It’s March 1971 and the Rolling Stones are saying farewell to the UK in the only way that makes any sense – a 9 date tour. They’re leaving Britain because of the crippling tax regime that was in existence at the time and heading for the South of France, and of course ‘Exile’.
Unusually this tour was taking place ahead of the release of the band’s new album, Sticky Fingers. Unusually, because most bands would want their new release available in the shops when touring, but the Stones had to be out of the country before the end of the first week of April.
Sticky Fingers was still over a month away from reaching record stores, but this was no obstacle that prevented them from performing tracks from the album during these concerts; principle among them, ‘Brown Sugar’, ‘Bitch’ and ‘Dead Flowers’. All three tracks along with the remainder of the Leeds concert are included as bonus tracks on the deluxe reissue of this Stones classic that is coming out this June.
The band were on exceptional form for these shows, Mick’s vocals are his menacing best and the interplay between Keith and Mick Taylor is both telepathic and full of dynamics. Charlie and Bill underpin everything with their trademark rock solid rhythm section. Bobby Keys and Jim Price had settled into their roles as the group’s resident horn section, and best of all Nicky Hopkins was playing piano with them onstage for the first time ever on an entire tour.
Hopkins shared a unique musical chemistry with each of the Stones and had worked with them on both Beggars Banquet and Let It Bleed. He’d briefly migrated to the West Coast to play with Quicksilver Messenger Service while Sticky Fingers was being recorded but had returned to London in early 1971 to add his piano to ‘Sway’. Watts still views “Nicky Hopkins (as) one of the prettiest players ever. And Mick Taylor was the same on guitar. And when those two worked together, the lines they played sometimes were just magnificent.”
Their show in the refectory of the University of Leeds, the same place as The Who recorded their now-famous concert, was committed to tape by Glyn Johns and it was broadcast, or at least part of it was, in mid April on the BBC in a 60 minute special. It is now available in its entirety and it’s a privilege to hear the band at the top of their game.
Aside from their new tracks the band went back to Let it Bleed, their previous album for ‘Live With Me’, ‘Love In Vain’ and extended version of ‘Midnight Rambler’. There’s ‘Stray Cat Blues’ and ‘Street Fighting Man’ from Beggars Banquet, along with ‘Honky Tonk Woman’ and ‘Satisfaction’.
The Stones also pay homage to Chuck Berry including two of his classic cuts, ‘Little Queenie’ and ‘Let It Rock’, the latter was included on the b-side, along with ‘Sway’, of Brown Sugar, released as a single a week ahead of Sticky Fingers.
In the 1970s this concert was bootlegged on vinyl as “Get Yer Leeds Lungs Out”, and for many fans this is, up until now, the finest unissued live music by the band. Neither ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’ or ‘Live with Me’ were included on the BBC broadcast so both of these tracks have never been heard before.
Rampant, rock royalty at their very best, standby to be wowed…