“Some of my most outrageous nights– I can only believe actually happened because of corroborating evidence.  No wonder I’m famous for partying!  The ultimate party– if it’s any good– you can’t remember it.” –Keith Richards


Keith Richards & Mick Taylor of The Rolling Stones on stage, 1972 –Image by © Ethan Russell


The Rolling Stones embarked on their 1972 American tour to support the release of Exile on Main Street— which in and of itself was a push into new territory for the band, both musically and commercially. What followed rewrote the game for The Stones and the music industry, and basically set the stage for a decade of big, balls-out tours that went from being simple promotional vehicles the pop culture events. Nothing like this had been done in Rock ‘n’ Roll prior and all subsequent tours would follow the ’72 tour blueprint for scale, attempted musicality, logistics, legal entanglements, drugs, women, hilarity, hangers-on, and general debauchery.


Mick Jagger & Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones on the  STP tour, 1972 –Image by © Ethan Russell

After months in France at the now legendary Villa Nellcote recording Exile on Main Street, Keith Richards (after being thrown out of France for drug charges) went to L.A. and there the album was remixed and completed for release in May of 1972. At this point a tour was in order. The Stones had not toured America since their Altamont disaster in 1969 (which led to heightened security– private planes, limos, and higher stages to reduce public access to the band), and being the biggest band in Rock and needing some cash, they set out to put together a tour like no other. What followed that June and July of ’72 is the stuff of legend. You could make the argument the overused term “party like a rock star” was born here. The private plane with the famous tongue logo, the glamorous celebrity hangers-on, the traveling press corps, the massive amount of drugs, and a much publicized four day orgy at the Chicago Playboy mansion are a few of the legendary tales to come out of the tour. The tour was covered by the press of the day like a Presidential election. What is interesting for me is that at this point the innocence of the 1960s, that somehow rock could change the world, was completely gone. The Stones killed it. They were now a fully formed massive enterprise with the associated money deals, merchandising, and horde of lawyers, handlers, and spiritual advisors. This tour was not about changing the world– it was about money, fame, cynicism, celebrity and pushing the limits in every way possible. The “Me Decade” had officially begun.

Guitar virtuoso Mick Taylor of The Rolling Stones on the  STP tour, 1972 –Image by © Ethan Russell

The Stones’ STP Tour brought together a blend of high and low society, almost unthinkable in rock music a mere 10 years earlier. Mick Jagger and wife Bianca were members of the global jet set. While there were other famous and glamorous frontmen, Mick was by this point at another level and his ego and paranoia grew along with it. The tour had a traveling press core– Truman Capote (by this point a total drunk and addicted to tranquilizers), Terry Southern, and Robert Greenfield all covered the tour for various news outlets. Even the Kennedys, who seem to pop up at every moment of cultural importance, followed the tour. Lee Radziwill and her husband, the artist Peter Beard, were after-party regulars. Capote, after focusing on New York society ladies, must have felt he had gone to Mars with this assignment, and left the tour (along with his own entourage) in New Orleans only to reappear at the final shows at Madison Square Garden. Southern, and especially Robert Greenfield, gave a more complete accounting of the tour and wrote some fine stuff.

Mick Jagger & Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones on the  STP tour, 1972 –Image by © Ethan Russell

Every stop on the 1972 tour had its attendant bedlam in the form of crowd riots and arrests. Throw into this bubbling cauldron– Hells Angels putting a bounty on Mick’s ass over the lingering Altamont mess, Keith’s increasingly dark drug use and carrying a gun throughout most of the tour out of fear of the Angels as well, the verbal needling between dueling divas Bianca Jagger and Anita Pallenberg, Mick & Keith getting thrown in jail in Rhode Island for getting into a fight with photographer Andie Dickerman– and you have Rock ‘n’ Roll my friends!


Frontman Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones on the  insane STP tour, 1972 –Image by © Ethan Russell


Interestingly, The Stones (& company) were probably never better musically– once they all got into their groove. With the swirl around them, they were dialed-in on stage. During the Exile recording The Stones brought in a lot of supporting musicians, and driven by Keith, really stretched themselves musically. The horn player Bobby Keys was the greatest example of a supporting player who would become part of the inner circle and would be a key contributor to The Stones’ sound in the 1970s. Robert Greenfield summed up the tour best, “The musicians completely locked into one another and on time, like a championship team in its finest most fluid moments. But only the people, who listen, like Ian Stewart, and the Stones themselves and their supporting musicians, are aware of the magic that’s going down. Everyone else is either worrying about logistics or trying to get off.”

