Toronto

Legendary Rolling Stones secret shows at El Mocambo get release 45 years later

A piece of rock and roll history is finally seeing the light of day, 45 years later — The Rolling Stones are set to release full recordings from the band’s secret shows at Toronto’s legendary El Mocambo in 1977.

'Live at the El Mocambo' being released on May 13

The Rolling Stones performed two surprise concerts at Toronto's El Mocambo in 1977. Now, the band is releasing recordings from those shows in May. (CBC)

A piece of rock and roll history is finally seeing the light of day, 45 years later — The Rolling Stones are set to release full recordings from the band's secret shows at Toronto's legendary El Mocambo in 1977.

Long the stuff of music lore in the city, the new double CD, four-LP release captures the Stones' full set from the band's March 5 show, plus three bonus tracks from their set the night before. The new live album is set to be released on May 13.

In an interview with CBC Radio's The Great Canadian Gold Rush in 1978, singer Mick Jagger and guitarist Keith Richards talked about how playing these 300 person-capacity club shows, when the band was used to playing stadiums, allowed the Stones to get back to their roots.

"It's easy in a way playing clubs … you can hear people, you can hear everybody, you can relate to the people very easily, you can talk to people. There's not a pressure to sort of dance as much," Jagger said.

"It's a bit apprehensive slightly the first night about how it's going to be, because I didn't really know what the people were going to be like … but they were very sort of warm, and it was very easy to sort of get into."

Listen | Keith Richards and Mich Jagger talk El Mocambo shows:

Keith and Mick chat about recording at Toronto's El Mocambo and the infamous Toronto heroin bust.

Richards said the band played the hits that were commonplace on its setlists back in the mid-70s, but also leaned back into its blues roots, given this opportunity in a more intimate setting.

"They're the sort of things that you don't get a chance to do much in concert because, to us, they're real club numbers," he said.

Lucky concertgoers managed to gain access to the shows through a radio contest, where the prize was advertised as tickets to see April Wine, with an opening set by a band called The Cockroaches. The Cockroaches, obviously, were in fact the Stones, with April Wine opening up.

The Toronto stop didn't exactly go as planned for the band, though. A few days before stepping into the club, the RCMP arrested Richards and charged him with possession of heroin with intent to traffic.

"At the time, to wake up with 25 Mounties around your bed, it's kind of depressing, but it's not something I think of now. I guess it's something I know I've gotta deal with at one point when it comes up," Richards said.

When asked during the interview if the experience was a shock to him, Richards responded, "No, it's not the first time it's happened."

In the end, the guitarist was sentenced to a year of probation in 1978 and ordered to complete psychiatric treatment — and as part of his probation, was ordered to perform a concert at the Canadian National Institute for the Blind.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Adam Carter

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Adam Carter is a Newfoundlander who now calls Toronto home. You can follow him on Twitter @AdamCarterCBC or drop him an email at adam.carter@cbc.ca.

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