Tag Archives: Rolling Stones

Still Life: American Concert 1981

In 1981, the Rolling Stones were at the top of their game. They had a No. 1 album, “Tattoo You,” from which the first single, Start Me Up, was a smash hit on the radio. They also had videos running constantly on a brand new cable station called MTV. The band’s tour that year was arguably the biggest any rock band ever done to date, filling large outdoor stadiums and sports arenas, including the Pontiac Silverdome. (I happened to be just starting high school at the time, and was therefore too young to go to the show.) Opening acts for the Stones that tour included Journey and George Thorogood. With the exception of bass player Bill Wyman, the lads were all still in their 30s. Mick Jagger, trim and fit and with long hair, wore football pants and performed shirtless through much of the show. Then for the encore (usually the song Satisfaction, some nights Street Fighting Man), he would come out on stage wearing a colorful cape made of the British and American flags sewn together. He sang into a cordless microphone, which he stuffed into his crotch while running about the stage during the instrumental bits.

Documenting this tour was a live album, released the following year, called “Still Life: American Concert 1981.” This is not considered one of the best Rolling Stones albums, but it was the first one that I ever bought. I got it at Meijer Thrifty Acres. I remember the DJ Allison Harte talking about the album on WLAV when it came out and playing songs from it. I also remember that at first I was not hugely impressed. My biggest complaint was the album’s length. It was just 10 songs! For some reason I thought this was a recording of a complete concert. I wondered what kind of band would only play for 45 minutes? It was not until years later that I learned that the Stones played 25 or more songs on that tour, for close to three hours each night.

At some point I was in my room playing the record with all the lights off (as I did back then) and it was one specific moment in the song Twenty Flight Rock, where the other members of the band give a brief pause while Mick sings a line, that got me. I can’t explain it. It was something about the band’s ability to do that, to be so precise, so tight, that got me hooked. I learned later that Twenty Flight Rock was an Eddie Cochran song that the Stones were doing a cover version of. They also did a cover of the Smokey Robinson and the Miracles song Going to a Go-Go, which got airplay on the radio and on MTV. But it was the song Twenty Flight Rock, all one minute and 45 seconds of it, that initiated my love for the Rolling Stones.

Here are a few additional notes about the 1981 Stones tour and the “Still Life” album:

  • The album contains an “intro” of Duke Ellington’s Take the A Train and an “outro” of Jimi Hendrix’s rendition of the Star Spangled Banner from Woodstock. Both the intro and outro were played at the concerts, the latter as fireworks exploded over the crowd.
  • The album artwork is by the Japanese artist Kazuhide Yamazaki, based on his colorful stage backdrops used on the tour.
  • In addition to the album, there was also a concert movie, directed by Hal Ashby, called “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” which was filmed at the 1981 Stones shows at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz., and at the Brendan Byrne Arena in East Rutherford, N.J. The movie came out in 1983 and was shown in movie theaters.
  • There was also a televised pay-per-view special with radio simulcast for the final show of the tour, at Hampton Coliseum in Hampton, Virginia. In 2014, this concert was released as a CD/DVD set, titled “From the Vault: Hampton Coliseum (Live in 1981).”
  • Following the 1981 tour of the USA, the Stones went on a big tour of Europe in 1982. They did not tour again until 1989.

If you get the “Still Life” album, listen to the song Twenty Flight Rock and let me know what you think. Also listen to the song Let Me Go (from their 1980 album Emotional Rescue, which opens Side 2) and tell me if you can count the number of different ways Mick sings the word “hey” and how he turns that one word into a whole sentence just about every time he sings it. You might also get hooked on the opening song, Under My Thumb, or by Shattered, or by Let’s Spend the Night Together, which is played with guitars rather than on piano.

And then there’s their live rendition of Time Is On My Side, which is played and sung with such emotion. By this time the Stones had been performing so long together that his song had real meaning for them and their fans, yet I was just starting to get to know them.

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The latest greatest hits collection from the Stones

If you know me well you know that I will always stop a conversation to point out when a Stones song like “Tumbling Dice,” “Hot Stuff” or “Emotional Rescue” is playing, and I will never leave a car or bar when one of these songs is still playing. Therefore — although I already have all the songs included on “Honk” on other albums and in other collections — I still got this on the first day it came out. I love it.

