Jersey Devil (Empress Valley EVSD-115/116/117/118/119/120) – paper case edition
Jersey Devil (Empress Valley EVSD-115/116/117/118/119/120) – jewel case edition
The Rolling Stones’ 1981 tour was the biggest rock and roll event of the year. The size of the production, the length and the pubulicity surrounding it were unprecedented. They played in the biggest arenas, sometimes for multiple nights, and orchestrated a media blitz which saw them appear on television somewhere in the world at least once a week on local stations, syndicated shows like Rona Barrett’s new news program “Inside & Out” and on cable television with several appearances on the brand new channel MTV. The big tour finale was the pay-per-view broadcast by satellite on the final night.
Five shows were booked in the New York metropolitan area. The first three were at the Brenden Byrne Arena in the Meadowlands in New Jersey and two more the following week in Madison Square Garden.
The day before the first Meadowlands show the New York Times reported that “The band’s five shows in the New York area, which begin tomorrow night at the Brendan T. Byrne Sports Arena in New Jersey’s Meadowlands, will accommodate a total of nearly 150,000. That looks like an impressive figure, but ticket requests for these shows ran into the millions. Suddenly, everyone wants to see the Rolling Stones – their older fans are in their 30’s and 40’s, like the Stones themselves; their youngest fans are barely into their teens.”
Every show on the tour was professionally recorded for possible use on the live album and it seems every one of them has surfaced and been pressed. For New Jersey, two and three quarters of the gigs are available from the soundboard and surfaced on silver discs in 2002. The first the concerts are compete and three quarters of the third concert is extant.
The big three labels, Empress Valley, Rattle Snake and Vinyl Gang all released their versions almost simultaneously and these three remain, after seven years, the only silver pressed editions of these soundbard recordings. Generally speaking the recordings are all very good to excellent but dry recordings. All of the instruments are audible in the mix but there are some issues regarding the balance of the guitars in particular.
Crowd noises are pushed far down into the mix lending a rather sterile feel to the show. But on the positive these do convey very well the general excitement of the Rolling Stones playing on the world’s biggest stage, something definitely not lost on Mick and the band. Tina Turner, who opened for the Stones in 1969 with her husband Ike opened all the shows as a solo artist and joins the band onstage for “Honky Tonk Women.”
Brendan Byrne Arena, Meadowlands, NJ – November 5th, 1981
Disc 1 (66:26): Under My Thumb, When The Whip Comes Down, Let’s Spend The Night Together, Shattered, Neighbours, Black Limousine, Just My Imagination, Down The Road Apiece, Going To A Go-Go, Let Me Go, Time Is On My Side, Beast Of Burden, Waiting On A Friend, Let It Bleed
Disc 2 (60:28): You Can’t Always Get What You Want, band introduction, Little T&A, Tumbling Dice, She’s So Cold, All Down The Line, Hang Fire, Miss You, Start Me Up, Honky Tonk Woman, Brown Sugar, Jumping Jack Flash, (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, Star Spangled Banner
The first New York concert is very good but there is a hint of distortion. IT is nothing to detract from enjoying the show but it is present. There is significant distortion in “Let It Bleed” and a tape crinkle in the beginning of “Miss You.” Other releases of this tape are Jersey Devil: American Tour 1981 – November 5th (Rattle Snake RS 096/97) and Down The Road Apiece (Vinyl Gang VGP-303) and exist in similar quality.
There are obvious sound problems at the beginning which even the review in the New York Times the following day point out, observing “The Stones came on and launched immediately into ”Under My Thumb,” and there was Mr. Jagger cavorting determinedly and shouting the words unintelligibly, while the band set up a muddy racket of sound. It looked to be a long night. It wasn’t. Within a few minutes, things improved notably, and by the end this had become a not just enjoyable but positively refreshing experience.
“The first thing that improved was the sound. The Byrne Arena is reputed to be the best local arena for music, but at the outset, at least from this writer’s seat, the sound was poor. It cleared up enough by a half-hour into the set, however. In addition, this was the least deafeningly amplified arena show this writer has ever heard -which is meant as a compliment, not a complaint.” Jagger himself can be heard telling the sound man to turn up the highs in the monitor before “Let’s Spend The Time Together.”
