Rolling Stones 1979 ticket stubTicket Stub from the first show.

Keith Richards – CNIB 1979

Just a little background before I share the experience.

In March 1977 the Rolling Stones (billed as the Cockroaches) played and recorded 2 performances in a small club called the El Mocombo in Toronto. These shows would be culled down and added as an entire side to the soon to be released double live album Love You Live. The band arrived in late Feb. to prepare for the gigs. When Keith arrived he passed through customs ahead of his luggage and went on to the Harbour Castle Hotel. Customs found residue on certain items in is luggage. The find leads to a raid of his hotel suite and the confiscation of a significant amount of heroin. Keith was charged with importing. When you listen to the El Mocombo side of Love You Live, Jagger intros the band and when he intros Keith’s he says, “of course Keith is completely straight”. Another note Jagger changes the lyric in Its Only Rock & Roll to ” I bet you think you’re the only woman in Toronto”.

Anyway 2 years later Keith had to prove to the Ontario court he was / is clean and among other terms was ordered to play 2 benefit shows for the CNIB (Canadian National Institute for the Blind). Why the CNIB is of rock lore. Keith’s Blind angel is another story. The court ordered the shows and once finalized they happened fast. This is where I come in.

In April 1979 I was 17. I heard on a Friday afternoon tickets would go on sale Monday and the shows would take place just days after. I bolted off to the closest BASS (best available seating service) ticket outlet I could find. That was Burlington, Ontario in a Dominion grocery store set inside a shopping mall. I got to the location about 7PM Friday and thankfully no one was there yet. I was going to wait the 2.5 days to get tickets. The mall was still open when I got there so I kind just wandered around a little and kept a close eye on the ticket outlet. As the mall closed down I moved to a place in between the entrance doors and kind of settled in. It didn’t long before I noticed cars slowly driving by checking out the BASS outlet. Around 10PM the security guards moved me outside. I remained alone I guess until maybe 11:30PM when these 3 guys from Syracuse came racing up like they had run all the way there. The party just got started because it didn’t take long before a lot more people showed up. Cars whizzed up and out would come 2 people here then 3 there. Plenty of people walked up with sleeping bags, lawn chairs, blankets, newspapers, coolers, stereos Rolling Stones Posters CNIB Line-upand a couple of posters went up. I would say by 3 or 4 AM there were @ 150 or so with lots of others hanging out not really in line just in it for the buzz I guess. It was nice being the first in line because everyone eventually makes it up to front to scout out the scene and say hello. Being number #1, as I soon began being called, I could wander around without having to worry that someone would try and grab my spot. It would be pretty tough to rip the number #1 spot. Saturday and Sunday were just a blur of beers, tons of laughs, lots of Stones music blasting, the odd cop rolling by every now & again, the occasional media checking things out. I remember this 1 guy playing Rolling Stones trivia with everyone running around asking crazy questions like ” what stones song mentions blindness”. By early Monday morning there were 1200 or 1300 hundred people in line, just to put the demand in context this was 1 location of many throughout the GTA. There were 2 shows and the Oshawa Civic Auditorium could hold about 1300. There was to a 2-ticket limit unless you received tickets through the CNIB. Plenty of tickets were to be held back for the CNIB. So the actual number released through BASS would be pretty low. There was to be an afternoon show and an evening show. As 9AM neared the police were helping security organize the crowd because they had to get us from the outside through the usual double door mall set up to the outlet kiosk about 50 yards into the actual mall. Anyway as you could imagine pressure mounted and pushing yelling ensued and a couple of the glass doors were broken. Eventually I was standing in front of the smiling clerk at the BASS computer surrounded by media, security, police and plenty of curious onlookers. As the clock hit 9AM the clerk repeatedly tapped the button until 2 beautiful tickets came out. I paid for them and walked away. I was immediately offered $1,000 by someone for the pair, I laughed and the media (which turned out to be the Hamilton Spectator) asked me some questions and I had my picture taken. rolling stones tickets

…I had looked at the tickets but not really seen them until the scramble died down a little and I could take a moment – Keith Richards CNIB April 22, 1979 row A seats 21 & 22. I was going to be front row for a Stones show in a small venue a matter days from now.

It was crazy outside the Civic Auditorium the day of the shows. The buzz was just incredible. The Rolling Stones were within earshot. I arrived early enough to catch the muffled sounds of the band blast through the first gig. The whole environment around the arena was just pulsating. When the afternoon gig was over and the crowd was leaving / milling it was hard tell, there was a sense of awe of like I can’t believe this really happened and is it’s going to hit us again like a giant tidal wave. There were plenty of people without tickets hanging around, there certainly wasn’t a shortage of cops and there was plenty of booze & Mexican weed all over the place. (remember those gigantic seeds)

We lined up early and went in as soon as we could. Something like 5:30PM for the 7PM show. I recall a drunk taking a tumble with a ticket in his hand right outside the door in full view of many cops and many without tickets. The cops moved in and so did the group without tickets hoping to snatch the ticket before the cops hustled Johnny Walker off to the drunk tank. To no avail the drunk went and amid many pleas from desperate onlookers so did his ticket.

I get inside show my ticket and get an escort right to my seat. The venue feel tiny and my seat is front row dead nuts centre. The first thing I notice is the stage is very low. So low that when I sit down I can easily rest my feet on it if I want to. Yep, the band is in the garage and I sitting on the hood.

I asked a security guy for his laminate. These were really nice a gold card with black print set against an embossed Stones tongue and lips logo. Of course he said no. You got to try. I did eventually get a Keith pick from the stage. (medium – from Manny’s guitar store NYC)
stones 1979 CNIB
Here we go!! John Belushi comes out with blind DJ from London Ontario and makes some jokes about his lazy bastard partner from the Blues Brothers movie laying on some rock down in the Bahamas. Belushi goes to introduce Keith Richards and the place goes berserk. Keith tries to read a written statement but the crowd is just overwhelming and his just kind of tosses it away and say’s “I’m just happy to be here”. Ronnie Wood comes out as does the rest of the recently formed New Barbarians which included Bobby Keys, Stanley Clarke, Ian Mc Lagan and Ziggy Modeliste for what is only their second public performance the first being several hours prior. They rock through 7 or so songs, Sweet little Rock and Roller, Infecshun, F.U.C. her, Seven Days (classic tune) Breathe On Me, I Can Feel the Fire and the last and very very poignant Before They Make Me Run. Yes!! Everyone leaves the stage except for Keith and Ronnie. At this point the crowd is just about to start pulling hair out. From my vantage point I can already see Jagger jumping around back stage. Out comes an acoustic guitar and a stool for Keith. Now above all else what followed made this show a rock history event. Jagger flounces out on stage wearing pretty similar gear to what he wore during the 1978 Some Girls tour, tight red plastic pants and a light pink cotton sleeveless shirt all ripped down to nothing and taped with duct tape. The crowd does its thing, Ronnie fades to the far left and not before and not since have the Stones performed a duet. Keith and Mick do Prodigal Son from the Beggars Banquet album. Keith is sitting on stool strumming, 3-Blind Date Bootleg rolling stones 1979Mick leaning in to the mic like he does. I get goose bumps even as I write this. As the years go on so does the impact of this simple song performed as a duet by the glimmer twins. Just awesome!!!! (this wasn’t done during the afternoon gig) Charlie and Bill emerge and the Rolling Stones plow into Let it Rock. The set was basically 9 or 10 tunes they played on the Some Girls tour, such as Beast of Burden, Just My Imagination, Shattered, Miss You, Star Star. More of the barbarians come back out on stage and they all finished off with a howling Jumpin’ Jack Flash. The sense of being literally on stage was unbelievable. At times if I leaned forward enough Jagger would actually be directly to one side or the other like playing behind me, Wild!! I could of slung him over my shoulder and at times felt like I could of hit Keith or Ronnie’s strings if I wanted. Blind Date Bootleg rolling stones 1979The show went by so quickly. It was like the show started and ended in 15 minutes. I managed a pick from the stage and was more than happy. To recall it note for note I couldn’t but the overall vibe that this was rock history in the making and the sense of rock & roll Kingdom being there in this moment was just amazing. We were all Kings for a day!! I didn’t take any pictures but I have found over the years a few here and there. I also found a bootleg recording of the show called Blind Date. The best picture I found being a Dimo Safari picture from the 1982 CHUM FM calendar and a couple from Neil Preston a very celebrated rock photographer. As well as few in a rock head shop in Niagara Falls.

