Revisiting The Rolling Stones’ blistering performance of ‘Brown Sugar’ at Madison Square Garden in 1972
The Rolling Stones’ U.S. tour of 1972 was a momentous moment in music history. Arriving as their first run of shows in America since that fateful night in Altamont at the end of their 1969 tour when three music fans wouldn’t return home that night including Meredith Hunter who was stabbed to death, this tour emerged as their chance to redeem their image. However, things didn’t go to plan and their redemption relied on a high-profile appearance on The Dick Cavett Show.
With a mountain full of pressure for The Stones to deliver on this highly anticipated run of shows, there was no room for more catastrophic headlines which could damage their American reputation any further. The unflattering headlines billing them as hell raisers was threatening to derail their rise to greatness.
Despite the pressure, the first night of the tour couldn’t have started in a more chaotic fashion. With 31 policemen at the Vancouver show were treated for injuries after more than 2,000 fans attempted to crash the venue, the band’s reputation was freefalling. This catastrophic moment would, unfortunately, go on and set the tone for the rest of the tour. Ten days later, on June 13th in San Diego, another 60 arrests occurred and 15 people were treated for injuries as a result of their performance. The following night in Tucson, Arizona, the police would go on to use tear gas on 300 fans attempting to make their way onto the stage.
Just when the band couldn’t imagine the situation deteriorating any further, things only got worse. Days later, 81 people were arrested at the two sold-out Houston shows on June 25th, mostly for marijuana possession and other minor drug offences with 61 also arrested on their huge Fourth of July celebratory show at the RFK Stadium in Washington.
More discrepancies would then occur on July 17th at the Montreal Forum when, unfathomably, a bomb blew up in the Stones’ equipment van meaning replacement gear had to be flown in. It was also discovered that 3,000 forged tickets had been sold which caused a fan riot and a late start to the concert.
The next day, The Stones’ entourage got into a fight with photographer Andy Dickerman in Rhode Island and band members Jagger and Richards landed themselves in jail. Thankfully for them, the two were bailed out by Boston Mayor Kevin White as he was frightened that a riot would break out if the show was cancelled.
The tour ended with a three-night residency New York’s historic Madison Square Garden, a venue that was rather quaint by The Stones’ standard with just the ten arrests on the first night and the two policemen injured. Dick Cavett was given special accreditation for one night of the residency which saw the band perform two concerts in one day and record backstage interviews for his programme on ABC that also showed live performances of ‘Brown Sugar’ and ‘Street Fighting Man’.
In the hour special, Cavett also speaks to fans of the band outside the venue in a somewhat derogatory manner but it does capture the youthfulness nature of the crowds that The Stones would generate as well as the furore that would follow them wherever they ventured. The entire documentary provides a fascinating backstage insight into one of the biggest bands of all time, just after they released the seminal Sticky Fingers and Jagger had become one of the most famous celebrities in the world.
Transport yourself to 1972 by cutting to 42:52 and watching this blistering rendition of ‘Brown Sugar’ at New York’s Madison Square Garden, below.