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The Rolling Stones’ legendary 1977 Toronto club shows due for release

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Highlights from a pair of super-secret Toronto club shows performed by The Rolling Stones in March 1977 are set for release next month and a renowned orthopedic surgeon with deep ties to Maine says he’ll be listening intently for the sound of his amplifier.

The Rolling Stones latest vault release, “El Macombo ’77,” will be issued as a 2-CD/4 LP set on May 13, containing 23 tracks recorded in front of a stunned audience that had arrived at the venue under the assumption they would be attending a show by the Canadian band April Wine.

When the Stones performed at Toronto’s 300-capacity El Macombo nightclub on March 4 and 5, 1977, it was with the intent of recording auxiliary material to be added to the band’s double “Love You Live” album released that September. The album included material captured during the band’s tours in 1975 and 1976, but legend has it the Stones weren’t entirely thrilled with those recordings.

To augment material recorded in arenas in Los Angeles and Toronto in 1975 and in London in 1976, the Stones chose the El Macombo club as a nod to their early days as a rough and rowdy rhythm and blues club band. They performed two consecutive shows of rarely played material at the intimate club.

“We had so many songs to remember, I don’t think we had a definitive set list until the last minute,” guitarist Ron Wood recalled for the book “According to The Rolling Stones.”

Since tickets for the El Macombo shows would be nearly impossible to acquire, the decision was made to bill the Stones as The Cockroaches to stave off potential riots. To provide a further smokescreen, the club booked the Canadian band April Wine for the Stones dates and added The Cockroaches to the bill.

When “Love You Live” was released in September 1977, four tracks recorded at the El Macombo appeared on Side 3 of the double album set. The raw energy and intimacy of those recordings have long left fans wanting to hear more from those shows.

“El Macombo ‘77” has been remixed by Bob Clearmountain and is due for release on May 13.

Dr. Ian Dickey of The Stone Doctors, a band of medical professionals that performs music of The Rolling Stones to raise money for children’s charities, says he is “super psyched” for the upcoming vault release of “El Macombo ’77.”

Dickey, formerly of Bangor and a current resident of Denver, Colorado, is the owner of the Mesa/Boogie guitar amplifier originally purchased new by Keith Richards for the El Macombo shows, and later used on classic Stones albums, including “Some Girls” and “Tattoo You.”

Dickey – Asst. Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at the University of Colorado system, and Orthopedic Surgeon at Research and Development for the U.S. Dept. of Veterans affairs – has owned Richards’ Mesa Boogie amp for years. He verified its lineage with Mesa/Boogie founder Randall Smith who had sold it directly to Richards in 1977.

“When Randy founded Mesa/Boogie in 1969, he was the only guy,” Dickey said. “He has numerous patents now for things we take for granted in the guitar world.”

Mesa/Boogie amplifiers are renowned for high gain, high power, a vast range of available guitar tones, and as Dickey says, “They are dripping with sustain.”

Smith sold his Mesa/Boogie company to Gibson in January 2021 and agreed to join Gibson as master designer and pioneer of Mesa/Boogie.

“This is very exciting because Gibson hadn’t had a guitar amp presence for years,” Dickey said.

Keith Richards used the Mesa/Boogie amplifier now owned by Dickey on classic Rolling Stones recordings including “Start Me Up,” “Miss You,” “Beast of Burden” and “Shattered.” It’s considered to be one of Mesa/Boogie’s most iconic amplifiers ever, along with Carlos Santana’s famous “King Snake” amp widely used by the guitarist in the 1970s, and where Richards first heard it when Santana sat in with the Stones in 1975.

When Gibson opened their 8,000-square-foot Gibson Garage store in Nashville, the company flew Dickey and his Mesa/Boogie amplifier to the location where it’s on loan for a year.

Slash, guitarist for Guns N’ Roses, recently visited Gibson Garage in Nashville, and was photographed looking over the original patent for the Gibson Flying V guitar with the Dickey/Richards Mesa/Boogie amp appearing to his left.

Dickey said he’s counting the days to the release of “El Macombo ‘77.”

“Over the years, I’ve tracked down the various bootlegs of those shows, but I can’t wait to have the official version because of my connection to Keith’s amp. He played a wicked version of ‘Hand of Fate’ at those shows and it’s so cool to hear it knowing that sound is coming from my amp.”

Dickey says he plans to return to Maine at the end of June for two benefit concerts by The Stone Doctors.

The Stone Doctors will perform a show to benefit troubled youth at the Maine Celebrity Classic on June 29 at The Woodshed in Augusta, with special guest Doug Flutie.

On July 4, The Stone Doctors will perform the music of The Rolling Stones on the waterfront during Bangor’s annual Fourth of July celebration.

Last modified on Wednesday, 13 April 2022 06:29

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