Everyone talks about how old the Rolling Stones are getting, but nobody does anything about it. Except, that is for a few friends of mine – we choose to relive a time when the world’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll band and we were all gathering no moss.
The year was 1975. The four of us were in colleges spread across the South, but our bonds had been forged in high school and in our love for rock ‘n’ roll music played at a decibel level high enough to un-nerve our parents and later to enrich our audiologists.
The best tickets to the Stones concert at the Omni that summer were being distributed to people who had lots of money or who had been in town when the seats went on sale. Falling in neither category, we were shut out of the Atlanta event, so we employed a recently-learned tactic in college: the midnight road trip!
Having learned Mick & Co. were playing the next night in Greensboro and, even more important, to a general admission audience, we knew we could rely on our youth to gain advantage.
Charging up I-85 and arriving shortly before 5 a.m. the day of the concert, Mike Egan, Charles Driebe and George Long and I attached ourselves to the front gate of the Greensboro Coliseum and held on for dear life the rest of the day as 15,000 more gathered behind us and tried every tactic to move up in line.
The four of us were already practicing our future careers: lawyers Mike and Charles spent the day deposing police, security and coliseum officials to map out the shortest route to the coliseum floor. I brought my reporter’s notebook and camera to record the event for posterity. George, already pre-med, was using his broken leg and hefty cast to deter others from entering our exclusive waiting area at the gate’s opening.
When the gates opened at 6 p.m., three of us sprinted through doorways, between railings, down stairs and over a six foot drop to land on the arena floor, where we locked our arms on the wooden barricade at the foot of the elevated stage. Catching our breaths, we turned around and were stunned to see an empty arena.
Suddenly we saw our Sympathy for the Devil strategy had worked: the next person to enter was Jumping Jack George, hobbling with his cast, with hundreds of impatient fans at his back. He jumped down the six foot drop as if he had a flexible cast and joined us at the front. We watched as within minutes the coliseum filled from bottom to top. Then I went to work with my camera, snapping close-up shots of the concert the four of us will never forget. Partly because we often get together, review the photos and relive the drama.
A few months ago, Charles called me to propose another Carolina road trip. This time to catch the Stones in Charlotte at the new outdoor stadium. Realizing we have grown old with the Stones, we relied on newer skills: weaseling. We were among the last to arrive at the stadium and negotiated our way to the photographers’ check-in. Charles flashed his cameras and his music editor’s credentials and I showed my publisher’s card. Charles approached the “bench.” “If you have any extra tickets …” he said to a media-herder, who shouted back, “There are no extra tickets.”
A few minutes later, a Stones official who heard us quietly and respectfully arguing our case walked up and offered us two tickets. They were on the second row. Just a slight step down from the seats in Greensboro 22 years earlier, but certainly a lot easier to attain.
Photo: Photo of Mick Jagger and Ron Wood, from our front row seat in Greensboro, NC in 1975.