from Olympia to Seattle to leave him for the day at Bumbershoot, our local, multi-day music festival. She swung by our house on her way back home, and I told her how her willingness to do this reminded me of something our mother had once done for me.
Back in January of 1973, the Rolling Stones played at the HIC in Honolulu. They were headed west on their Pacific Tour, with Hawaii their last U.S. stop. And for some reason, my mother had the confidence and generosity and boldness to allow me, all of 14yo, to attend. I may have browbeat her into it. I'm not sure. That's not a detail I remember.
It all came about through a fluke of luck and timing. The 2 scheduled shows (1/21 8pm and 1/22, 10pm) had quickly sold out, and they added a 3rd, early show on 1/22. I somehow managed to get a nose-bleed ticket to that 6pm show. Up in the last row. The ticket cost me $6.50 and I still have the stub.
Mom dropped me off at the HIC and came back for me 2 hours later. I can't imagine what it must have felt like, dropping her 14yo son off at something like that. The Stones had a reputation, and there was already a long-haired, counterculture crowd gathered. It probably helped a lot that the show was so early. I may have been the only kid dropped off by his mom at the show that night.
Looking back, I'm amazed at my mother's willingness to allow me this experience, and I'm extremely grateful. As a result, I managed to see the Stones play during one of their all-time great tours, managed to see Taylor play in his second-to-last-ever US concert (one bootleg of the late show that same night is called "Mick Taylor's Last U.S. Performance"). For years this concert was my best-ever live show attended. It may still be. Imagine seeing the Stones in their prime! Wow. But even more important to me is the memory of my mother allowing me this opportunity. That, in the end, matters as much as the music.
It's a reminder that being a parent sometimes means giving kids some space, giving them some rope and opportunity and hoping, praying they don't choke themselves. I sat in that nosebleed section, surrounded by older men (mostly), peering through a smoky haze at the far away stage, declining multiple offers of shared joints, watching Mick Jagger prance around the stage in his white jumpsuit, watching Keith and Mick sit facing each other with acoustic guitars to play Sweet Virginia (or was it Dead Flowers?), feeling the crazy intensity of the band and the crowd, chest resonating with the amplified bass and drums, and by the end of the evening, ears ringing, I knew I'd been a part of something special.
My mom provided me many good examples of parenting, and one of the most important things she did was give me a sense that she trusted my judgment (and so, helping me to live up to her expectations). Among other experiences she exposed me to that same year: the Broadway Cast version of Hair (and the Honolulu Symphony Hall) for my 13th birthday and a screening of Woodstock at the Waialai Drive-in Theater (right next to the Jolly Rogers drive-in). She had an open mind and a willingness to give me experiences.
I only hope I'm able to give my own girls a sense of my respect and trust of them, and to allow them to experience things for themselves, to make their own decisions and their own way in this world. After all, how else do we form our sense of ourselves and the world except through experiences? Nothing else has the same impact.
I'm forever grateful for Mom for giving me this opportunity, and hope I can live up to her example.
P.S. It's interesting to read about the show now. To quote from one web page: "[Ben] Fong-Torres characterized this concert as a downer compared to the first show... a somewhat tired, slow performance..." But that didn't (and doesn't) matter to me. As I said, it's more about my mom than about the Stones.
P.P.S. Also interesting is to read that ZZ Top opened for the Stones. If I close my eyes and imagine hard enough, I can imagine that I remember this, but I don't, not really.
And one final note: Here's the set list for the late show that same night, from an audience recording I have ("Mick Taylor's Last...."). The early show, my show, would have been (nearly?) identical:
- Brown Sugar
- Rocks Off
- Gimme Shelter
- It's All Over Now
- Tumbling Dice
- Sweet Virginia
- Dead Flowers
- You Can't Always Get What You Want
- All Down The Line
- Midnight Rambler
- Rip This Joint
- Jumping Jack Flash
- Street Fighting Man