Kevin White, the rock and roll mayor
I wasn’t much in the mood to work on the blog — or anything else — last week. But today I want to share the greatest Rolling Stones story about Boston. This was initially meant to be a little sidebar in 50 Licks but it grew into an entire chapter. This happened during the riots of 1972, possibly the worst week in Boston until this past week, notwithstanding October 20-27, 1986.
Here’s how it all went down:
One of the Stones most memorable run ins with the law happened on the ‘72 Tour.
Robert Greenfield: Again, we’re back in the times. Boston is under siege. It has undergone three days of race riots and the entire police department is deployed in the ghetto.
Steve Nazro: My boss Eddie Powers, who was president of the Boston Garden, wanted to see me in the office. He said, “The Stones, because of the fog, could not land in Boston, and they were diverted to Green Airport in Rhode Island.
Robert Greenfield: Andy Dykeman, the photographer for the local rag is there taking pictures . Mick and Keith are standing there waiting for their bags. Andy’s too close, snapping photos. Keith said, “Get the fuck out of here man.” For whatever reason Keith doesn’t take kindly to Andy Dykeman’s response. . .”Fuck you” and he smashes Andy’s camera. Andy called the police, and they come and they put the grip on Keith. Now Mick, he’s not going to let Keith get arrested without him getting arrested. So Mick makes enough trouble, enough shit that they have to arrest him too.
Peter Rudge: One minute I’m going through the yellow pages of the Rhode Island airport trying to look for a bail bondsman to get us out of there, then the next I remember the Mayor calling me saying “Peter, I have a city on fire. The Stones have got to get here or there’s going to be a full scale riot.” I said, “Do what you can to help us. We can’t get Keith out. We can’t move. We’re trapped here.”
Robert Greenfield: Mick and Keith are fucking delighted because they have immunity. They know that they’re supposed to be in Boston Garden starting a show at 8 o’clock at night and everything these cops do to fuck this up is going to come back to them. Now we get the Stones lawyers. One thing about the Stones, they are lawyered up with guys that are so powerful they only have to make two phone calls. Peter Rudge is having a mental breakdown.
Don Law: At that point, I got a call from Peter Rudge who said, “We really screwed up this time. Keith kicked a photographer. The police hauled him off to jail.” I said, “You should sit tight. We’re going to see if we can get you out of there because we’re not going to give up the show.” So we got on the phone and we started calling people.
Mike Martinick: I was standing fairly close up to the stage. It was stiflingly hot and very humid. The smell of sweat, sandalwood and marijuana just permeated the place.
Steve Nazro: Stevie Wonder had already played. There was a break and people hadn’t been notified yet. They asked Stevie Wonder to play again, and he did.
Robert Greenfield: We now have 18,000 stoned, angry, long haired white kids, who can’t get home and would probably like to break a few windows and set fire to a few buildings in downtown Boston…
Don Law: One of the people we called was Kevin White who then was able to call the Governor of Rhode Island, who reached back to the police station and said, “We have a public safety issue. You have to release these guys.” And that got them out and they sent them up with an escort to the Garden.
Robert Greenfield: Kevin White, in what I still believe to be an extraordinary act, walked out on stage. The crowd reaction was “Fuck you!”
White would come to be known as “The Rock and Roll Mayor.”
Don Law: Kevin White, who still had serious national political aspirations, came out said, “My city is in turmoil tonight and I need to pull the police out of here. But I have bad news: The Rolling Stones were fogged out of Boston, had to land in Rhode Island, and were arrested.” The whole place boos. Then Kevin White said, “But I called and we’ve gotten them out and they are on their way.” There was so much cheering it was like the Bruins won the Stanley Cup. The problem of course was we then had a couple hours to waste while they made the trip up.
Robert Greenfield: The Stones are famous for being late; they never go on stage on time. Everybody knows this. For a while Chip Monck is stalling, reading Jonathan Livingston Seagull to the crowd.
Don Law: We wound up getting things to throw around: Frisbees, footballs, beach balls. Nobody got thrown out.
Peter Rudge: We got into the old Boston Garden and they announced “The Stones are here”. Everybody just went crazy. It was just something amazing.
Steve Nazro: I was most impressed by the fact that we had no arrests. Everybody had paid to see the Rolling Stones and by God they were going to see the Rolling Stones. It took close to an act of God, but things worked out. Watching the show, you’d never know there was something wrong. They were magnificent; they were energetic; they played to the crowd; they gave a wonderful repartee back and forth. I was never a big Stones fan before then but I became a Stones fan that night
Mike Martinick: They released an atomic bomb of a show. One of the highlights of was an incandescent rendition of “On Down the Line.” To bring the whole thing full circle, many years later I was at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and I happened to notice…Kevin White. I said, “Mr.Mayor, you don’t know me, but years ago I was at the Rolling Stones show when you got them out of jail. You made that show happen.”
Don Law: Kevin White was in his glory and I remember the next night, the Stones sent Kevin a personally signed poster which he prized and had prominently displayed.
You can see the poster on page 160 of the book. Disappointed I didn’t post it here? C’mon, man, I can’t give the whole book away for free. But here’s a hot “All Down the Line from Texas on the ’72 Tour.