In the vicinity of the Rolling Stones

Bill Mann mann overboard
Posted 5/15/24

The Rolling Stones’ visit to Seattle on May 15 has brought back memories of when I covered the Stones for the Montreal Gazette back in the day and what turned out to be a scary experience on …

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In the vicinity of the Rolling Stones


The Rolling Stones’ visit to Seattle on May 15 has brought back memories of when I covered the Stones for the Montreal Gazette back in the day and what turned out to be a scary experience on the floor. 

I was the rock critic for the newspaper and assigned a page-one story about the band, which was coming to town. A pre-concert story, it involved going to the Ritz-Carlton to interview the just-arrived Stones. I found out what floor the band had booked and started knocking on doors. One opened, and I cringed. I’d never seen an ogre before, but that’s what Stones bassist Bill Wyman looked like. Forgive my tastelessness, but this was the homeliest person I’d ever encountered.

I thought I’d come out alright when I saw the tickets. It looked like my wife and I had snagged the best seats in the house, one of the first rows, right below the stage. We were so close to the stage we could see Mick Jagger’s blue eyeshadow. The opening chords of a great overture,  “Start Me Up,” rang out, soon followed by a different tune, one that sounded like more of a stampede. An insta-mosh pit. It was like a soccer riot in the cavernous Montreal Forum, and it was scary. 

Moshing is an extreme style of dancing, where participants push and even slam into each other. ’Twas not a named thing yet, but that’s what it was. We began slowly tunneling under the pressing, overheated sea of humanity, finally working our way out.

Lesson learned: you can’t always get what you want.

We were so close to the stage that had we stayed, we might have almost — almost — made out the obscure lyrics of “Tumblin’  Dice.”

I spotted the concert promoter, Donald K. Tarlton, and thanked him for the great tickets. “But never,” I pleaded, “give me seats that close to the stage again.” I then told him about the pressing matters we’d experienced.

“Okay, let me make it up to you,” said the amicable Montreal-based concert producer. “How’d you like to go with me to the band’s after-concert party in their rooms at the Ritz-Carlton?” My wife had enough, and she headed home, and I went to the party. The after-concert hotel gathering featured young women admiring Keith Richard’s and Mick Jagger’s blues recordings on cassette players on their beds. Bored, I soon left. (Crazy, huh?)

Today, several decades later, it’s hard to believe Jagger is 80. He looks not a day over, well, 60. The current Stones tour stopping at Lumen Field is sponsored by AARP — I am not making this up.  I remember a great line that one of the group’s songs tonight will be “Hey, You! Get Offa My Barcalounger!”

I’ve been a Stones fan for many years, and I played a lot of their songs on my  Montreal FM radio show.

In Montreal, we became friends with a woman who sang background vocals on what is arguably the best rock-and-roll album ever — the Stones’ “Let It Bleed.” This album has everything — sex, drugs AND rock-and-roll. 

That Montreal friend, Quebec pop star Nanette Workman, can be heard accompanying Jagger on a parody song on that album, “Country Honk,” a clever takeoff of the Stones classic “Honky Tonk Women.” Nanette had impressive rock-and-roll creds of her own — she was the former girlfriend of “The “French Elvis,”Johnny Hallyday.

A few weeks later, I was asked by the Montreal radio station, where I  did my rock show, to produce a six-hour documentary about the Stones. I jumped at the chance.

That’s a whole lot of programming, but I caught a big break and snagged a guy who was in town and who was arguably the top Stones expert  — famed rock critic Lester Bangs, portrayed by Phillip Seymour Hoffman in the classic rock film, “Almost Famous.”

Lester came to our apartment in Montreal, and as long as I kept rolling him joints, Bangs, a talented writer who died in 1982, kept rattling off funny and witty Stones insights that I recorded. I asked him Stones questions as we listened to “Exile on Main Street,” another great album.

One of Bangs’ classic lines I still remember was when I asked him the predictable, Beatles or Stones? 

“The Beatles,” smiled Bangs. “They put rock-and-roll in the living room. The Stones put it in the bedroom.”

Leader columnist and former rock critic Bill Mann may be listening to “Let It Bleed” as you read this. Or answering reader email at