The Rolling Stones’ tour of North America in late 1969 was their first since the summer of 1966 and it was their first anywhere since the spring of 1967. They had of course played the huge free concert in London’s Hyde Park in July 1969, shortly after Brian Jones’ tragic death, but they were not the road-honed outfit that they had become in the heady days between 1963 to 1967.
Their tour began on November 7 at Fort Collins, Colorado, where they played the State University. Tickets for this 17-date, 23-show tour sold out in hours, and so great was the demand that extra concerts were added in New York and Los Angeles; they ended up playing to over 335,000 fans on the tour. The Stones started out by rehearsing in Stephen Stills’ basement before moving to a Warner Bros Studios soundstage.
They flew between most gigs, while basing themselves in Los Angeles and New York for some of the tour. They also quite often went on stage late – sometimes very late. On November 8 in Inglewood, California, they didn’t start their second show until 4am. Robert Hilburn, writing in the Los Angeles Times asked, “The Stones have succeeded in turning outrage into art. Are they really able to use all that money?”
The shows that appear on the album
Glyn Johns recorded their shows at Baltimore’s Civic Center on November 26, and at Madison Square Garden, in New York City, on November 27 and 28. The band decided to call their second live album Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out! and released it in September 1970.
Originally it was to be a double-album, including tracks by BB King and Ike and Tina Turner. But, as Mick said at the time “Decca weren’t interested. ‘Who is BB King? Who are these people?’ they asked. They just didn’t know who these acts were! So in the end I gave it all up ’cause it just wasn’t worth carrying on with.” For the 40th-anniversary release of the record, their guests’ tracks were included along with some additional bonus cuts from the Stones.
Jimi Hendrix visited the Stones before their show at Madison Square Garden and later watched the band on stage from behind Keith’s speaker stack; it was also Jimi’s 27th birthday. “I think I bust a button on my trousers, hope they don’t fall down… you don’t want my trousers to fall down do ya?” said Mick before the band eased themselves into Chuck Berry’s riffing rhythm. It had been six years since they first learned “Carol” at a rehearsal at Studio 51 in Soho. They included it on their first album, but it never sounded better than it did live on stage in 1969.
On November 27, at Madison Square Gardens, Disc and Music Echo reported, “Just as Ike and Tina finished their set, Janis Joplin came onstage and she and Tina sang together. Incredibly exciting, even if Janis’ key wasn’t the same one the band was playing.” The Stones themselves weren’t happy and told her that she’d better not do it again, otherwise they would leave the stage.
The album’s recording, cover, and title
For the live recording, they used The Wally Heider Mobile, and remixing and overdubs were done at Olympic Sound and Trident Studios in London, between January and April 1970. Its tongue-in-cheek cover photo of Charlie Watts was shot by David Bailey, while the album sleeve features the brilliant photography of Ethan Russell.
Where did the Stones get the unusual title for this record? Blind Boy Fuller, whose real name was Fulton Allen, was born in North Carolina in 1908. He was a blues singer. (He was not blind as a child or teenager, but became partially blind in 1926, and fully blind when he was 20.) He first recorded in July 1935, and shortly afterwards he spent a short time in prison for shooting his wife in the leg! He recorded a song called “Get Your Yas Yas Out” on October 29, 1938, in Columbia, South Carolina. Fuller died, aged 32 in 1941.
The album’s reception
The record entered the British album chart in mid-September 1970 and eventually climbed to No.1, where it spent two weeks on top. In America it could only make No.6 after entering the charts in mid-October, having been released later in the US.
In the US, the Tribune asked, “In a hundred years’ time, when researchers start examining the pop phenomenon, I wonder if they will understand why The Rolling Stones were a legend in their own time?” One listen to this album and anyone should understand why. It is one of the quintessential rock albums of all time.