||The last times
Recounting the Stones' previous club gigs in Toronto
MARCH 4 AND 5, 1977, EL MOCAMBO: This went down as one of the most storied, and infamous, weeks in Stones history. And that's saying something.
The band's stop in Toronto had a helluva start.
After arriving on March 2, guitarist Keith Richards -- then helplessly addicted to heroin -- was caught by the RCMP with so much smack he was arrested for drug trafficking. (He later received a suspended sentence on condition he perform a concert for the blind and continue treatment for his addiction.)
What's more, Richards' then-wife Anita Pallenberg was charged with possession of hashish and heroin in a separate incident, for which she was later fined.
Two days later, the Stones played two surprise gigs at Toronto's old landmark rock club on Spadina, the "ElMo." Five hundred people jammed the club both Friday and Saturday night, many of them CHUM contest winners.
Keyboardist Billy Preston and percussionist Ollie Brown joined the Stones, who recorded the performances. Four tracks -- Mannish Boy, Crackin' Up, Little Red Rooster and Around And Around -- were included on the Stones' Love You Live LP (inset, right), released later that year.
The Sun reported then that these were the Stones' first formal appearances in a nightclub since their pre-Brit Invasion days in 1964 -- which was two lead guitarists ago.
In fall 2001, singer Mick Jagger recalled the gigs in an interview with The Sun's Jane Stevenson.
"During the rehearsal ... I wrote the song Miss You. So I remember that 'cause I was waiting for everyone in the band to turn up and I was with Billy Preston, and Billy Preston was playing the kick drum and I was always playing the guitar. I wrote Miss You on that, so I remember that moment very well."
The biggest headlines were reserved for what soon became the most embarrassing moment yet for Canada's first lady, Margaret Trudeau. Still married to then-PM Pierre Trudeau, she hung out stageside at both shows -- as guitarist Ron Wood's date.
Wrote The Sun afterward: "Ever since Margaret Trudeau went to the hospital with emotional problems, the media -- the country -- has been sympathetic, understanding, tolerant of her periodic eccentricities. But there's a limit to this."
Jagger was widely believed to be Maggie's love interest that weekend, but Stones insider Tony Sanchez later wrote it was in fact Wood.
"I remember the Margaret Trudeau incident," Jagger said with a chuckle last year. "Oh, my God. It was an instant Toronto, fun-filled, packed night!"
Sun movie critic Liz Braun attended the Friday show. "My friends and I couldn't take our eyes off Margaret Trudeau," says Liz, then a barmaid who'd managed to scam a ride aboard a chartered CHUM bus. "This was way before the open-crotch shot at Studio 54."
JULY 19, 1994, RPM: Perhaps it was because Richards wound up having a huge soft spot for Toronto (the '77 arrest was a life-changing experience; he soon kicked heroin).
Perhaps it was because the man whose company was now overseeing the Stones' tours (Michael Cohl) lives in Toronto.
Perhaps it was because Toronto and Canada reminded Mick and Keith, now New Yorkers, a little bit of 'ome.
Whatever the reasons, the Stones decided this year to rehearse here for the first time prior to a tour (Voodoo Lounge).
On this hot summer night they played a surprise gig at RPM, the warehouse-like club at the corner of Jarvis and Queen's Quay.
Oddly, like last night's show at Palais Royale, this one coincided with a landmark Elvis Presley anniversary -- the 40th anniversary of the release of the King's first record, That's All Right (Mama).
Hundreds of fans swarmed the RPM club in an attempt to get a ticket, but of course most were left disappointed.
RPM was later renamed the Guvernment, and is now called Kool Haus.
SEPT. 4, 1997, HORSESHOE: The Stones had been celebs around town all through August, as for the second time this decade they were rehearsing in Toronto prior to hitting the road -- this time for their Bridges To Babylon tour.
They played a surprise gig at the classic local rock club The Horseshoe immediately after making an appearance via satellite on the MTV Awards. They played for about an hour.
"It was pretty impromptu, yeah," Jagger told The Sun later that month. "I just said the night before, 'Hey, we should play tomorrow.' But we hadn't planned it. It wasn't for publicity. We just wanted to do it. To get one little gig out of the way, 'cause one gig's worth a week's rehearsal in my books."
"I said, 'Yeah, let's give 'em a smell of blood -- practise on the public. It was good fun and it does wonders for the band. One little shot like that. You notice it the next day back at rehearsals, everybody's like: 'Let me at 'em. Let me at 'em.' "