True, I’m a concert T-shirt fraud.
The shirt I’m referring to advertises the following: The Rolling Stones | 1972 | US Tour.
The British rock and roll band’s famous red tongue and lips logo appears on the front.
The faded T-shirt is likely 25 years old. I wear it a lot. I like the world knowing I like The Rolling Stones.
If there is anything bad-assed about me at all, it’s that I’m a fan of rock’s original radicals, long-known for their long hair, subversive histrionics, anarchistic antics and drum beat devilry, even though I’m the polar opposite of Mick and the boys—for starters, I was bald at 24 (the root cause for all my subsequent anger issues).
The most rebellious thing I’ve done lately is use the complementary address labels mailed to me by a charity despite not making a monetary donation in return, never mind Marlo Thomas pleading, in part, “We hope you think of our precious girls and boys when you use them. God bless your good heart.”
A few years ago, a stranger, impressed by my T-shirt, approached me, and said, “Oh, wow. I saw that tour. Were you there, man?”
“My god, woman,” I thought, “how old do you think I am?”
Her face wrinkles attested to the credibility of her claim. She was clearly old enough to have seen the Stones in 1972. She was the real Rolling Stones deal.
I wear T-shirts with my favorite band names to lure likeminded people my way to create an impromptu bit of rock and roll camaraderie. Still, how dare she mistaken me for someone old enough to have seen the Stones in 1972.
I was eight in ‘72. Actually, seven. The Stones tour was in the summer. My eighth birthday wasn’t until November. To put this in perspective, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were at the doorstep of 30, and Charlie Watts, at 31, was poised to greet them at the door.
I doubt many seven-year-olds attended a Stones concerts back then, especially so close after the infamous, hellish Altamont festival, during which a Hells Angel stabbed someone to death under Mick Jagger’s nose while the band played “Under My Thumb.”
It wasn’t totally implausible for me to have seen the Stones in 1972. The tour did include a stop in Indianapolis, an estimated four hours from my hometown. My parents would’ve had to chaperone. Never before had our maroon Ford LTD been boarded for such a long, arduous, family journey. Indianapolis might as well have been the moon.
The mere thought of voluntarily visiting our state’s capital (Gotham, to my old man) would’ve roiled Dad’s intestines, what with worries about big city traffic and crime . . . rape, murder, it’s just a shot away . . . It didn’t help knowing that my great uncle was shot dead, mob style, in an Indianapolis gas station bathroom.
I am not sure we even knew about The Rolling Stones. We were “Hee Haw” people, not “Honky Tonk Women” people. Kornfield Kounty was our household’s steadfast, pop culture port-of-call (those dancing cartoon pigs were a real ripsnorter).
I learned about the Stones later thru my Uncle Dave’s record collection — in particular, his Hot Rocks 1964-1971 LP. Dave was an angry, long-haired teen and related to Mick Jagger. If you squinted just right, he physically resembled Mick. Dave eventually mellowed but died way too young. I’d give anything to listen to “Get Off My Cloud” with him now.
Back to the woman who took a shine to my 1972 Tour T-shirt. “Were you there, man?” Her question surprised me.
My motivation for wearing the shirt was to cause people to simply ASSUME I saw the Stones in 1972, not ASK me if I had ACTUALLY seen them back then. The shirt was meant to be a subliminal badge of cool. Surely, I wasn’t the only one living vicariously thru a T-shirt.
My first instinct was to lie, to save face, to say yes. Instead, I said cryptically, “If by ‘there’ you mean JCPenney where I bought this shirt for $10, then yes, yes, I was ‘there.’ ”
“Bummer, man,” she said. With faraway eyes, she vanished.
It was the first time someone had called me out. I felt like a poser, ashamed of the sham I had perpetuated. I deserved a swift kick in the “arse” by Keith Richards.
Last September, I attended my first Stones show. I was 56. To put this in perspective, Mick and Keith were on the doorstep of 80, and Charlie Watts had just started his dirt nap. I pondered buying an authentic 2021 Tour T-shirt at the merch table to replace my fake 1972 one, but it cost way more than $10.
I still wear my cheap, old Stones shirt. Only now, if someone asks if I was “there,” I can reply, “No, but I did see them in 2021. Mick still has the moves, and Keith, well, at least his fingers still move. And Charlie, well, he remains in spirit.”
Finally seeing The Rolling Stones a half-century past what was arguably the band’s “prime” might not impress the purists, but for me, they proved to still be the greatest rock and roll band in the world — and that’s what gives me satisfaction.
Note: Ultimately, Scott, guilt-ridden, did donate to St. Jude. In a nutshell, that’s how bad-assed he really is. Contact Saalman at firstname.lastname@example.org.