A Journey to Lucca to see the Rolling Stones. September 2017.
This journey began on my 11th birthday in February 1967. My brother Tony gave me a copy of “Let’s spend the night together” as my present. My, “there won't be any of that smut in here”, mother known affectionately as Bunty, bribed me with the promise of five alternative vinyl singles (45’s) if I would let her confiscate the offensive disc which was to be broken into one thousand sinful shards and cast into the embers of Hades. Cat Stevens’ Matthew and Son and The Moves’ Night of Fear were two of the substitutes, great songs but not really a replacement for the boys at their sleazy best.
My curiosity was on red alert, why did my mother react so ferociously to a tune? I realised that most middle class, middle aged folk in the UK at the time were dull, prudish squares. I found it hilarious that the mere mention of the Stones, Jagger or Richards had them soiling their giant safety pants. They became the benchmark for bad behaviour and a hedonistic lifestyle, a reputation which remains with them to this day, despite their obvious fitness levels. Without the Stones, Johnny wouldn’t have been nearly so Rotten nor the thousands of other musicians who followed in their satanic wake been quite so rock and roll.
The Rolling Stones provided the majority of the soundtrack throughout my ‘lost years.’ In 1997 I fed Mick Jagger for 12 weeks on the set of Bent; he played a transvestite night club singer in pre war café society Berlin. He was no diva, he didn’t have to be.
I had never thought about this until I arrived in Lucca the day before the gig; I’d seen them live in my 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and now in my 60’s I was going to do it again. Another couple of not so well known facts are that the album Let It Bleed features a cover picture of a cake baked by a young Delia Smith and the father of Jacob Rees-Mogg, Lord William Rees-Mogg wrote the Times editorial, “Who breaks a butterfly on a wheel?” Which resulted in the immediate release from prison of Jagger and Richards on trumped up drugs’ convictions.
I happened upon two tickets for the gold circle, right up at the front of the stage, no seats but who was going to be sitting at a Stones’s gig? We were staying in an Airbnb, what a great business idea, just outside the old city walls. We could walk to the stadium, no parking or taxi issues.
Walk we did, through various security barriers, checks and metal detector scans until almost inside the ground we are stopped. WTF? I’m thinking my tickets are duds, this happened to me once before at Hyde Park. My pulse was racing, the stewards are talking in a huddle, scratching their heads. Was I going to have to put Plan B into operation? A swift boot applied to the knackers of the smallest official before we legged it into the masses. There was no way I wasn’t going into that stadium. Actually, thank fuck that never had to happen. After our pre gig food orgy I was in no mood nor condition to outrun some spotty twenty year old Latino, even if he had crushed nuts. Suddenly all smiles, we had “gold’ tickets and were trying to enter through the plebs’ gate….. We were rerouted, in italoenglish, to our somewhat posher and vastly more sophisticated entrance, on the other side of the ground, about a further half mile walk. My legs were already aching and we still had over two hours standing ahead.
The band came on, Jagger first, to Sympathy For The Devil, how appropriate, the crowd loving his every word alongside Keef’s riffs. Forever professional, Mick taunted his baying fans in Italian as well as English, as did Keith when his time came to speak and sing. For just over two hours they gave everything they had. It’s easy to forget the average age of these guys, even if Ronnie and Mick have recently become fathers again. Their repertoire of material is so vast they could have performed for double the time and we would have still known every song, every word. I wonder if Take That will be matching that durability? Jagger, still has the moves like Jagger, it’s astonishing, he’s as fit as fuck. The band are so tight, I guess after 50 years practise they oughta be. They are obviously enjoying themselves on stage; and who wouldn’t? We would all love to be up there, worshipped, famous, notorious, wealthy and hearts of stone. In our politically correct society do groupies still exist?
Every song is an anthem; each time the initial few jangled raw chords hit my ears and pass through my brain, memories of when I heard it for the first time, what I was doing, where I was and with whom I was doing it come flooding back!!! Jumping Jack Flash struts on stage like a devilish peacock …. The crowd are loving it, I’m loving it, Lucca is loving it. Undoubtably, still “The Greatest Rock n’ Roll Band in The World” they rip through their set, faultless, the best at what they do. It’s only rock and roll but we like it, we love it.
Suddenly, it’s all over, the band have taken their final bow and are whisked away, back to whatever palatial residence is housing them. Another amazing show, how much longer can they keep doing this? On tonight’s performance I’d say another 50 years.
We break our walk home with a stop at a gelateria and gorge on fabulous ice cream, in days of old it would have been a visit to the candyman for some proper treats, none of your council shite, ha ha ha, bloody frozen yoghurt now for me. I’m just glad they didn’t have Ovaltine flavour.
The entire walled city of Lucca is under siege, The Rolling Stones have hit town and thousands of fans are creating queues everywhere. It’s cool; laughter and music battle with the heady scent of grass for airspace, not a lot has changed since Rees-Mogg wrote his piece back in 1967.
I fell into bed, contented with every aspect of my day, I got my satisfaction.