In the world of rock ‘n’ roll, there are plenty of timeless stories that usually either end up in extreme hilarity or total tragedy. This one, in particular, contained a crossroads and teetered on edge between the two, creating uncertainty and panic. What’s more, it included two extremely high profile stars.
The Rolling Stones are often at the centre of many of these crazy stories. When the band of bluesmen released their 1981 record, Tattoo You, the tour for the record saw the Stones hit a milestone: it was their largest and most successful tour to date, breaking ticket sales records.
Van Halen were also on their Fair Warning tour which they were wrapping up, a time when The Stones reached out to have them open up for Van Halen’s last date of their tour in Orlando, Florida on October 24th. Although it might have seemed like a strange pairing, the concert was a huge success, and it was also a testament to how fluid the Stones really are.
Typically, behind the scenes of any concert, there is usually at least one problem no matter the size of the issue — it is a rare miracle when a concert goes 100 per cent problem-free. The problem that arose during this massive production could have ended very poorly.
Van Halen’s bass player, and Michael Anthony’s guitar tech, Kevin Dugan, retold the story to Ultimate Classic Rock. It started when Anthony broke a string on his bass guitar during Van Halen’s set. Although it’s an issue that doesn’t happen all that often, as it was Anthony’s number one choice for guitar, Dugan had to change the strings in a flash. “I see Bill Graham, the promoter, and he’s leaning on my workbox talking to some other guy,” Dugan began.
“So, I yell, ‘Bill! Get out of the way!’ Bill jumps out of the way, and I grab the door of my workbox and throw it open. The other guy he was talking to, the door hits him in the chest, and he flies back on his ass about five feet. I yell sorry, grabbed the strings, ran back out, changed strings and got Michael his number one bass back.”
After Dugan completed his task, he immediately ran back to Graham to apologise. When he was told that it wasn’t an issue, Dugan thought that was the end of it. After Van Halen’s set, Michael Anthony found out fairly quickly that Mick Jagger was accidentally knocked back.
Years later, Dugan would receive a phone call from a fellow guitar tech, Jim Barber, who was invited to work with Jagger on his solo album. Barber needed a place to stay while in LA, Dugan offered to let him stay at his place. “I went to LAX [airport] to pick him up, and there’s a limo and a couple vans for all the gear he flew in,” Dugan continued. “So, I started helping go back and forth and grab gear and put it in the van, and every time I’m walking past this limo.”
Eventually, on one of his trips back to the van to pack Barber’s gear, a door to this mysterious limo opened up, blocking Dugan’s path. “They open the door to the limo, blocking my path, and they push me into the limo and slam the door shut,” he explained.
“Mick Jagger is sitting there by himself, and he looks at me and he goes, ‘I understand we’ve met before.’ … I’m sitting there thinking, ‘What the fuck?’”
Jagger seems friendly at first, asking Dugan to convince Michael Anthony to contribute some bass parts to Jagger’s album. The Rolling Stones man proceeded to invite him out to dinner, and then that’s when Jagger’s facial expression changed, as he got ready to strike to deliver the punchline.
“Then he says ‘Oh, and one more thing I’ve got to mention,'” Dugan recalled. “All of the sudden, his facial expression changed, and he lunged at me, grabbed me by my shirt, pulls me towards him and says, ‘If you ever knock me on my ass again, I’ll have you killed!’ […] I can’t keep a straight face.”
“Jagger rolls the window down, and there were 10 people outside laughing and saying, ‘We got you!’ That was pretty funny. The fact that Jim got Mick to do that is something else.”