The Rolling Stones’ “private” jam session at Sir Morgan’s Cove was supposed to be just that — private — and also secret, with the Stones attempting to pass incognito as the Cockroaches. But as the nature of the business would have it, there was a leak. It occurred early in the day Monday after weeks of rumors. And before the day was over, the local media would claim that “history has been made in Worcester.”
Before the Stones finished their free two-hour concert early yesterday morning for 300 “randomly selected” fans, local police would arrest and charge six people with offenses ranging from drinking in public to illegally “launching missiles” (beer cans, mostly). The Worcester police department’s already depleted overtime budget would be $5,000 more in the red. And the city’s sanitation workers would be faced with a block-long layer of beer cans, bottles and trash.
But for all that, the corporate brass of the local FM radio station that helped organize, promote and execute the event at Sir Morgan’s would be more than pleased. In the intensely competitive hard-rock market surrounding Boston, WAAF-FM had scored a major coup.
Steve Stockman, 23, WAAF’s promotions director, said he kept in constant contact with members of the band, but “it wasn’t until last Friday that everything started to gel. Ian Stewart, the group’s keyboard player, told me the group wanted to make some small, private night-club appearances. They hadn’t appeared before an audience in three years, and they needed to warm up to crowds before Philadelphia.”
Stockman said Stewart had selected Sir Morgan’s on his own. He said Stewart had anonymously visited “every bar in Worcester” in search of a place that seated no more than 400, had a low ceiling and a high stage.
“All he needed was a mechanism to get tickets out to loyal fans in the area without revealing the location of the event,” Stockman said. Together, WAAF and the Stones decided that the station would start announcing on Monday morning that the Stones were giving such a performance, but that no tickets could be purchased.
Instead, the station announced, representatives of WAAF and the group would be driving the streets of Worcester throughout the day looking for people wearing WAAF T-shirts or with WAAF bumper stickers either on themselves or their cars.
They, and they alone, would get the mere 300 nontransferable, laser-etched, computer-coded tickets marked, “Blue Monday” and “The Cockroaches.”
A Boston rock station, an arch-competitor of WAAF, was leaked the information by either Worcester police or a member of the band that played before the Stones were to perform at Sir Morgan’s. And the Boston station immediately began broadcasting not only where the Stones would appear, but also that people should stay away.
“They said there’d be a riot there or something,” Stockman said. “It was awful, and the Stones were almost as furious with that station as we were. But to tell you honestly, we did get lucky. It easily could have turned into mayhem. All I can say is thank God for the rain.”