The lads usually put these compilations out before they go on tour, if they have not released a new studio album. So this is one of their many “best of” albums. Others include “Made in the Shade,” “Hot Rocks,” “Rewind,” “Jump Back,” “The Singles Collection,” “GRRR!” and “40 Licks.”

Rolling Stones Honk Fred MichmershuizenI got the three-CD edition of “Honk,” which includes two discs of “greatest hits” plus a bonus CD of songs recorded live, including several with special guests. What I like about this latest collection is its blend of big hits with some of their lesser-known songs. So, for example, on CD1 you get “Rocks Off” sandwiched between “Brown Sugar” and “Miss You.” CD2 includes some of their more recent but notable songs, including “Rough Justice,” “Rain Fall Down” and “Out of Control.” On CD3, the special guests on songs recorded live include Ed Sheeran on “Beast of Burden,” Dave Grohl on “Bitch” and Brad Paisley on “Dead Flowers.”

One song you won’t get on “Honk,” though, is “Honky Tonk Women.” That’s apparently because they are focusing on their studio albums released in 1971 and after. So, this is basically highlights from “Sticky Fingers” and thereafter.

If you don’t have any Stones albums and want to get just one, consider this one. The way I roll when I get a CD like this is stick it in and hit play, without looking at the packaging first to see what song is up next.

Stop and listen to Keith Richards play the guitar …

Keith Richards is 75 today. Think about that for a moment. Keith Richards is 75 YEARS OLD!!! Who coulda thunk, out of all the rock stars in the history of rock ’n’ roll, that KEITH RICHARDS would still be kicking it in 2018. And he’s still recording and playing live! The Rolling Stones are set to tour next year. It’s fucking hot if you ask me.

In honor of the occasion, here’s “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking,” from Side A of Sticky Fingers. Turn this up. You don’t have to play the whole song if you don’t want to. Just listen to the opening riff:


I scrolled down below the video to read some of the posted comments on YouTube. Here are some of the more colorful messages that people posted:

“I don’t listen to this song often. But when I do, so do my neghibors.”

“That guitar is so dirty. That guitar has been up all night drinking whiskey, smoking Marlboros, and there are two young ladies in a state of dishabille lying on the bed; and that guitar is about to go out to work and replace the transmission on a 59 Chevy Impala. That is how dirty that guitar is.”

“When you hear this song in a movie, you KNOW shits about to go down!”

“Went for heart surgery two years ago. The background music in the OR was classic Stones. I knew everything would be fine and, if by any bad luck I were to die, well that’s the way I wanted to leave this world anyway.”

Happy Birthday, Keith!

Sticky Fingers Live at the Fonda Theater 2015

When the lads were on tour in 2015, they decided to perform an entire album in concert, and “Sticky Fingers Live At the Fonda Theater” documents this complete show — on both DVD and also a companion music CD.

Review of Sticky Fingers Live at the Fonda Theater 2015 red MichmershuizenReleased in 1971, “Sticky Fingers” is one of the best albums the Stones ever put out. It has “Brown Sugar,” “Wild Horses” and Bitch” on it. It’s also the one featuring a close-up picture of a man’s crotch, complete with a working zipper! Back when people bought records, this was a really cool gimmick. Andy Warhol designed the cover, and I had always assumed it was Mick Jagger’s junk bulging out. But as we learn in some behind-the-scenes interviews on the DVD, it was actually a picture of a male model. In the interviews, two different guys claim to be the crotch-man. The world will never know.

Anyway, fast-forward to 2015, and the Stones are still touring — and they decide to perform this whole album in one show. For me, it’s a real pleasure to see the Stones play these songs in a smaller venue. They don’t go in order of the track listing on the album itself, but they do perform ALL the songs. There are many different kinds of songs, from hard rockers to slow blues and even some country songs. Many of the tracks on “Sticky Fingers” are not ones they usually play live. Some of my favorites on this particular concert DVD/CD set are “Sister Morphine,” “I Got the Blues” and “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking.”

Before they play the Sticky Fingers songs, they open with “Start Me Up,” and at the end they throw in an encore that includes a rollicking version of the BB King song “Rock Me Baby” in which Mick plays harmonica.

This is one of the many offerings in the “From The Vault” series from the Stones.


