My favorite Stones concert of all time -- no, wait, my favorite concert, period -- took place twenty-five years ago tonight, February 23, 1986, at a small nightclub in London. And no one, not even the Stones, knew in advance that it was going to take place.
The Stones -- who were not getting along at the time -- agreed to gather at the 100 Club to memorialize Ian Stewart, one of the band's founding members. "Stu" had passed away two months earlier of a heart attack, at age 47. Two hundred people were invited to the memorial, including yours truly. In order to attend, I rushed to the passport office to obtain my first-ever passport. I knew that all five Stones would be there, but there were no plans for them to actually play. The only expected entertainment was Rocket 88, the boogie woogie jazz group that Stu helped form in the late '70s.
But shortly after Rocket 88 left the stage, they were replaced by Mick, Keith, Ronnie, and Bill. Charlie showed up late, so Simon Kirke of Bad Company sat in on drums. "Let's do some songs Stu would want to play," announced Mick. They launched into "Route 66," followed by "Down The Road Apiece." "This is totally improvised," added Mick. "Any requests? Yell 'em up."
Charlie eventually showed up, marking the first time that the five Stones had played onstage together in four years. (It would be another three years before they'd play again.) Seeing the Stones in a small nightclub (for free) was mindblowing enough for me, but it reached surreal proportions when some of their mates joined them onstage. Eric Clapton hopped up to play "Key To The Highway," "Confessin' The Blues," and "I'm A Man." And Jeff Beck crammed in for "Bye Bye Johnny." Clapton then made way for Pete Townshend.
I wrote extensively about this show in Volume 2, Number 9 of Beggars Banquet and a bit about it "Under Their Thumb" (pages 104-105; photo on page 100). But for now, here's the set list, with guest guitarists in parentheses. (Note that Charlie didn't replace Simon Kirke until after "Little Red Rooster." Also note that Chuck Leavell played piano on several songs.) The thing I love about this set is that it included no Jagger-Richards compositions, emphasizing that this night was about Stu, not the Stones. In fact, the other remarkable part of this night is that the Stones didn't make a dime.
Rolling Stones (and guests) at the 100 Club, London, 2/23/86:
- Route 66
- Down The Road Apiece
- Key To The Highway (Clapton)
- Confessin' The Blues (Clapton)
- I'm A Man (Clapton)
- Bye Bye Johnny (Beck, Clapton)
- Harlem Shuffle (Townshend, Beck)
- Little Red Rooster (Townshend, Beck)
- Meet Me In The Bottom (Townshend, Beck)
- Dust My Broom (Clapton, Townshend)
- Little Queenie (Clapton, Townshend; Jack Bruce replaces Bill Wyman)
Visit the News page at Beggars Banquet Online for details of a 2011 Stu tribute involving all the Stones.