The review also observes, “The Stones’ set lasted slightly more than two hours. It consisted of 45 minutes of fast songs, 30 minutes of ”slow” songs – ‘slow’ because Stones ballads tend to be as tough as their uptempo efforts -and another 45 minutes of fast numbers. The band played more of their real oldies, as well as familiar songs from the 1970’s, than ever before. Aside from the band’s basic five, there were two keyboard players (including the ‘sixth Stone,’ Ian Stewart) and a saxophone player. An expensive and complex camera array, as well as sometimes annoying lighting, meant a film was being shot.
“The set is clever but less complex than some past Stones sets (the unfolding flower-petal from 1975, for instance). It was also adorned with a curiously tacky chiffon confection; the Stones’ graphic elegance seems to be partly a thing of the past, although the tour poster remains handsome. All of this avoids the issues of how the band actually looked and sounded and what the whole evening meant. The answer to the first question is: fine. Mr. Jagger is in superb physical shape this year and, for all his mugging and restless peregrinations, is for the most part actually singing more carefully than he sometimes has. And the band is just as loose but tight as ever.”
The tape begins at the end of the “Take The A Train” taped introduction. Bill Graham comes on to make the announcement for the opening notes of “Under My Thumb” starts the momentum in the opening songs. “Welcome everybody” Jagger says to greet the massive audience. “Everybody from New Jersey and New York anyway. Let’s spend the night together.”
He has several funny comments about the songs in the set, saying that “Black Limousine” is about “a black limousine. We used to ride ’em” narrating the lyrics. “Down The Road Apiece” he refers to as their “first single,” a statement that is not true since it never was released as a single, and “Time Is On My Side” is a song that “we used to sing as teenagers.”
But as the show goes on there are some blaring mistakes and general sloppiness, a fact that belies the general statement that this this the Stones’ first “business” tour. “Beast Of Burden” is out of tune in the beginning and is very sloppy. Jagger comes in too early and with the wrong lyric out of the guitar solo in “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” and his microphone isn’t working at the beginning of “Tumbling Dice.” However the ending of the show is really good with “Start Me Up” sounding very tight and Tina Turner adding her vocals to “Honky Tonk Women.” “See you tomorrow” Jagger says before the encore “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” at the end of a good opening night in New York.
Brendan Byrne Arena, Meadowlands, NJ – November 6th, 1981
Disc 3 (72:22): Under My Thumb, When The Whip Comes Down, Let’s Spend The Night Together, Shattered, Neighbours, Black Limousine, Just My Imagination, Twenty Flight Rock, Going To A Go-Go, Let Me Go, Time Is On My Side, Beast Of Burden, Waiting On A Friend, Let It Bleed
Disc 4 (69:45): You Can’t Always Get What You Want, band introduction, Little T&A, Tumbling Dice, She’s So Cold, All Down The Line, Hang Fire, Miss You, Start Me Up, Honky Tonk Woman, Brown Sugar, Jumping Jack Flash, (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, Star Spangled Banner
The tape for the second Brendan Byrne Arena show is slightly more clear than the first night although there is still some of the balance issues. Two other releases of the soundboard, the same year that Empress Valley released this are Jersey Devil: American Tour 1981 – November 6th (RS 098/99) and Five Stones Ready To Roll (Vinyl Gang VGP-313).
Again it picks up with Graham’s introduction as the band start “Under My Thumb.” There is a moment of hesitation afterwards as the band stumbles into “When The Whip Comes Down.” “Welcome to New Jersey” is Jagger’s incongruous introduction before “Let Spend The Night Together” which peters out at the very end.
“Shattered” is one of the most fun Stones song live and Ernie Watts begins to assert himself. He had some demonic performance on the tour like such as the first Dallas show the week before. There times when he’s buried deep in the mix like on “Beast Of Burden,” but when he’s turned up he adds much to the music like on “Miss You” and in general he is much more audible on this tape compared to the first night.
