The Rolling Stones’ legendary secret shows at El Mocambo come out 45 years later

A piece of rock and roll history finally sees the light of day, 45 years later – The Rolling Stones are set to release complete recordings of the band’s secret gigs at Toronto’s legendary El Mocambo in 1977.

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

In an interview with CBC Radio The Great Canadian Gold Rush in 1978, vocalist Mick Jagger and guitarist Keith Richards explained how playing these 300-capacity club shows, when the band was used to playing stadiums, allowed the Stones to return to their roots.

“It’s easy in a way to play in clubs… you can hear people, you can hear everyone, you can relate to people very easily, you can talk to people. There’s no pressure to dance so much,” Jagger said.

“It’s a little worried the first night how it’s going to be, because I didn’t really know what the people would be like…but they were very warm, and it was very easy to get into.”

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

Digital archive7:57The Rolling Stones in concert at El Mocambo!

Keith and Mick discuss taping at Toronto’s El Mocambo and Toronto’s infamous heroin bust. 7:57

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

“It’s the kind of stuff you don’t get to do a lot in concert because, to us, it’s real club numbers,” he said.

Lucky spectators managed to gain access to the shows through a radio contest, where the prize was announced as tickets to see April Wine, with an opening by a band called The Cockroaches. The Cockroaches, of course, were actually the Stones, with April Wine opening.

However, the stop in Toronto didn’t exactly go as planned for the band. A few days before entering the club, the RCMP arrested Richards and charged him with possession of heroin with intent to traffic.

“At the time, waking up with 25 Mounties around your bed was a little depressing, but it’s not something I think about now. I guess it’s something I know I have to manage at some point when it happens.” said Richards.

When asked during the interview if the experience came as a shock to him, Richards replied, “No, it’s not the first time it’s happened.”

Ultimately, the guitarist was sentenced to a year’s probation in 1978 and ordered to undergo psychiatric treatment – and as part of his probation, was ordered to perform a concert at the Canadian National Institute for blind.