The Great Western Show (Exile Original Masters EXM-012AB)
Much like their last tour in 1969 the Rolling Stones 1972 tour of the US came to Los Angeles very early on. They played four shows over the weekend of June 9-11. Friday night was in Hollywood at the Palladium, Saturday night at the Long Beach Arena and the weekend was capped off with two shows on Sunday at the Forum in Los Angeles.
Such was the import and impact of these that Nat Freeland opined in Billboard, “were very likely one of the best rock shows ever seen in Southern California” and Danny Holloway writes in NME, “It’s the hottest the Stones have been in a long, long time and the painfully cool California kids are eventually excited about something again at long last.” Bill Graham promoted the shows heavily and made sure everyone had a good view of the stage by setting up two large screens on either side of the stage. The band themselves raised to the occasion and played some of the best shows on the STP.
The evening show has been available for many years dating back to the days of vinyl but this source for the early show only surfaced recently (i.e., within the last decade). The Great Western Show is the first and only silver release to present these two shows together in one title and is one of the better efforts by this label who have been known to butcher tapes in their catalogue. There is some mastering applied by the label but the touch is light and there is a nice natural sounding to the tapes.
The Great Western Forum, Los Angeles, CA – June 11th, 1972 early show
Disc 1 (78:43): Introduction / Brown Sugar, Bitch, Rocks Off, Gimme Shelter, Happy, Tumbling Dice, Love In Vain, Sweet Virginia, You Can’t Always Get What You Want, All Down the Line, Midnight Rambler, band introductions, Bye Bye Johnnie, Rip This Joint, Jumping Jack Flash, Street Fighting Man, Honky Tonk Women
The afternoon show was first pressed on Welcome To The Breakfast Show (Vinyl Gang VGP-337) along with the November 8th, 1969 early show in Los Angeles. The title is a good one, but the pairing of these two doesn’t really make thematic sense. Exile follows the stronger logic by releasing the early show in the same title with the evening show of the same day.
The sound quality on the whole is very good with nice an atmospheric live sound. It is superior to the more common evening show and is one of the better tapes from the STP. Small, non destructive cut after “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”
One of the mysteries surrounding this show is the presence of “Honky Tonk Women” as an encore, a rarity for this show since they didn’t do encores. The account from Bill Graham’s memoirs Bill Graham Presents? states:
“The Stones had a history of never doing encores. Mick was pretty much his own man when it came to making those kinds of decisions. In L.A., the first show they did at the Forum was great. We had twenty thousand more people outside waiting to come in. The kids inside were going crazy when the Stones came off. Mick said, “Bill, I don’t feel up to doin’ an encore today.” I said, “Mick, it’s up to you. If you don’t do one, it’ll take us forty-five minutes to get them out and clear the house. Because they want one. If you go out and do something short, may I suggest Honky Tonk Women, which is around two and a half minutes, I think they’ll leave and they’ll be very pleased.” He looked at me and said, “You may be right.” They went out, did Honky Tonk Women. The house emptied in eight minutes.”
No reviews of the early show exists to confirm the story. The newly found tape does indeed have “Honky Tonk Woman.” There is a cut in the tape beforehand. But that is common in audience recordings and the quality of the song is close enough to the rest of the show strongly suggests its authenticity and unless evidence surfaces to the contrary we can say the show is complete with the encore.
The tape begins with Bill Graham welcoming everyone to the afternoon show and the band hitting the stage with “Brown Sugar.” The sound-mixer fiddles with the volume at the beginning so the opening notes sound distant but they clear up quickly. After “Bitch,” Jagger tells the audience, “It’s so good to be back in LA, woot!”
“Rocks Off” is a somewhat fun but is dispensable, especially with the out of tune saxophones. There is some commotion in the audience in front of the stage and Jagger has to do some crowd control telling some, “Just get up, just get up” before they can start “Gimme Shelter.” The commotion seems to continue through “Happy” and “Tumbling Dice.” Jagger introduces “Love In Vain” by telling them it will “slow it down a bit … so it can relax your mind.”
“We’re gonna try an acoustic number if that’s alright” Jagger says before “Sweet Virginia.” Exile On Main Street had been receiving extensive airplay in southern California and this song in particular caused mild controversy for the “Got to scrape that shit right off you shoes” line. As they start the people by the recorder are already singing it with a giggle. The show ends strongly and the Stones reward the audience with the rare encore of “Honky Tonk Women.”
The Great Western Forum, Los Angeles, CA – June 11th, 1972 late show
Disc 2 (79:31): Brown Sugar, Bitch, Rocks Off, Gimme Shelter, Happy, Tumbling Dice, Love in Vain, Sweet Virginia, You Can’t Always Get What You Want, All Down the Line, Midnight Rambler, Bye Bye Johnnie, Rip This Joint, Jumping Jack Flash, Street Fighting Man, Honky Tonk Women
The late show is more distant from the stage compared to the early. It is thinner sounding with an emphasis upon the higher frequencies. This is the same tape used for the past releases including the vinyl Get Your Rocks Off (King Snake Records KS-002-2) and the silver pressed titles Live at the L.A. Forum 1972 (Idol Mind Productions IMP-CD 038-39) and Get Your Rocks Off (VGP-242).
The opening three numbers are good, and Bobby Keyes’ saxophone is less out of tune in “Rocks Off.” But this concert is defined by “Gimme Shelter.” Jagger’s vocals, crying and sustaining the notes over Mick Taylor’s guitar whales are a profound statement made all the more poignant in the middling sound quality.
The Los Angeles audience again giggles and cheer for “Sweet Virginia.” The spirits are raised during “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” so much so that a large firecracker is let off at the beginning of “All Down The Line.”
The set reaches its tension with the prolonged “Midnight Rambler” and the rest of the show acts as a release. It is with remarkable aplomb they are able to rattle off the string of tunes “Bye Bye Johnny” (a sly commentary on the preceding song) and “Rip This Joint.”
“Jumping Jack Flash” served as the rallying point in the previous tour but here is the penultimate statement before “Street Fighting Man.” As like the afternoon show, the evening also is rewarded with the rare encore “Honky Tonk Women.” This would be their last show in Los Angeles for three years and is, in agreement with the Billboard review, among their greatest. And The Great Western Show is among Exiles’ best releases and a definite essential title for the Stones collection.