In Music

Young Milwaukee descended on County Stadium to see the Stones on July 8, 1975. (PHOTO: Rich Zimmermann)

A history of the Rolling Stones' Milwaukee concerts

Milwaukee music fans got some great news this morning: The Stones will play at Summerfest on June 23.

Now Brew City rock and roll history geeks can rejoice, because here is a look at the Rolling Stones' previous Milwaukee performances ...

Nov. 11, 1964

A couple months after Beatlemania swept through town, the Rolling Stones made their Brew City debut as part of their second 1964 U.S. tour. Just a few days earlier, on Nov. 8, the band returned to Chess Studios in Chicago to record a number of sides, including a new version of "Time Is On My Side" and "What a Shame."

That's the same year bassist Bill Wyman, in his book, referred to The Milwaukee Journal's Mike Drew quote, "Unless someone teaches guitar chords to chimpanzees, the visual ultimate has been reached with the Rolling Stones."

Three bands and young British entertainer Alan Black opened.

But the Stones were one chimpanzee down, as guitarist Brian Jones was ill and missed the Milwaukee show.

Still, the devoted fans on the staff of the daily paper noted the following day, "The Rolling Stones performed in Milwaukee Wednesday night and, from the expressions on the fans' faces, seemed to please those on hand. Girls screamed, waved and hoped for autographs during the show. The Auditorium was far from full. There were 4,992 empty seats at the British group's performance."

The Sentinel, on the other hand, took a more progressive tack (noting filled seats – 1,274 – rather than empty ones) in a review headlined, "By Any Name, the Stones Rock."

Or did it?

"You go through life thinking that it's girls who wear long hair and high heeled shoes and then you see a group of people called the Rolling Stones dressed like that, and they're boys," wrote Bernice Buresh.

"To this reporter, at least, the Beatles, within limitations, have a sort of cute and witty way about them. The Stones are just grim. Their hair makes one want to send them a CARE package for Christmas, containing shampoo, scissors, brush and comb. They all look emaciated."

Though she never described the music, Buresh prattled on some more about the look:

"Mick Jagger ... shakes two maracas in each hand, leaps into the air and sometimes stomps his feet and tries to look melodramatic like a Spanish flamenco dancer; Charlie Watts glumly pounds drums, and Keith Richards and Bill Wyman, whose expressions as they play guitars make one think they ate castor oil for supper."

But the fans didn't seem to agree. The girls, Buresh related, were overcome. They stormed the stage, stalling the progress of the band's bus out on State Street.

Wyman, in his book "Stone Alone," remembered Milwaukee:

"At the Passavant Hospital doctors said Brian was suffering from bronchitis and extreme exhaustion; he became delirious and had to be fed intravenously. There was clearly no way he could appear on stage in Milwaukee next night.

"As it turned out he didn't miss much. A campaign against us has been launched by the mayor of Milwaukee (Henry Maier), who went on the radio before we arrived in the town, saying it would be a sign of immorality for teenagers to attend a Stones concert. His broadside had the desired effect.

"Considering Brian's absence, we did quite well. We were very choked about his illness, and Keith and I worked particularly hard to fill for him."

The band's set list for the tour:
"Not Fade Away"
"Walking The Dog"
"If You Need Me"
"Time Is On My Side"
"Around and Around
"Tell Me"
"It's All Over Now"
"Hi-Heel Sneakers"
"You Can Make It If You Try"
"I'm A King Bee"
"I'm Alright"

Milwaukee Arena,
Nov. 25, 1965

Oh, boy, Bernice Buresh just did not GET the Rolling Stones. Maybe she was irked at landing the assignment once again. Because, if she was bemused in 1964, 12 months later, when Jagger and company – this time with a full complement of chimps – returned for a gig at the Arena, she was simply done.

"'I Can't Get No Satisfaction" wailed the Rolling Stones in the Milwaukee Arena Thursday night. They weren't the only ones. And the reviewer tried, and tried, as the song goes, to think of something complimentary to say about the performance."

But Milwaukee turned out this time, more than doubling the attendance for the band, as 3,343 "screaming fans bothered to show up," in Buresh's words, for the half-hour performance that she said earned the Stones a cool $15,000.

