If you have been a tourist to New York City, especially if your touring has taken you to the t-shirt vendors around Central Park, The Plaza Hotel and Fifth Avenue, chances are you have seen or even purchased one of the most ubiquitous NYC souvenir t-shirts available at every stand. It is the iconic image of John Lennon wearing a white t-shirt with the words “New York City” in black type, freckled arms folded defiantly across his chest. Photographer Bob Gruen shot the image back in 1974, when he was just 29 years old and Lennon was 34. The former Beatle was recently returned to the city after what came to be known as his long “lost weekend” in California, and in the recording studio working on his fifth solo album, “Walls and Bridges”. The image has become an indelible part of the iconography of the city for many reasons, not least being the fact that Lennon was one of its most famous residents, but also because Lennon loved the city and the anonymity it offered him. Gruen had purchased the shirt Lennon wore in the picture on the street for about $5.00 and cut the sleeves off before asking Lennon to put it on. The rest is rock and roll photographic history.
As one of the most prolific rock and roll photographers in the industry, Gruen has seen his share of rock and roll history, and he spent about an hour sharing anecdotes from another now legendary period, The Rolling Stones American Tour 1972, at Electric Lady Studios on West 8th Street on November 12th. The night was a celebration of the launch of Jose Cuervo’s Reserva de la Familia’s The Rolling Stones Tour Pick Collector’s Edition, in a limited edition bottle in honor of the pivotal role Jose Cuervo played in fueling The Rolling Stones’ infamous 1972 North American tour, which was dubbed the ‘Tequila Sunrise Tour’. Gruen shared the stage with The Stone’s press agent from the tour, Carol Klenfner, and the two gave the audience an insider’s look into what is was like to be a part of The Stone’s entourage during one of the most publicized and written about tours ever.
One of the funniest moments of the night came when Klenfner revealed that Keith Richards hated Truman Capote. The “In Cold Blood” author had been assigned by Rolling Stone Magazine to cover the tour, but spent a lot of time on the road and never wrote the story. Capote actually split the tour in New Orleans, ostensibly because he didn’t mesh with the band, but in his autobiography, “Life”, Richards recounts how he sprayed Capote’s hotel room door with ketchup and called for him to come out into the corridor to “get some cold blood”. Apparently Richards didn’t appreciate what he saw as Capote’s “snooty, New York attitude”. Gruen commented to the audience at Electric Lady Studios that Capote “was in a lot of stories”, even if he never got around to writing them. Richards’ bio attests to this. Klenfner told the audience how Richards and Mick Jagger got thrown in jail because of a fight with a photographer, only to be released and transported under police escort to the concert venue, thanks to Kevin White, the Mayor of Boston at the time, who was worried that the Boston Gardens would “erupt” in riots if the Stones didn’t go onstage that night.
Gruen told the audience that the 1972 tour “was the first time a band had their own airplane, and it was the first time they would do 54 shows, with an enormous stage that they brought with them” that included what the photographer called “a very unique lighting system that included a four or five foot spotlight, a light that could shine all across the arena, that included a mylar mirror mounted over the stage so the lights would shine up into the mirror and bounce back onto the stage”, creating very bright light that enabled Gruen to get the very sharp concert photos that were hanging on the wall of Electric Lady’s studio for the event.
Gruen and Klenfner told the assembled tequila aficionados how the 1972 tour came to be known as the “Tequila Sunrise Tour”, after Mick Jagger sampled the cocktail made by two bartenders at the Trident restaurant in Sausalito, California. Legendary concert promoter Bill Graham had put together a private party to kick off the tour, and after Jagger tried the cocktail, the rest of the band took a liking to the drink and ordered them all across the US during the tour. A year later, Jose Cuervo started including the recipe for the Tequila Sunrise on the back of their bottles. Reserva de la Familia is an extra añejo tequila, made with only the most select blue agaves – the pinnacle of the Cuervo Family passed down for over ten generations. The tequila itself is aged in new French and American oak barrels for an average of three years. The final result can be enjoyed like a fine Scotch or an excellent Cognac, served neat and sipped slowly. That is exactly how Gruen and Klenfner enjoyed the tequila they sipped from flutes while onstage chatting about their early days with The Rolling Stones.
Electric Lady Studios was built by Jimi Hendrix in 1970 as a way to save on the cost of recording studio fees. Hendrix was concerned about the amount of time and money that was consumed during the recording of his 1968 studio album, “Electric Ladyland”, as well as wanting a relaxing environment in which to be creative. To that end, the artist Lance Jost was commissioned to paint murals all over the walls of the studio, and in the hallways connecting the recording spaces. The artist’s work has become intertwined with the legend of the studio, its psychedelic and trippy subject matter a testament to the times in which the studio was designed and built. One of Jost’s murals served as appropriate background as Gruen and Klenfner discussed their memories of touring with one of the most famous rock and roll bands ever, while refreshing their glasses of tequila from the bottle of Jose Cuervo’s Reserva de la Familia The Rolling Stones Collectors’ Edition.
The Collectors’ Edition Reserva de la Familia Tour Pick is bottled at 40% ABV, and available in the United States for the suggested retail price of $149 for 750mL. To learn more head to: www.reservadelafamilia.com.