The second ticket I gave to my then girlfriend. To this day I regret not giving it to my older brother Tim. We did lots of shows after but I wish he had been there with me for this one. I laminated the ticket stub and pick together unfortunately years (1987) later a friend of my younger brother took my entire collection of ticket stubs from my trunk I archived stuff in. I lost more than a few picks.

Hope you got a buzz or at least a little sense of what it was like to have been there.


Comments (12)
  1. I wouldn’t miss Some Girls for anything…it is going to be amazing…I love the Phoenix vibe…the CAL vibe…live music lovers united for an hour and a half


  2. hey i went to the afternoon show .had to get tickets from a scalper …65 dolllars a piece>me and my buddy waited overnight to get tickets but we missed them by about 20 people in line before they sold out haha wish i was 18 again




  4. Hi.
    I was also there.My story is so similar.I had just gotten off work and was driving home when I heard the news.I went to the mall in Missisauga where there was a ticket outlet
    Maybe 4 people already there.This was about 5 PM
    I remember Monday morning they let us part way in the mall between two sections of glass doors because it was getting pretty crazy outside.They let about 20 of us in as the security gaurds new we had been there all weekend.I remember we all started singing You Cant Always Get What You Want to the people outside who thought they could push there way to the front after just arriving
    We got 2nd row center for the night show.I probobly seen you
    I have some great pictures if you are interested that I took on a rented camera.
    Plus I dont know how,but I got a bootleg cassete from the night show that I recently ripped into a CD
    Thanks for your story

  5. I was at that concert and felt grateful to have scored the tickets. A gaggle of us drove from Toronto to Oshawa. Once there, I separated from my group and said I’d meet them after the show at the car.
    Imagine my amazement when the roadie asked me if I wanted to hop up on the stage. In total disbelief, I jumped up, crossed my legs and waited with anticipation for the show.
    When the group came out, Mick Jagger was about 4 feet away, singing to me. I was gobsmacked as I was a huge fan.
    It wasn’t under after the concert that I realized I had a 16 foot bank of speakers behind me. To this day I haven’t heard properly but it was worth every minute!!
    I am still trying to find some footage or pictures of myself at that show. Unfortunately, I don’t remember whether I was at performance #1 or #2.
    Maybe someone has some pics. Email me if you do:
    [email protected]
    That would be great!
    Cheers all.

  6. OK, today is the 30th anniversary and it seems almost like yesterday, except now I’m 50 and then I was 20. WOW, many aspects are still as clear as day.

    Working the evening shift at the Post Office in Ottawa we heard that tickets would go on sale the next morning. So about 5 of us piled into my friends van at shift end at 11PM and set off for Oshawa. We got there at around 4 or 5 AM to find a long line. It was obvious that we weren’t going to get any tickets by going to the back. So over the next few hours we hung out and drank and smoked, always near the front of the line. At dawn the people in line who had been sleeping began to get up and stretch which created some space in the line/crowd. In a matter of moments the line closed up and we simply joined in near the front.

    There was a wheel-chair ramp of about 20 feet to the door with a long metal hand railing and so we blended into the line there. We quickly became stuck and wedged knowing that we’d be there for the next few hours until 9. It was, thankfully as it turned out, a long time. I spent the time wedging forward with every small shift of people and ended up getting quite a ways up on the inside. This again turned out to be good, ’cause at around 8AM the railing SNAPPED with everyone on that side falling off. There was no way they could get back in line – they were out of luck.

    Around 9AM they opened the doors and I ended up getting to the window just after all the ticketts for the evening show had been sold out. I was then ‘stuck’ with getting tickets to the earlier show. I was the only one of my friends to get through and got 2 tickets. It was quite a bit later that we realized that the tickets were the 2nd row on the floor.

    Anyway, the day of the show we were ripped by the time we got there and enjoyed a truly memorable, drunken, rough, but exhilarating set leaning on a waist-high stage just in front of Ronnie – who was nice enough to pass on the ends of his joints.

    After the show, hanging around in the parking lot, my friend and I began to think about how to get into the 2nd show. I was the experienced concert-crasher, having spent 2 years getting into almost every Ottawa concert without paying, through a variety of methods. I attribute that varied musical exposure to my love of so many different kinds of music now! Anyway, ironically enough, it was my friend that got us in. My experiences had always been getting in through un-guarded doors, picking locks, or getting people inside to kick an unguarded door in – so I was really dismissive when my friend took off into the line to get into the 2nd show, waving that he was going to use his 1st show ticket stub to get into the 2nd – YEH, RIGHT! GOOD LUCK!!