Early gems from the Stones

Back in the early 1960s, the BBC had a regulation in place that restricted the number of records they were allowed to play. It was called “needle time,” and there was a limit. So they got recording artists to come in to the studio and actually perform live for radio broadcasts. The Rolling Stones, who got their start during this era as a cover band playing mainly Chicago blues, classic R&B — and even, yes, country music! — were cut out for this. On each visit the BBC wanted them to play at least three songs, sometimes as many as five, including their latest hit.

Released late last year, “ON AIR” is a two-CD collection of these in-studio recordings. Each one of the songs is the band actually playing live. And they are really good. My personal favorites include “Route 66,” “Down the Road Apiece” and “2120 South Michigan Avenue.”

But it gets even better, because this special collection also includes eight — yes, eight! — songs that the Stones had never officially put out on any studio album. These songs are:

  • Hi Heel Sneakers
  • Fanny Mae
  • Roll Over Beethoven
  • Cops and Robbers
  • Memphis Tennessee
  • Ain’t That Loving You Baby
  • Beautiful Delilah
  • Crackin’ Up

Of course, a live version of “Crackin’ Up” is on Side 3 of the “Love You Live” album on the El Mocambo side. (What’s the the El Mocambo side, you ask? That’s a whole ’nother story.)

Up until now, you could only find these rare Stones songs on bootlegs with lousy sound quality. Now you can hear these songs as an official release, in really good audio. So if you want to have a complete collection of the Stones, “ON AIR” is a must. This is your chance to hear the lads at the height of their early prowess.

The Rolling Stones ON AIR

The Rolling Stones Exhibitionism

I went to the Rolling Stones “Exhibitionism” on opening day (Nov. 12) and again today (Feb 19) with my friend Steve. This is awesome. There are replicas of the lads’ messy apartment in London from the early 60s, a “backstage area” and even a reproduction of a recording studio. There’s a section on album artwork, another with scale models of their elaborate stage sets from the Steel Wheels, Bridges to Babylon and Voodoo Lounge tours. A whole room of Andy Warhol artwork, another featuring stage costumes spanning their entire career. Lots of video and audio displays and a 3-D movie at the end of “Satisfaction.” You can also see their guitars, a drum kit and notebooks with Mick’s hand-written lyrics to “Miss You,” “Lies,” “Some Girls” and many other songs. My favorite part was a mixing board where you can put on headphones and turn each band member’s instrument playing track up or down on about 10 different audio tracks, including “Start Me Up,” “Angie,” “Rocks Off” and “Sympathy for the Devil.”

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Fred Michmershuizen Rolling Stones

Concert Review: Stones Rock the Pontiac Silverdome

I wrote the concert review below after attending the Rolling Stones show at the Pontiac Silverdome on Dec. 2, 1997. It was the fourth time I had seen the Stones. I attended with my cousin Laurie.



The Stones show Dec. 2 at the Pontiac Silverdome outside Detroit in my native state of Michigan was for the most part fantastic. Aside from a few rough edges, especially in the first half of the show, the lads were in good form.

The high point of the concert was of course the three-song set from the small center stage. They should stay out there for more songs than just three. When the Stones are performing on that little stage, they play like more of a band than when they are on the humongous main stage. I think that being in close physical proximity to each other makes them play much tighter and better. “Little Queenie” was magic, especially when Keith did the famous Chuck Berry riff. Before they launched into “Like a Rolling Stone,” Mick said, “Here’s one Bob Dylan wrote for us many years ago.” (I knew he was joking, but did everyone else?) I wasn’t too happy when the Stones covered this one, but it really did sound incredible on stage. Mick sings it so well, and the crowd went absolutely wild for it. The third and final song from the small stage was “You Got Me Rocking,” not one of my favorites, but I was happy that they did something from the “Voodoo” album. The song was performed well and the crowd was really getting into it.

The Stones did four excellent new songs in this show—”Flip the Switch,” “ASMB,” “Out of Control,” and “Saint of Me”—but none of them was received as well as I had hoped. “Out of Control” has some awesome lyrics: specifically, the line where Mick sings, “And the drunks and the homeless they all know me,” but the echoes in the Silverdome sound system made it difficult to hear many of the words. (Later in the show the sound got much better.) As for the new songs, personally I wish they would throw in “Gunface,” which I think is the best song on the new album. (You were right, Steve!) During “ASMB,” Mick and the male backup singer included a line in the rap part about coming to rock “Detroit City,” but you couldn’t hear the male backup singer very well at all. (Every time Mick acknowledged the crowd by saying “Detroit City,” the crowd went wild.)

