The Rolling Stones are (left to right): Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Ron Wood, Mick Jagger, and Bill Wyman
Photo credits to Lynn Goldsmith

42 years ago, The Rolling Stones played a series of secret shows in Toronto

News 08/03/2019

In the winter of 1977, The Rolling Stones were in Toronto for a set of 'secret shows.'

In late February, Keith Richards was found with large amounts of drugs in his possession and the incident made international news. There was also a possibility that he could be getting for an extended jail sentence.

However, the rest of the band had been practising in Toronto, and their cover was set to be blown.

Many months earlier, vocalist Mick Jagger and manager Peter Rudge had set up a series of secret shows at Toronto's El Mocambo Club. Their idea was to use some of the live recordings for a forthcoming concert album.

4th March 1977: Rolling Stones performing at El Mo
4th March 1977: Rolling Stones performing at El Mo

Secrecy was crucial because the upper level at El Mo can only fit about 300 people. If their cover was blown, the gigs would become a "media circus."

Eventually, El Mo's booker, Dave Bluestein came up with a plan to schedule Montreal's April Wine to play 4th and 5th of March at the club. Then they organised a radio contest where people could enter to see April Wine with the Cockroaches, an unknown band as opening act.

The winners were hand picked by Bluestein and Stones, who were only told of the surprise exclusive gig when they were on the bus heading to the gig. The guests had to enter through the back of the club.

“The minute I got onstage, it felt just like another Sunday gig at the Crawdaddy,” Richards reminisced. “It immediately felt the same… It was one of those weird things in Toronto."

Richards continued, "Everybody’s going around talking doom and disaster, and we’re up on stage at the El Mocambo, and we never felt better. I mean, we sounded great."

When the band's third album, 'Love You Live' came out in September '77, side three of the double LP was composed solely of covers recorded at the El Mocambo.