    But I followed anyway. We get to the ticket-takers, elderly Shriners it appeared, and my friend shows his ticket stub and is waved in! WOW! So I do the same. Only my Shriner takes a look at my stub and comments that its for the first show, and then passes it BACK! So, in the crowd of wild-looking freaked out people, I roll my shoulders away from him, and present my ticket to the next Shriner. He takes a quick glance at it as waves ME in!!! My friend and I join each other just on the other side and begin to jump up and down shouting: WE GOT IN FOR FREE!! WE GOT IN FOR FREE!!!

    Through our simultaneous excitement and haze we realized that this jumping up and down might not me a good idea, so we took off into the coming SECOND show ….

    As I said, WOW!! Unforgettable day. Sloppy show, but oh so enjoyable! I’m so glad that a couple of years later I found a boot-leg of it in a local shop. I still go to 2 parts: the intro to Starfucker when Jagger’s mike malfunctions and the rest of the band has to jam ’til it’s faxed; and the horribly off-key riffs of Keith’s in Jumpin’ Jack. Like I said, sloppy, but ohhhh soooo coooool.

  7. This was fun to read. I worked at the Oshawa Civic at the time. ( I was 23 at the time) I remember distinctly when my boss came in and said ” The Rolling Stones are coming here to do a concert”

    We nearly fainted. We thought he was joking, for sure.

    It was pandemonium from that moment on, and the concert was weeks away.
    I had relatives/friends coming out of the woodwork asking me for tickets.

    I used to have to get everything on the stars “wish list” meaning food, booze, whatever they wanted supplied. Their list was LONG. They brought in carpets and paintings and it was amazing how much production went into making them comfortable.

    Mick was with Jerry Hall at the time, and she came swimming in our pool with Mick. They were both very very nice, talked to the lifeguards and laughed and joked with everyone.

    I remember everyone saying how stunningly tall she was …you have to see her in person to really get the full effect. And flawlessly beautiful.

    Thanks for writing this story, it was fun to relive the entire event!

  8. Lined up all night in Oshawa for this show. Was 13 years old and it was my first concert. I must admit I sneaked up the side of the line to get the tix! Up to that point in my life it was the most excitement I ever had. Even lining up was so much fun!! Huge Party! I sat in the back of the floor section and made a little tower of chairs so I could see better as everybody else had rushed the stage. My ticket stub got thrown out sometime in early 90’s! Seen the stones several times in Tokyo since then, once at the budokan where I was so close on the side I could read the set list and see Jaggers karaoke screen which he didn’t seem to use.

  9. I was there for the 4pm show and was just so excited to be in a smaller venue than Maple Leaf Gardens. I wound up sitting on the stage left in front of that big bank of speakers.
    I have been looking for pictures ever since because no one believes that Mick sang to me for a lot of the show.
    Do you have pics to share?
    It was the greatest concert I have ever attended. What an afternoon.

  10. Yes the Dominion. Grade 12 Vic Park really close to that Dominion.
    Wow, were you the guy with the paper that had the green lines on it?
    I was about number 37 in line. You or someone near the front of the line wrote the first 100 or so peoples names on this paper and gave us all a piece with our name on it. It came in handy later when the gate crashers’ arrived and tried to butt in line. The green lined paper was like a ticket saying you had been there all night. Security listened to you or whomever and kicked the gate crashers out and let the green lines paper holders go first. Concert was a blur. Thanks Johnny W. Red I seem to recall. I Remember Belushi, He was a little……. Also recall the note being crumpled up and tossed and it was loud in that small space but fun everyone was up for it and i a good mood. Thanks for the ride Jimbo. Danny, Mike, Greg, ATB everyone.

  11. wow love the storys, was at 2nd show, 16 years old, my home town, smoking babe beside me and fresh from buffalo show year earlier, everyone is right saying it was awesome show ,plus people saying it was sloppy…but stones were at their best being sloppy lol.. it was my second time seeing the band , was hooked , little did i know at the time i would see 31 more stones gigs, even 3 in england …1978-2014

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