“Down The Road Apiece,” played the first night, is replaced by “Twenty Flight Rock” before which Jagger says, “When you get to the top you’re too tired to pop,” reciting the lyrics. “Time Is On My Side” is something “we used to do as teenagers,” and Richards is buried so deep in the mix he has to yell “give me some guitar” somewhere near the beginning. “Let It Bleed” is, according to Jagger, about a women’s menstrual cycle.
Mick introduces the entire band onstage before handing the mic over to Keith for “Little T & A,” his one vocal number in the set. He has a particularly hard time singing and even quips “oh my range is terrible” in the middle. The soundman forgets to turn on Mick’s mic and he’s inaudible in the beginning of “Tumbling Dice.” One of the highlights of the show is “Miss You” and thankfully Ernie Watt’s saxophone is higher in the mix, giving it a mid-town cabaret feel. But in the next song “Start Me Up” the band get lost and have to extend the song before they can finish properly.
Tina Turner is a bit late coming on stage for “Honky Tonk Women” and the band have to extend the beginning for a few bars, but she adds her fun to the track and thanks everyone for coming along! The saxophone replaces the guitar in a very fast and aggressive version of “Brown Sugar.” An eight minute version “Jumping Jack Flash” closes the set. There is ninety-seconds of (faint) audience cheering afterwards. The Stones can be heard speaking faintly. “Down the hatch” Mick says and Ron Wood can be heard saying, “down the bloody hatch.” The come on for the “Satisfaction” encore and the tape ends with the Hendrix Woodstock recording of “Star Spangled Banner.”
Brendan Byrne Arena, Meadowlands, NJ – November 7th, 1981
Disc 5 (68:55): Under My Thumb, When The Whip Comes Down, Let’s Spend The Night Together, Shattered, Neighbours, Black Limousine, Just My Imagination, Twenty Flight Rock, Going To A Go-Go, Let Me Go, Time Is On My Side, Beast Of Burden, Waiting On A Friend, Let It Bleed
Disc 6 (63:56): You Can’t Always Get What You Want, band introduction, Little T&A. Bonus tracks, Kingdome, Seattle, WA – October 15th, 1981: Tumbling Dice, She’s So Cold, All Down The Line, Hang Fire, Miss You, Start Me Up, Honky Tonk Woman, Brown Sugar, Jumping Jack Flash, (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, Star Spangled Banner
The final New Jersey show exists only from the beginning through to “Little T & A.” Both Empress Valley and Rattle Snake on Jersey Devil: American Tour 1981 – November 7th (RS 100/101) finish the show by editing the latter fourth of the Seattle soundboard from October 15th, from “Tumbling Dice” to the ending “Star Spangled Banner.” Some think such a practice is acceptable since it keeps the sound on an even keel. But Vinyl Gang on Too Tired To Rock (Vinyl Gang VGP-318) use an audience tape from the same show to complete it which presents a more authentic representation of the event.
November 7th has the best sound of the three. It is very lively and well balanced (although still not perfect) and sucks the listener in at the beginning. Like the others Bill Graham introduces the Stones before a very energetic “Under My Thumb.” Mick’s microphone isn’t working at first and they keep playing until he can join in. Keith even plays the melody on guitar before the vocals start.
Before “Shattered” Jagger jokes, “ah shidoobee. I feel like I’m shitting all over the stage” and sings “to live in New Jersey you must be tough tough tough tough.” At the and he says “we’re all New Jersey bums alright? Just for one night.”
The early in the set cover songs all are grouped together as is the norm and again includes “Twenty Flight Rock” again. Jagger has fun introducing “Beast Of Burden,” proudly whining “I don’t want to be anybody’s toerag. I don’t want to be anybody’s doormat neither … nobody’s beast of burden.” The second side begins with the best “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” out of the three Jersey shows. Watt’s saxophone is clearly heard with Wood’s guitar. The tape unfortunately ends after a great “Little T & A.”
The rest of the disc is the October 15th Seattle soundboard recording and while there is the same excellent sound the mood is much different. There is much more excitement in the New Jersey show compared to the still atmosphere of the Kingdome. It would have been better if Empress Valley followed Vinyl Gang’s lead and spliced in the audience recording. Despite that Jersey Devils is a very good release by Empress Valley when they were interested in producing quality Rolling Stones release, something they have completely abandoned.