Rolling Stones Tour of the Americas

1975 – Mick Gives Me the Ol' Stink Eye for Mentioning the Devil

"Whatever you do, don't take any photos of Mick without permission." This is Billy Preston's warning after inviting me up to the Rolling Stones' floor at the Fairmont Hotel in Atlanta. But here I am, seated across from Mick Jagger, my camera resting in my lap, and I'm so close yet so far away, stuck between what I want and what I can get…and you can't always get what you want.

What I really wanted to discuss was "Sympathy for the Devil," the most controversial song of the day. Released as part of the "Beggars Banquet" album in 1968, the Stones were branded as devil worshipers and a corrupting influence on youth; that Jagger sings the song in the film "Rock'n Roll Circus" covered in devil tats made it difficult to brook the shitstorm of abuse he took for writing such sacrilege; that their prior album had been entitled "Their Satanic Majesties Request" made self-defense pointless.

But what caused the band to cease playing the song in concert was the tragedy at Altamont, where a black man was stabbed and beaten to death by Hell's Angels while the band was performing "Sympathy". Murder + Hell's Angels + "Sympathy for the Devil" = the kind of bad craziness that had Mick admitting something weird happened every time the band started playing that number. The Stones did not play the song during their tours of 1972 and '73. What I wanted to know was whether they were going to play it now.

I'm also figuring that at the mere mention of the subject I was bound to get some sort of reaction out of Jagger– a reaction that would make oh, say, a loverly photographic type portrait. So I'm sitting across from Mick, planning to spring this on him and wanting to preserve the moment, knowing photos are forbidden. I'm guessing the distance between us is maybe five feet, then glance down and adjust the lens on my camera accordingly. I thought to take the picture without raising the camera to my eye to focus, trusting that Kodak, the god of photography, would take care of the rest. And I planned to talk over the click of the shutter when I asked the question that would beg the desired response.

"So are you gonna play the song?" I asked Jagger.


"Sympathy for the — click– Devil."

For the rest of the story, you'll hafta ask Elvis and the Dalai Lama.


  1. Paul dedicated his knighthood, which many believe was long overdue, to John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr.

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