The Rolling Stones and New York City have enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship throughout the legendary British band’s career. The city became one of the most important and anticipated tour stops for band and fans alike, over-the-top album announcements were staged there and Gotham became a vibrant setting in many of the band’s most memorable lyrics: “I’ve been walking Central Park / Singing after dark/ People think I’m crazy,” Mick Jagger famously sings in “Miss You.”
Author Chris McKittrick explores the Stones’ NYC history in “Can’t Give It Away On Seventh Avenue: The Rolling Stones and New York City,” a new book published this week.
“As someone who grew up in New York, I always wanted to probe that connection,” says McKittrick, noting that Jagger, Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood all lived in New York at some point, and drummer Charlie Watts grew up dreaming of playing New York jazz clubs.
He rattles off other important NYC-centric points in Stones history: Riding into Grand Central Terminal in 1989 to announce their tour to support “Steel Wheels”; arriving by yacht in Chelsea Piers in 1994 to kick off the “Voodoo Lounge” tour.
There are more obscure New York-area tales in Stones lore. Some of them are even true.
The band rehearsed for a tour in Montauk, Long Island, in 1975, not far from the Memory Motel — which they’d name a beloved ballad after. As one story goes, the band wrote “Wild Horses” there — “which is impossible because the song came out five years earlier,” says the author, who took the name for his book from the Stones song “Shattered.”
The book reaches back to the Stones’ first NYC shows — two dates at Carnegie Hall at the end of their first US tour in 1964 — and continues until their most recent show in the area, Dec. 12, 2002, at Madison Square Garden. Their recently launched No Filter tour will play at MetLife Stadium (aka Giants Stadium) in East Rutherford, NJ, on Aug. 1 and Aug. 5.
McKittrick says “it’s really important when you talk about the Stones’ first American tour to compare it to The Beatles’ first American tour.”
“When The Beatles came over to the United States, they were already a cultural phenomenon,” he says. “They were greeted at JFK with screaming crowds and they played Ed Sullivan that week. The Stones did not have a hit record. They did not have much name recognition.
“One of the only places in that year that they really did well was New York City. The first shows were at Carnegie Hall, and the crowds caused such pandemonium, that after that rock concerts were banned from Carnegie Hall for a year.” The Stones never played there again.
McKittrick used as many primary sources as he could for his research, relying heavily on contemporaneous reporting on the band in newspapers and magazines. He also conducted some interviews but couldn’t reveal with whom.
“They’re such a big brand now that there’s a lot of people involved with the Rolling Stones Incorporated and some of them are happy to talk, but they want to be part of the Rolling Stones circus, they want to keep it that way. [The interviews] filled in the details and helped point me in the right direction on certain things I was writing about.”
McKittrick grew up in Port Jefferson, Long Island, and now lives in Los Angeles.
He will appear at two book signings in the area: Saturday, June 29, at Burton’s Bookstore in Greenport, Long Island, from 1 to 3 p.m., and Sunday, June 30 at SingleCut Beersmiths in Astoria from 2 to 4 p.m.