Sunday, December 7, 2014

Karen Durbin, Chet Flippo, Mick Jagger: No Sympathy

Jagger, aloft in 1975: you can't catch me
I've been reading about the Rolling Stones' 1975 tour ("Of the Americas") and was struck when I noticed that two journalists—Karen Durbin and Chet Flippo—each reporting independently in different sources (The Village Voice and Rolling Stone, respectively)—had precisely the same response to an answer Mick Jagger gave at a press conference following the first show of the tour (at the Louisiana State University Assembly Center, in Baton Rouge). Jagger was holding forth for a group of visiting British journalists, and was asked about Altamont, the ultimately tragic free show that the Stones had played in 1969; the mayhem and violence of that event was documented by Albert and David Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin in their absorbing film Gimme Shelter (1970).

Durbin, from "Can the Stones Still Cut It?", The Village Voice, June 23, 1975 (reprinted in Rock She Wrote: Women Write About Rock, Pop, and Rap):
A moment later, one of the reporters asked, "Tell me, Mick, have you sing 'Sympathy for the Devil' since...then?"
     Thus respectfully was the touch subject of Alatamont broached. "Sure, sure, hundreds of times," said Mick, cheerfully lying. "We were going to do it tonight, we just forgot." And into the small silence which followed this absurd statement, he suddenly sang, in a high, sweet falsetto: "Please allow me to introduce myself..." Just the first line, nothing more. But then you remember the line that follows. A man of wealth and taste indeed.
Flippo, from It's Only Rock 'N' Roll: My On-The-Road Adventures With The Rolling Stones:
He was then asked if the Stones had performed "Sympathy for the Devil" since "then" ("then" being the disastrous Altamont concert of 1969 when demonic powers of darkness seemed to accompany that anthem to the unknown void). "Oh yeah," Mick said casually, "we've done it hundreds of times." total bullshit of course. The Stones had done it fourteen times on their 1970 European tour, but had been careful to drop it from their 1971 British tour and their 1972 dates in the united States. No one dared to call him down on that; Mick being the exalted Mick, after all.
Durbin and Flippo also both scoff at the imperious presence of the hapless British journalists—Durbin dismisses the obsequious over-respect they pay to Jagger; Flippo sniffs that the journalists were "slavering, unsuccessfully, to get Stones Access." I'm enjoying this image I have of Durbin and Flippo at either ends of the table, eyeing Jagger skeptcially, sifting myth from fact, scribbling in theit notebooks. (Later in Flippo's book, he meets Durbin; maybe they compared notes.) Moments later Jagger pranced away, publicly unharmed, the PR master smooth as always. The gap between public persona and truth, between Rock Stars and casualties, was ever-widening.

~~

Here are the Stones performing "Sympathy For The Devil" at the Forum in Los Angeles on July 11, five weeks after the press conference. Altamont must've seemed a lifetime ago, or at least Jagger hoped, or believed, that it was:




Photo of Jagger via The Los Angeles Times.

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