England v Germany: my Rolling Stones semi-final

Remembering England v Germany in 1990, I think of the film, One Night In Turin, because I saw that recently.

Then I think of the classic book, All Played Out.

Then I recall where I was that night.

Bobby’s Robson’s England were playing Franz Beckenbauer’s Germany in the semi-final of Italia 90 and, annoyingly, I was due to be at Wembley that night.

So I phoned the CBS press office.

“Could you switch my Stones tickets to another night?”

“No chance,” was the reply.

Arriving at Wembley, which was my second home, since I used to go to every England game and every FA Cup Final, and any of the big concerts I fancied, I found that CBS had redesigned the banqueting hall into a hospitality area for the music business. Some wrecked cars and graphics gave it an Urban Jungle theme.

I’d known promoter Harvey Goldsmith since the early Seventies, so I had a word with him.

“Jagger will have your guts for garters, putting him on at the same time as the biggest football match for 24 years.”

” How was I to know?”wailed Harvey. “We always do a concert on the Fourth of July.”

The match was being screened on TV sets as guests drank and mingled. When Stuart Pearce crossed a ball low to the near post, and Lineker ran in with a German defender, a dozen girls screamed simultaneously, thinking it was going to be a goal, not realising it was a defender’s ball all the way.

England were dominating, defending brilliantly, stretching the Germans, and when their superb keeper, Bodo Illgner, tipped a Chris Waddle 40-yarder onto the bar, people howled with dismay. We could not hear the TV commentary. There was some gossip, people saying things like, “The band are all watching it backstage” and, “Bill Wyman’s a big Crystal Palace fan” and stuff like that.

I chatted to Terry Ellis and Danielle, his glam French wife, about the huge American album sales of Zeppelin and Jethro Tull, compared to the Stones. We understood that CBS would switch off the TV sets at half-time in the hospitality area and, sure enough, that happened.

Then Jan arrived and spotted me and we walked upstairs to see the gig. She had always loved the Stones and had their pictures on her bedroom wall as a schoolgirl in Oxford, but, working for British Airways, she’d always missed their London gigs. Now the mother of two children, Mrs Palmer was seeing her favourite group for the first time.

In the Long Bar, half a dozen TV sets were showing the match, so I spoke to a steward.

“Will the sets be switched off at 8.15 when the Stones come on?”

“The management has been through and said it’s alright to leave them on,” he said.

“I should hope so!” said someone. “There would be a riot.”

We stood there watching the game on TV. England were still murdering Germany but still not winning.Then I heard Start Me Up kicking off the show, so we took our seats in the front row of the press box. The playing was tight, tough and Stonesy, Mick wore an emerald frock coat, Keith a maroon jacket and jeans, Woody a scarlet tunic. It was still daylight and the stage looked like half-painted gaudy scaffolding, nothing special.

Yeah, I remember it. I remember that night very well. Sometimes rock and football have clashed but that was the big one. I saw both events but didn’t see all of both events. 

That was six World Cups ago. I remember that drama as my Rolling Stones semi-final. The Stones were good, but we lost on penalties.