This is the second part of my 1973 interview with Peter Rudge, pictured below as he looks today, more or less.
The mechanics for the [1973 Rolling Stones tour] tour are coming from all over the world. The lighting system, which includes seven “super-trooper” arc lights, is being brought over from New York, as are the seven operators. These lights are placed at the rear of the stage and shine forward into a 40ft x 8ft mirror which is slung down from the ceiling mid-way up each hall. Thus they are reflected back onto the stage. There are also 88 smaller spotlights shining down on the band, and in charge of this whole operation is Brian Croft, who runs his own company which specialises in lighting rock groups. Croft has worked on the last three Stones tours.
The sound system is being flown over from Los Angeles and the men who will operate it are being brought in from as far afield as Australia. Local labour will be used as “muscle” to carry it around but there are at least half a dozen top sound men (including the vice-presidents of the two companies that manufactured it in the first place) to work the switches.
On top of this there is a makeup and wardrobe man from Paris who will be solely working for Jagger to ensure his stage clothes are clean and pressed for each concert. Keith Richard is bringing over a guitar mechanic from Arkansas whose job it is to restring and tune his instruments for each show and, if necessary, between each number the group plays. Then there is a “reccy” man who will never see a concert. His job it to visit each location a day ahead of the group and check out that the facilities for the following day’s show are in order.
“The Rolling Stones are not a group to learn the business from,” says Rudge. “They use the best who have already proved themselves the best. They tour infrequently and can afford this luxury, but there is plenty of kudos for a roadie to have worked on a Rolling Stones tour. It’s like a good reference for getting a job on any other tour afterwards.
“I try to keep control of everything all the way down the line as the group themselves worry a lot about what is going on. Mick Jagger works with me on organisation details as much as anybody and he came down to Cardiff with me last week to check out the Castle there where we are playing. He’s the guy who’s going to be up there on the stage and he’s the guy that the public will blame if they can’t see properly so he insisted on having his own say in the matter. It doesn’t always happen like this with groups.
“My job is to keep an eye on all these aspects. The group will blame me if something goes wrong, although I will know that the fault lies with someone who hasn’t done what I’ve told them to do. I don’t know any other groups who are as demanding as the Stones or who have this intensity about them.”
The transport situation is another major headache, although the actual driving around Europe is being done by a professional haulage firm that knows the roads better than any group roadie – having delivered cabbages across the continent for most of the year. Two 40 foot trucks will transport everything from town to town, and each promoter must supply an English speaking man at every border in order to facilitate passing through customs.
Then there is accommodation. A full time travel agent from Denmark has been hired to book everyone into hotels throughout Europe, and he will travel with the party.
Tax and insurance are another headache for Rudge. A qualified accountant is on the tour to deal with immediate tax matters.
Pre-tour meetings covering all these aspects have been going on for the past month. There have been two meetings in Paris when all the European promoters got together, and one similar meeting in London.
Security is another worry. Where possible the group will book a complete floor of a hotel and station security men at the lifts so that unauthorised people cannot get on to that floor, let alone near the group’s bedrooms. There will be checks on fans coming to the concerts, something the Stones have always insisted on after the notorious Altamont incident.
A system of aliases is used to book the group into hotel and restaurants. On the last US tour they used the names of cricketers, while in Australia they were professional cyclists.
Each evening on tour Rudge will dictate a newsletter that is distributed to each member of the tour from Jagger downwards. This will give details of the following day’s itinerary. “Each tour we have a change-over day just for fun when – apart from appearing on stage – everyone takes on another role. Mike will be baggage man, and just for the hell of it he’ll go around the hotel corridors picking up everyone’s luggage. Bobby Keys is usually the accountant as he can’t add up and I usually become the singer and take things easy. You’ve got to do something like this when you’re on the road, otherwise you’d go mad.”