Posted: Thursday, November 9, 2017 – 6:48 PM
By Matt Lopez
It was always an interesting trip for Ronnie Schneider and the Rolling Stones when they would visit Beverly Hills.
“We would stay at The Beverly Wilshire, room 415,” said Schneider, who was the Stones’ business manager during their 1969 and 70 tours. “It was constantly a battle with the staff, trying to keep the girls out. The local radio station would have spies at the hotels to get the location. They called it ‘Stones Watch.’”
One day, the band managed to sneak out without being seen long enough to get picked up by photographer Guy Webster for a photo shoot at Franklin Canyon reservoir in Beverly Hills. That picture ended up being the cover art of the Rolling Stones’ first greatest hits album – Big Hits (High Tide And Green Grass).
“We loved coming to Beverly Hills,” Schneider said. “We’d go shopping down the street from the Wilshire at FAO Schwartz. We stayed at the Doheny Estate right before the 1969 tour.”
Many books and documentaries have been made about the Rolling Stones, but perhaps none have the first-hand knowledge that Schneider brings in his new book – Out of Our Heads: The Rolling Stones, The Beatles and Me.
Schneider, who now lives just outside of Beverly Hills, was the sole party in charge of the band’s finances as they rose to fame in the late 1960s. His book includes a paper trail with numerous pages of scanned business arrangements, contracts, ticket stubs and other financial documents that back up his stories.
“I was the only guy in the room for a lot of these things, and I was the only one with the proof,” Schneider said. “I never thought I would write a book though, originally I was just keeping that stuff incase the IRS ever needed to see any of it.”
Schneider joined up with the Rolling Stones almost by luck. After finishing up at the University of Miami, Schneider interned at record label ABKCO, owned by his uncle Allen Klein. Through that relationship, he began working with the Rolling Stones in 1965. Although the band severed its ties with ABKCO soon after, Mick Jagger insisted that that Schneider oversee their finances for their 1969 tour.
“I like to say I started in the mail room,” Schneider joked. “They trusted me. I had been with them for a while and they saw what I could do. I started from the bottom.”
That 1969 tour included perhaps the most controversial moment in the infamous history of the Rolling Stones – the Altamont Speedway Free Festival in northern California on Dec. 6, 1969, which ended in a large riot and four deaths.
The Stones were one of a number of artists on the bill to perform, which included Santana and Jefferson Airplane.
Schneider calls it perhaps the most misunderstood and misrepresented moment in Rolling Stones history. According to many accounts, the biker gang Hells Angels were hired by the Rolling Stones to provide security for the event. After a day of drinking with a crowd of nearly 300,000 people, both the Hells Angels and the capacity crowd became increasingly belligerent and fights broke out.
While the Stones were performing, an 18-year-old fan named Meredith Hunter allegedly attempted to get onstage and was stabbed by a member of the Hells Angels.
Schneider, in the book, wholeheartedly denies that the band had anything to do with hiring the Hells Angels.
“What people don’t understand is, we weren’t promoting the event. The Stones were simply a band invited to perform,” Schneider said. “So we had no say in who provided security. The press made it easy to blame the Stones, rather than the Grateful Dead, who actually organized the entire event.”
Schneider covered the weeks leading up Altamont extensively in the 1970 film Gimmie Shelter, which he produced.
Although he only spent a few years with the Rolling Stones, Schneider says he forged strong bonds.
“They were all great guys and they all had their own unique qualities,” Schneider said. “Mick (Jagger) was always quiet, listening, very sharp. You could see right away he was the leader. Keith (Richards) was no-nonsense, but a great guy to be around. We used to go horseback riding together.”
Schneider left the band in 1971.
“It was out of survival more than anything else,” Schneider said. “We were living a wild life. I have no doubt if I would have stayed on the road, I’d be dead right now.”
Schneider also worked with The Beatles for a time in 1969, helping reorganize some of their finances. The book includes tales of his time around Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr and includes a drawing that Lennon and McCartney made for him.
Out Of Our Heads: The Rolling Stones, The Beatles And Me is available for purchase on Amazon and at most major bookstores.
MEET RONNIE SCHNEIDER: Dec. 9 at 4 p.m. at Book Soup in West Hollywood. 8818 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069.