Indeed, indeed…

–Eli M. Getson


1972– Mick Taylor and Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones perform with Stevie Wonder at Madison Square Garden. The concert was the final performance of the group’s 30 city, 3 month tour of the United States and Canada. –Image by © Bettmann/Corbis


Frontman Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones on the  insane STP tour, 1972 –Image by © Ethan Russell


A view of Mick Jagger from the crowd on the Stones’ American tour, 1972 –Image by © Ethan Russell


Mick Jagger on the harmonica. The Rolling Stones N. American tour, 1972  –Image by © Ethan Russell


Mick Jagger, Mick Taylor & Keith Richards on the infamous STP tour, 1972 –Image by © Ethan Russell


Mick Jagger and Bobby Keys on stage during the STP American tour, 1972 –Image by © Ethan Russell


The Rolling Stones onstage during the infamous STP American Tour, 1972 –Image by © Ethan Russell

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  1. I saw The Stones on that tour here in Denver. I don’t remember the exact date, but I know it was in June, and they played two shows – we went to the 2nd show. They played the Denver Coliseum, which was kind of a shithole for concerts because it was primarily a gigantic concrete quanset hut-type place that was primarily for stock shows and sports, that sat like 10,000 w/o the floor seating, with not so good acoustics. But, that’s where all the big bands played when they came to town at that time. The Coliseum is still here, still a shithole.

    I do remember the ticket prices were $10.00, $12.00, and $14.00. I remember the prices, because a friend of mine bauked at the “high” prices for tickets (most of the bands got around $4.00-8.00 around this time). He said “$14.00 for a ticket? Fuck that! Who do The Rolling Stones think they are?”. Pretty funny in retrospect, huh?

    I remember that Stevie Wonder opened up for The Stones here, and he was really, really good.The Stones themselves played….well…. like The Stones.I remember Stevie Wonder came out with The Stones for their encore, but I don’t remember what they played (are you surprised at that, haha?). Hey, I did the best I could here, it was 39 years ago, and I was 20, and yeah, there was a lot of dope involved at that time.

    I saw The Stones in ’66 in Buffalo, NY, and then here in Denver in ’72, and never had the urge to see them on any subsequent tours after that. After ’72 I kinda lost my taste for most of The Stones’ music, save for a few songs on each album after Sticky Fingers. I think the last really good album they put out was Let It Bleed. When Brian Jones died, he took a big musical chunk of the band with him when he went – just my thoughts on that.

  2. Ah, one of my favourite albums ever. Recently bought it on CD, having failed to separate my father from his original vinyl double album. As a small kid in the 70’s, my favourite track was Sweet Virginia, which I used to sing along to at top volume “gotta scrape the SHIT right off your shoes…” Spent a lot of time staring at the photo on the sleeve of the guy with three oranges in his mouth, too.

  3. Saw this tour myself. My Mother took me to it and I was around 7 years old. And Stevie Wonder was the opener as well and while I remember him more so – he was f-ing amazing – I remember the Stones less… But then I was 7 and the biggest thing I remember was getting burned in the face by someone’s cigarette!

  4. Thanks for posting this. The true beauty of my favorite rock band of all time is the dynamics their career entails. This is just one section of it. A damn good section, as many would agree, but still just a moment in time of a very long and beautiful career. The stones are a band for the masses due to the ability to adapt. I love ’em and love reading about them. Thanks again!

  5. That third pic down of Mick Taylor brings to mind Marc Bolan. From that pic they look like brothers.

  6. This was the pinnacle of the Rolling Stones career .

    Then Mick Taylor left , Disco beats invaded their songs , Ron Wood joined the band , Jagger became more interested in the act than the music and it all went down hill from there .

    The Bad Boys of R&R becoming a sad Pastiche of their former selves , both musically and performance wise .

    You kind of feel sorry for all the later generations that missed out on the Stones at the height of their powers , now having to be satisfied ( I Can’t Get No ….. ) with the caricatures that they’ve become .

    ( from one who was there when it happened )

  7. “Interestingly, The Stones (& company) were probably never better musically– once they all got into their groove. With the swirl around them, they were dialed-in on stage.”

    That’s how it seems to work doesn’t it? Rock N’ Roll at it’s best is like this big unstable, unpredictable, dangerous, sex-charged…ritual; an enactment of something mysterious. On stage (clearly), but also off.

    I think it’s paranormal.

    The universe gives a handful of people a little bit of talent (maybe not even that much). Then, if they find themselves say for example living in storage units (GNR), having biker gangs wanting to kill them (Stones), or doing lots of drugs and having lots of uninhibited sex socially…disrupting sex (no specific example required here), the magic is started, and/or amplified. Breaking ground, breaking borders, causing and dwelling in upheaval, being hated by some and loved by others – that’s when great music appears.

