by Todd Jackson
The Rolling Stones aren’t known for being charitable. They certainly aren’t known for appearing as one band among many on big stages, with the show geared toward making money for relief causes. But at the 12-12-12 benefit for victims of Hurricane Sandy, the band put in a couple of spirited tracks for one of their home towns. Mick Jagger, in particular, was a prince of New York City during one of that glamorous metropolis’ most distinctive periods: the Disco ’70s.
Mick was known for long-legged supermodel wives, notably Bianca Jagger and Jerry Hall. He was one of the group of celebrities who became associated with two fixtures of the Manhattan ’70s: Andy Warhol and Studio 54.
Even in the ’60s, as one of the definitive bands of that era, the Stones seemed to be waiting for the ’70s. They never did fit their hair with flowers, or, if they did, we don’t want to see the photos. The ’70s were more their speed. They were arguably at their best when Keith Richards paired up with Mick Taylor. Their best album was arguably the 1971 “Exile on Main Street.”
The band is notable in yet another way. It’s hard to convey to anyone who wasn’t there just how much Disco sucked everything that moved into its funky orbit. There was the Disco-ized “A Fifth of Beethoven.” There were Disco versions of themes from Star Wars, S.W.A.T., even “I Love Lucy.” Perry Como had a Disco album. Ethel Merman had a Disco album. There was a version of the “Clarinet Polka” called “Disco Accordion.” It was all a bit much. Of the acts who had attained any real prominence in other genres – the Bee Gees don’t count as having been prominent in their earlier incarnation – perhaps only the Stones took to Disco successfully. All that time at Studio 54 obviously paid off.
Then, to no one’s real disappointment, they left the genre and returned to rock and roll before the taint had time to assert itself. But even then, there was something deeply New York City about the music these transplanted Londoners were making.
It might be too much to suggest that this was the last time Manhattan had that feeling of being thick with stars and glamour, all conspiring to create what could legitimately be called a “scene.” But it was a scene then, and Jagger was at the center of it.
Hurricane Sandy was probably a bit “downtown” for the lads’ sensibility, but they put a couple tracks in for New York, wrapping with “Jumpimg Jack Flash” – a cheeky choice given that song’s specific hurricane references.
“This has got to be the largest collection of English musicians ever assembled in Madison Square Garden,” shouted out Jagger joked, “But if it rains in London,” he added, “you’ve got to come help us, OK?”
The Garden was indeed packed with Brits, including The Who, Paul McCartney, and Eric Clapton. Somehow, none seemed quite as much at home as The Rolling Stones.