"An effort was made to avoid being stodgy, and even resist being bitter while getting clobbered on the head (three times) and in the veterbrae (twice) with buttons, flashbulbs, rolls of candy and other unidentified flying objects."

Poor Bernice. Poor, stodgy, bitter Bernice.

The Journal's Mike Drew (he of the "chimps" comment) was similarly offended – though he placed the band's fee at $5,000 lower than bitter Bernie did and noted that Chicago Triangle Productions, the show's promoter, lost money on the concert, which grossed $12,000.

And cue Drew on the band's hair (seriously?): "It appeared Thursday as if they hadn't had a haircut since (their previous Milwaukee performance). Next to the Stones, the Beatles look like Eagle Scouts."

He described Jagger's "girlish fervor" and the "cacaphonic support" of Richards, Wyman and Watts.

Drew liked nothing on offer that day, saying that openers The Rocking Ramrods, from Boston, Patti LaBelle and the Blue Bells and fellow Philly act The Vibrations "proved that England doesn't have a monopoly on noise."

But credit the Journal for deciding that the knee-jerk, jaded adult view wasn't the only valid one. It hired 16-year-old Custer High junior Judith Alberts to review the show under the patronizing headline, "Rolling Stones Great by Teen Standards."

With the comfort of 50/50 hindsight and the benefit of historical perspective, I expect Alberts was right when she said, "to say the concert was fabulous would be an understatement.

"Oh there will be those who condemn the Stones, their fans, their music and their dress. But because all these things are executed in the sincerest way possible, it won't matter. When people do not stick to their convictions – that is the time for concern."

After the show, according to Alberts, the band "ran to a waiting Cadillac and hurried off to their plane at Gen. Mitchell Field," headed for a gig in Detroit.

The band's set list for the tour:
"She Said Yeah"
"Hitch Hike"
"Heart of Stone"
"Mercy, Mercy"
"That's How Strong My Love Is"
"Play With Fire"
"The Last Time"
"Good Times"
"Oh Baby"
"Get Off Of My Cloud"
"I'm Moving On"
"(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction"

County Stadium
June 8, 1975

Who knows if it was the reviews or something else, but the Stones avoided Milwaukee for the next decade, despite touring the U.S. three times during that period.

This Tour of the Americas, on the back of "It's Only Rock 'n Roll," released the previous October, included a quartet of sidemen, including keyboardists Billy Preston and Ian Stewart, percussionist Ollie Brown and saxman Trevor Lawrence.

This time the Stones were on the front pages of the Milwaukee papers, not buried deep within. And the turnout this time: 54,000! The Eagles and Rufus (with Chaka Khan) opened. Tickets were a whopping $10.

And thankfully Mike Drew and Bernice Buresh had moved on. Reviewing the show for the Journal was current Marquette Law fellow and veteran education reporter Alan Borsuk.

Despite 108 arrests and about 150 "substantial" medical cases, the day was a success with five hours of music, two of those by The Rolling Stones.

Though Borsuk didn't spill much ink on the music, he did capture the atmosphere of the day quite well.

"On the whole, it was not a day for profound statements by members of the crowd. 'What do I think?' one young man near the front of the crowd said with almost uncontrolled glee. 'Boogie, man, boogie.' ... As soon as the Stones began their act, (a) mother leaned over to a guy in the row in front of her and said, 'Excuse me – which one is Mick Jagger?'"

The Sentinel's Stuart Wilk noted that only Jehovah's Witnesses had been a bigger draw than the Stones at County Stadium (turning John Lennon's famed 1966 "blasphemy" on its head).

And back to the clothes. Jeez, these journalists are obsessed with most everything but the songs... "It was a mostly young, white, informally dressed audience."

Great, thanks.

"Honky Tonk Women"
"All Down the Line"
"If You Can't Rock Me / Get Off of My Cloud"
"Star Star"
"Gimme Shelter"
"Ain't Too Proud to Beg"
"You Gotta Move"
"You Can't Always Get What You Want"
"Sure the One You Need"
"Tumbling Dice"
"Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)"
"Wild Horses"
"That's Life" (performed by Billy Preston)
"Outa-Space" (performed by Billy Preston)
"Midnight Rambler"
"Brown Sugar"
"Rip This Joint"
"Street Fighting Man"
"Jumpin' Jack Flash"

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