  8. The film “Ladies and Gentlemen, The Rolling Stones” is a concert from this tour. Pretty much just a video of a concert with no commentary/interviews. It’s available on Blu-Ray and is top-notch.

    There’s also a film “C@$#-Sucker Blues” that was made around that time by roadies with cameras. It’s never been officially released due to the content (lots of antics… mostly by the roadies) but can be found online. A really interesting fly-on-the-wall film.

  9. The beginning of the end. They never came close to matching the brilliance of “Beggar’s Banquet” or “Let It Bleed.”

  10. Like Irish Rich feels about Brian, I feel about Mick Taylor. From ’64 to ’74, this was my band. I worked hard to get down a real good Keith imitation on guitar (MT was beyond me then and now), I listened to them so much that many of their classic songs I can’t bear to hear today. But after my initial misgivings about a kid taking over for Brian (not knowing the condition Brian was in at the time), to my utter astonishment that the kid turned out to be the ingredient that put them up to the top as a iive band, into that rarified air that only Hendrix, Zep, Cream, the Who, the Allman Brothers and a very few others breathed when they stepped on stage. By 72 with that incredible string of LPs behind them and being a tight, powerhouse live band that really was the greatest band in the world, I was in Stone fanatic heaven. I actually loved GHS although it wasn’t EOMS, but what was ever going to be? Then in rapid succession – or so it seemed – came IORR, which I disliked except for Taylor’s guitar parts and then, what was this? Mick Taylor had left the Stones? Amicably? Well, we know now a lot more than we knew then and I’m much more understanding of his reasons and a lot less undersanding of the Glimmers part in what happened. But at the time I was just sick and when I heard Black and Blue and then that they made Ronnie, a poor man’s Keef, the 2nd guitarist, my interest in the band just left. Gone like it had never been there. I laugh at the arguments us ‘Taylor-ites’ get into on forum boards about a change in a band that happened 35 years ago. These arguments can go on for pages and hours. Many of us took our rock n roll much more seriously in those days. It’s been a hard habit to break.
    At any rate, I still follow Taylor’s career and scoop up all of his bootlegs and all Stones’ boots from the Brian and MT eras, but the band pretty much disbanded for me in 1975. And as IR says, just one man’s opinion. Thanks for a great set of pix and a quick look back.

  11. Highly recommend the book “S.T.P.: A Journey Through America With The Rolling Stones” by Robert Greenfield . . . combined with the aforementioned “Ladies and Gentlemen”, and “C-Sucker Blues” you’ll pretty much know every single thing about the tour.

  12. saw the ’72 tour and it was great….but have to say that the 69 tour was much better, imho. if for nothing else than ike and tina opening up for them and setting the bar so high that they had to really bring it or they would have looked like fools. i saw them at both shows at msg in nyc the day after thanksgiving 1969 . i hid out in the bathroom after the first show cause i didn’t have tickets for the evening show but back then no one could imagine anyone doing that, so i didn’t get caught. a few years later i wound up dating jim marshall who shot the 1972 tour for life magazine and heard stories that would have curled my hair if it wasn’t already curly. like a few of the posters above, i have to agree that this was the pinnacle for the stones for those of us who got to experience them from the beginning. i wound up seeing them a lot of times over the past 40 years but not much matched these earlier shows…. when mick wasn’t a parody of his former self and keith still remembered when it was brian who was the original bad boy of the group and he was still the pimply faced wanna be “bad boy”..

  13. It is so hard to put into words what Stones mean. They were vilified, hated, put down and washed up and left for dead. Yet they mean more to the 60s than any band ever could. The early Blues and R&B, the hippie flower power years, the death of Brian; yes it could have been curtains.The run from Satanic Majesties (love it much more than Pepper…its really a true LSD trip) Beggars, Let It Bleed, Ya Yas, Sticky and Exile was an incredible 6 lps….I was about 14 and my older friends took me to see the Stones at MSG in 72….nobody did it like that. I was fortunate to see Hendrix with my older cousin in 67, the Who during Quadrophenia, Freddie King, BB, Roy Buchanan, The Dead…..even a very disappointing Zep at the Cap Center….horrible live band….and other great rock acts….but 72 Stones is the top of the list. After Mick T. left, it was different…but I have always enjoyed the live shows and got to take my daughter to one. The pictures and article here are unreal…as usual…and I enjoy the stories of that time. I love The Stones; they are not the band from 62….but they still carrry the torch from the best of times, long after all our other fallen heroes are gone. Like them, hate them or love them…and the many different versions….Mach IV now… have to give them their due….a run of 50 years in 2012…what a story, what a band. Great article and fantastic pics…and great comments.

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