The cybercast vote went to “Just My Imagination.” Mick changed the line “She doesn’t even know me” to “she doesn’t f*cking know me.” Except for the tight last few chords, that song didn’t work at all, perhaps because they have not performed it much. Another misfire was “19th Nervous Breakdown.” To make that song sound great live, the Stones should have done two things: first, the descending bass line from the original should have been included (preferably with Bill Wyman performing it), and Mick should have gotten the crowd riled up to join him in the “Here-it-comes”es.

They had a mishap after “Sympathy for the Devil,” when Mick was leading the audience in an impromptu sing-along with the “woo-woos,” and Keith interrupted that by starting into “Tumbling Dice.” Oops.

“Gimme Shelter,” Miss You,” and all of the big hits at the end of the show sounded terrific. Keith played a bit of piano during “Honky Tonk Women,” and it was refreshing to see them doing that one without blowup dolls or hokey video clips. Just them performing it. They really sounded incredible. “Start Me Up” is one of my favorite Stones songs because it is so simple yet so much fun. “Jumping Jack Flash” and “Brown Sugar” are also a thrill. I was pleased that they included “You Can’t Always Get” in the encore. I must admit, though, that during “Brown Sugar” I was looking more at the glitter shower that was engulfing our section than the stage. And as always I enjoyed watching Mick dance and gyrate and run from one end of the stage to the other. Too bad he didn’t take off his shirt.

This was the fourth Stones show I had been to. (I also saw the first Giants Stadium show in September, plus shows on the ’89 and ’94 tour.) I am also going to see the Stones for at least two of the three Madison Square Garden shows in January.

A few other comments from this diehard Stones fan:

  • I absolutely love it when the Stones extend their songs at the end of a show. During “Jumping Jack Flash” and Brown Sugar,” they just kept repeating sections of the song to make it last longer and longer. It is evident that they really enjoy being on stage and performing in front of all these people.
  • I think it is brilliant that they open the show with the spotlight and video camera on Keith strumming out the lick for “Satisfaction.” Also, I like the close-ups throughout the show of “Keef” playing his guitar.
  • Charlie Watts is the best drummer ever in the history of rock’n’roll.
  • I think the backup singers and musicians have too great a presence on stage. I really wish that the contributions by the horn section and the backup singers were kept to a minimum, and certainly not included in every song.
  • I strongly suspect that the cyber cast vote is fixed. How could a song like “Factory Girl” win once and then be last place two days later? I don’t get it.
  • Keith and Mick, if you are reading this, and if you are taking requests, a few songs that I would be thrilled to have you perform live are the following: “Black Limo,” “When the Whip Comes Down,” “Where the Boys Go,” “Respectable,” “Lady Jane,” “Had It With You,” “She’s a Rainbow,” “Undercover of the Night” “Memory Motel” and of course “Shattered.” (Please play some of these songs at the Garden!)

Set list:

  1. Satisfaction
  2. Let’s Spend the Night Together
  3. Flip the Switch
  4. Gimme Shelter (with Lisa Fischer vocal)
  5. Anybody Seen My Baby
  6. Saint of Me
  7. 19th Nervous Breakdown
  8. Out of Control
  9. Imagination (cybercast vote)
  10. Miss You (great sax solo)
  11. All About You (Keith vocal)
  12. Wanna Hold You (Keith)
  13. Little Queenie (center stage)
  14. Like a Rolling Stone (center stage)
  15. You Got Me Rocking (center stage)
  16. Sympathy
  17. Tumbling Dice
  18. Honky Tonk Women
  19. Start Me Up
  20. Jumping Jack Flash
  21. You Cant Always Get What You Want (encore)
  22. Brown Sugar (encore)

One final note about the Silverdome show: I heard secondhand news reports when I got home that night that a guy who was dancing on a handrail during the show fell to his death. If this is true, and I believe it is, I certainly did not see any evidence of it from where I was sitting.

I posted this review to the IORR (It’s Only Rock N Roll) fan site. To see other reviews from this show, click here.