The Untold Story Of The Rolling Stones Concert Murder


Rock star Mick Jagger was appalled by the name “Rolling Stone” for a magazine that had nothing to do with his band— at least nothing financially. “Why did [they] call it that, when there was a band called that?” said Mick Jagger. “I mean, I know it [arose] from a song name, but that’s not really the point.”

Keith Richards was a little more blunt when he said, “We thought, ‘What a thief?’” Rolling Stone creator Jann Wanner apparently got the name from the old phrase, “A Rolling Stone gathers no moss.” The band, the Rolling Stones, said they got their name from the Muddy Waters song, “Like a Rolling Stone.”

This was only the beginning of the problem but the connection actually led to a mutually beneficial business decision, but then there was a murder.

Mick Jagger Talks About Rolling Stone Magazine

Mick Jagger | Photo Credit Rolling Stone

“There’s no copyright for all these things—‘Rolling Stone Ice Cream,’ go ahead,” said Jagger. “But it was a magazine about rock music. It wasn’t quite the same as calling something ice cream. There’s obviously a closer connection than that,” he concluded, in a conversation later republished in Sticky Fingers by Joe Hagan.

As for the first staffers at the magazine, this often meant clarification between the magazine and the band. But creator Jann Wanner used it to this advantage. He had no problem getting business phone lines installed, loans, and a handful of other items due to the band’s publicity.

The band’s manager immediately sent a cease-and-desist letter, which was the first point of contact between the two.

Creating A Friendly Olive Branch Between The Two

Wenner, Jagger | Photo Hotty Toddy

Janner Wenner used his relationship with the band’s press secretary Jo Bergman to set up a potential interview with Mick Jagger. In the letter, he essentially ignored the legal action and tried to come off nice. Basically, he wanted to publish an interview about the English band in the American magazine. “We love you,” he concluded in the letter.

Meanwhile, across the globe, Jagger and the others had noticed how the Beatles had used the magazine as a promotional vehicle. At the time, there wasn’t much publicity for rock stars and certainly nothing as academic and influential as what Rolling Stone hoped to become.

After nine months and fourteen issues, the Rolling Stones had never even appeared on Rolling Stone, and that needed to change.

The Origin Of British Rolling Stone Magazine

Mick Jagger | Photo Credit Rolling Stone

“I don’t think Mick lets anyone off the hook for anything,” said Keith Richards about his friend. “He’s never let anyone off the hook, once he’s got one in.” When the band learned that the US magazine wanted to expand a British version, this angered the band more but it also opened an opportunity.

Through mutual friend Boz Scaggs (Steve Miller Band), Wenner and Jagger set up in an interview while the Stones were recording in Los Angeles in 1968. Over pizza, a new album, and some business talk, the creator of the magazine finally got his conversation with the face of the band.

According to Wenner’s biography, “Jagger proposed that Wenner come to London to discuss the possibility of publishing the British version of Rolling Stone, with Mick Jagger as half owner.” Before, the musician had already wanted to started a band, so he decided to partner up with a man who had already done so in America.

To show his appreciation, Wenner wrote up a song-by-song preview of the new album, Beggars Banquet where he compared Jagger’s lyrics to the great Bob Dylan.

“Sympathy For The Devil…”

Mick Jagger | Photo Credit Jason Koza

Originally, the song “Sympathy for the Devil” on Beggars Banquet was “The Devil Is My Name.” The first lyric, “I shouted out, who killed Kennedy? After all it was you and me.” But, then Bobby Kennedy got shot, so the lyrics changed to, “Who killed the Kennedys? After all it was you and me.”

Rolling Stone put Mick Jagger on the cover of the magazine on August 10, 1968. The headline read, “The Return of the Rolling Stones.” Eventually, the two started a broad agreement for the British version of the magazine. Janner wanted the joint venture to be fifty-fifty, where he got complete editorial control.

Surprisingly, Jagger also wanted editorial control “on [his] side of the Atlantic.” They also fought off the name, where neither would agree to waive any past or future rights for the magazine or the band. In the end, it was enough for Wanner to simply be in business with Mick Jagger. So he agreed to the compromise.

Meanwhile, Wenner was using up all of the magazine’s resources living a flashy life and traveling back and fourth to London. The British version launched in June 1969, with Pete Townsend (The Who) on the cover.

Major Problems With The British Version

Mick Jagger | Photo Credit Ned Kelly

There were major differences between the two versions of the magazine that now seem somewhat appalling. The British version was political, too groovy, and littered with ridiculous spelling errors. Two major incidents included Ray Davie’s as Ray Davis and Bob Dylan as Bob Dillon on the cover.

Wenner immediately booked a flight to London, but when he tried to bring down the hammer on the second staff, they ignored him. “We said, ‘F**k it, the Stones are paying for this, we’ll do whatever we like, he’s not our boss,” said one contributor to the British publication.

Eventually, Wenner sent Jagger a formative 12-page letter where he called the joint venture “mediocre” and the management of it ran by “unbelievable incompetence.”

‘Let It Bleed’ Concert Results In Epic Fan Murder

Let It Bleed Altamont | Photo WNYC

By this time, Mick Jagger had lost interest in the magazine went down to Australia to shoot a movie called Ned Kelly. Jann Wenner wanted to shut down the publication but didn’t want to upset his rock star friend. Jagger didn’t have a ton of money invested so he was willing to shut it down. Then the duo started something new.

After the Ned Kelly movie wrapped, The Rolling Stones prepared for a tour. They wanted to create a festival to par with the Woodstock festival and shoot their performance as a documentary.

The botched festival was set up as a free event, but this included riffraff, drugs, and even a rumor of the Stones asking for Hell’s Angels to attend. Most of the news at the time published pre-written stories. But there was one thing they ignored until a few days later.

In front of 300,000 fans, the lead singer started to perform “Sympathy for the Devil.” Jagger said, “We always have something very funny happen when we start that number.” About fifteen minutes later, there was a dead man in front of the stage. An 18-year-old black fan Meredith Hunter died that night.

Rolling Stone made the decision to cover the story and they even interviewed the sister of the deceased. She said the Stones were “responsible” and “they don’t care.”

Did you know about the rise and fall of British Rolling Stone magazine?

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