Despite what recent political rhetoric would have you believe, terrorism is hardly the sole property of Muslims from the Middle East. Timothy McVeigh and his pals blew up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, the left-wing Red Army Faction in Germany killed as many as 34 people in multiple incidents, and the Weather Underground destroyed the sub-basement furnace room of a townhouse on West 11th Street in 1970. One can multiply the examples.
Indeed, depending on the time and place, there have been terrorist incidents where the most likely suspects—the suspects many would have instantly guessed—were radical French separatists in Canada. Such a case occurred in the summer of 1972 during the Rolling Stones’ legendary American Tour that year, when a bomb destroyed part of a truck and several speakers of the group’s gear several hours before a gig.
New Musical Express, July 22, 1972
Rolling Stone reported at the time:
The two equipment vans had arrived from Toronto and were parked on a ramp at the Montreal Forum. The dynamite blast that exploded under the ramp blew out a slew of windows in a nearby apartment and the cones of 30 speakers inside one of the trucks.
“Whoever it was was the world’s dumbest bomber,” said press agent Gary Stromberg. “First he put the bomb under the ramp instead of the truck, and the other truck was the one with most of the stuff inside.”
Air Canada bumped luggage from a flight out of Los Angeles to accommodate the replacement cones, and the show was able to go on just 45 minutes later than planned. However, some sort of unrelated snafu left 3,000 disappointed Stones fans outside the venue without a ticket—they proceeded to engage in significant civil unrest, including pelting the building and police with rocks, wine, beer bottles, and bricks. Jagger himself was hit by a flying bottle inside the venue.
In his essential book S.T.P.: A Journey Through America with the Rolling Stones, Robert Greenfield provides this account:
Later that night the phone rings in Peter Rudge’s room. He picks it up, talks for a while, then begins making phone calls. “Rudge-O here,” he tells Gary Stromberg. “This is rather important. Could you come down to the hall? We’ve been bombed.”
Some person (or persons) has placed one to three sticks of dynamite underneath one of the trucks. Fortunately, it is the one that holds the steel loading ramp, so all it does is blow a four-by-eight hole in the bottom of the truck, disintegrate the ramp, and destroy all the cones in the speakers. The driver, who usually sleeps in the rig, is off somewhere, which saves him from at least a heart attack, if not actual death. All of the windows are broken in the apartment buildings on the street facing the Forum where the truck is parked.
The street is roped off. The police are making diagrams and gathering shards and pieces and a very French Sergeant de Detectif is in charge. Rudge persists in calling him “captain.” Someone says to him, “Certainly this is the work of one of your French separatists.”
“OH NO M’SEIU!” he replies with classic Gallic outrage. “C’est une American draft dodgeur. Zey are all over. Zey come up here with impunity.”
The bomb at the Forum was just the first of four timed to go off at intervals during the day. They wake Jagger up to tell him about it. “Who did it?” he asks sleepily. No one knows. “Well,” he yawns, “why the fuck didn’t they leave a note?”
But he’s shook. The French separatists, it is well known, are cray-zee. They’ll stop at nothing, and all day long he keeps referring to the event uneasily, worried that they plan to pull something off at the show. But the show itself goes off peacefully, the bomb squad having turned the building upside down more than once. Outside the hall, the kids and the cops get down to it and fourteen people are injured, thirteen arrested, and a TV news cruiser is set on fire. UPI, in an inspired piece of fiction, reports that the Stones leave the Forum by means of a helicopter that takes off from the roof and circles the crowd announcing, “THEY HAVE LEFT THE BUILDING: GO HOME” in both French and English.
This difficult stretch of the tour was by no means over with. The very next day, in Rhode Island, the Stones’ entourage got into a fight with photographer Andy Dickerman, landing Jagger and Richards in jail.
New Musical Express image courtesy of the Library and Archives of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio.