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July 5th 1969.
Stones in the Park ,pt 3.
More Oral Histories
Rolling Stones, Family, Battered Ornaments (without Pete Brown), King Crimson, Roy Harper , Third Ear Band, Alexis Korner's New Church, Screw.
I was 17 and a keen Stones fan ,even persuaded our music master to
play Sympathy For The Devil at morning assembly the previous year - but
I was blissfully unaware that anything special was happening that hot and
sticky Saturday. Phil was a school friend who had already started work and
so was more worldly-wise than me. He had money too. He knew about the "free
concert" and he simply turned up at my house on Saturday morning and said,
"Let's go and see the Stones". I lived in Upminster so a journey up to town
was no big deal. Off we went, completely unprepared for what we would find.
By the time we got to the Park it was heaving, mainly with pretend hippies
so I was in good company. I was still wearing my hair like Clapton in his
mid-Cream, almost-Afro, Hendrix-homage style. There were plenty of bikers
too, and we steered dear of them. And it was hot. . .very hot.
When Jagger appeared in his white frock Phil and I, and most of the crowd, had a good chuckle. We could not quite work out why Jagger threw confetti about. It was days later before I found out they were butterflies. To get a better view, Phil and I took turns to carry each other on our shoulders What a couple of poseurs - bare to waist with a mate on your shoulders. By the end we were knackered. Back home in time for tea, we then went down the pub to tell our mates all about our day out.
Steve Chant, Billericay
I was 17, me and two mates Rod and Billy, hitched from Hayward's Heath to the Park in only two hours. We were in place at the crack of dawn, about 80 yards from the stage, dead centre! Cans of soft drinks were extortionately priced - London shysters are clearly not a recent development! King Crimson thrilled us all with their majestic sound.
Mention the Stones in the Park to me or a dozen or so other guys from
Stationers' School in Hornsey and, chances are, we'd start on about management
miscalculations, lack of understanding of what the fans wanted and behind the
scenes chaos. Not that this particular posse of self-styled North London rude
boys were privy to any kind of inner circle rock'n'roll info - in fact it could
hardly be less access-all-areas. The management in question were our weekend
employers since Easter - Hyde Park's Dell Restaurant, an organization woefully
wide of the mark in its estimation of how much Pepsi Cola a quarter of a million
people can drink on a Saturday afternoon in July.
It was our job to sell it to them, on site. Out in the sun, see the gig and maybe even meet some, er, birds. Brilliant. Or, at the very least, a little more glamorous than wiping tables and working the dishwashers. The Stones' free show also offered a quantum career leap thanks to the restaurant's missing out on a lucrative marketing opportunity a few weeks previously: nobody there had taken the free Blind Faith do too seriously, and the lack of extra-curricular catering meant thousands of perspective appetites went blissfully untroubled. So this time it was personal.
Three of us who worked every weekend had to be there at seven instead of nine, and what's more bring with us a supplementary cash-in-hand workforce. As the cash on offer was eight quid, each, the Grapes Of Wrath-style queue stretched most of the way round the classroom. While some kids were put to work shrink-wrapping a mountain of sandwiches, the rest of us set up a few ice-cream stands, then dragged our point of sale, a caravan kiosk, out to what was reckoned would be just beyond the fringes of the crowd. We stocked it with about 500 cans of Pepsi, and mounted an attractive display of sarnies, Danish pastries and, for some reason, individual portions of cheese. Then we sat back and waited for the people to arrive. And arrive and arrive and arrive. The restaurant manager had figured on a crowd the same size as Blind Faith's.
But this was almost 10 times that.
|Suddenly, we weren't on the edge of the audience -we were virtually in the middle of it, and had sold out of Pepsi long before that. Perhaps understandably, there was an utter lack of interest in the by now freely per- I spiring food items. One lad was despatched for fresh Pepsi supplies, and watching him hurry away through the sprawled masses you knew what must've gone through General Custer's mind. He got back with about a dozen cases - about 10 minutes' worth - so he went straight out again. Eventually it dawned on somebody to take the guys off making sandwiches that only we were eating, in order to run a regular supply route to our besieged caravan. Completely impossible to restock, the ice-cream stands were soon abandoned altogether.|
It was out of this Mafeking-style relief operation that the flower of free enterprise bloomed. All of us were too young to be working in a restaurant, and at 14 I was too young to be working anywhere - paperwork never was this establishment's long suit. At about midday they took delivery of an emergency lorry load of drinks, but tins were shifting so fast that stock control existed in name only. With every 20 cases we took for stock, we'd add one "for the boys". And as it was impossible to get back to the caravan stuck mid crowd without people trying to buy it, any swag would be long gone before the woman in charge checked it in as stock. I personally came home with enough two bob bits (the price of a Pepsi) to buy three Ben Shermans - the ones in the woodgrain boxes and a Harrington. Let's hope the statute of limitations has run out by now.
I had been to many of their tours since 1963 to 1966, often privileged
to bring along girlfriends, possible one night stands and anyone I felt compelled
to impress. It was so much easier for a suitably dressed peacock male in the
Mod idiom to penetrate the lax and unhip security of the time.
That July I was due to get married, and this concert would be my final fling. I was not suitably dressed for such a hot day; my blazer, slacks, bespoke shirt and two tone shoes were totally at variance with the assembled crowd of mostly beautiful people. Somehow I managed to cajole every fan in my way to let me pass all the way to the barricaded elite enclosure which was cornered off for pop group members, VIPs' girlfriends and press. But I managed to make my way virtually unchallenged to the backstage area where I was continually hassled and interrogated by Angels and other self-appointed security. I was ejected "peacefully" more than once but crawled back under a caravan chuck wagon from which the Angels were eating what looked like faggots, peas and mash. Most of the girls wore cheesecloth and were braless, creating suitable diversions. Alsatian dogs lurked under the covered wagons encircling the backstage area but I managed to hang in there until the Stones arrived.
I got to talk to Bill as soon as they took up residence in their
caravan. They were in good spirits as they tuned up. Keith and Charlie greeted
me through the window while Mick looked out from the steps of the caravan
with what later proved to be a poetry book in his hand. I was as close as
one could get to the Stones, and when they made their way to the stage I
beat them onto the gantry and sat down on the stage with my legs hanging
I was approached by Sam Cutler who asked me to be cool and leave the stage. I was able to take up a position again in the elite enclosure three rows from the front of the stage. I was disappointed with the sound but the atmosphere was superb. In Kensington High Street after the concert I visited a pub in which Keith Moon and Viv Stanshall were entertaining. It was that kind of a day.
I went to a public school which meant that, for our sins, we had to attend school on Saturday mornings. A couple of friends had skived off earlier in the year to see Blind Faith in the Park. I thought I'd chance my arm and go with them this time. Our favourite band at the time were Family, next down on the bill from the Stones, so it sounded like a great day out.
Family had just finished, so had we. Braving comments from those who
we trampled over on the way out, we got out of the main crowd. We passed a gang
of several hundred skinheads out for trouble with the Hell's Angels. Having
run the gauntlet - "bloody hippy bastards" and hearing the distant chimes of
the Stones kicking off, we made for home.
Now for it. Mum, unbeknown to me had helped out with teas for a school cricket match that afternoon. I'd told her that we'd not had school that morning, and of course she'd heard differently. Believe me, the bottles and cans and skinheads were nothing compared to the ensuing onslaught.
John Hastings, Bristol
Charlie Reauely, Sunderland
Frances Constantine, London
In 1969 I was a film director making a documentary for the BBC about
an earlier generation of bands and pop idols, men like Nat Gonella, Harry Roy,
Jack Payne and Roy Fox. I thought that the Stones' Hyde Park concert would make
a dramatic coda for my movie, but when I tried to get permission from the Stones'
management I was told that they : had an exclusive deal with Granada to film
the concert - they even read out a clause from the small print expressly forbidding
the BBC to be present! I thought it would be fun to go along anyway
- at least we could pick up some crowd scenes - so on the day we put together
some good food and a few bottles and invited our crew for a picnic.
When the music started my cameraman, the brilliant Nat Crosby, wasn't prepared to let any small print stand in his way. He urged us to follow him down to the crash barrier at the back of the stage, guarded by one of a team of Hell's Angels who had been specially imported for the occasion. To my astonishment, Nat called this guy over, handed him the Arriflex and proceeded to climb over the barrier. My sound recordist Ron Crabb draped his Perfectone tape machine around the Hell's Angel's neck and began his climb. I followed, and soon we were all on the inside and reclaiming our gear with a cheery "Thanks, mate". Granada was using about six camera crews, and one of their people came over to warn us about the Angels - "I'd watch out for those guys if I were you, they've got a very low brain-weight ratio."
We were now inside the VIP area and able to work our way around to the stage, so that by the time the Stones came on, there we were bang in front of them. We got our shots of Mick and Marianne, the band and the butterflies, the crowds and the confusion. Nobody seemed to notice that Granada's six camera crews now appeared to have seven cameras. But that was typical of the day. Nobody was trying to make money, everybody just wanted to have a good time, and that was what made it all so special.
Later in the year when, along with many others, I helped Bob Dylan try to sink the Isle Of Wight, the mega-event had arrived and that initial innocence and magic were gone forever.
Charles Mapleston, Spilsby, Lincs
As for the Stones gig I was slightly
nearer than you having got there first thing that morning. I recall a giant
image of Brian Jones which formed the stage backdrop, coming loose and nearly
hitting a Screw member. It may have been the front man, either way we all looked
at each other and nodded knowingly that Brian's spirit was present. Later I
recall the Screw's front man cutting his lip while playing the mouth organ and,
being frustrated at not being able to play flinging it backwards over the stage
canopy. Rumours spread through the crowd all afternoon, The Beatles were here
and were going to play, no it was just Lennon and Mcartney who were going to
jam with the
Stones (as if !)
I must have spent hours waiting outside some barriers sealing off
the backstage area. I witnessed an obviously legitimate photographer with
half a dozen cameras hanging around his neck and several different coloured
passes stuck on him, having the shit beaten out of him and being removed
from the backstage area by one of the Hell's Angels security. This monster
had his right arm in a plaster cast that he used as his beating weapon.
Later, I am standing on the stage taking a photo of a palm tree with Bill Wyman playing his bass behind it. My feeling told me that I should not be here. I spotted this big Hell's Angel climbing down the tower looking at me.
Like a shot I was off down the stage to the backstage area. I started climbing through the scaffolding underneath the stage, heading for a hole in the canvas covering the front stage.
Then I stuck my head through that hole and nearly passed out when I saw half a million people facing me.
George Kerlvinski, Munich
I swear Paul McCartney strolled past me in the crowd, and two men conspicuous
in grey suits and metallic painted faces were surely an early version of controversial
art duo Gilbert & George. A theatre group nearby delivered stirring anti-imperialist
agit prop to a group of indifferent peanuts (skinheads).
As to the music, The Third Ear provided their customary mediaeval
ambience, droning on from where they'd left off at the previous Blind Faith
freebie in the park, pre-CCS Alexis Korner with his New Church, Family and
King Crimson's Mellotron swathes all impressed; The Battered Ornaments and
the never to be heard of again Screw didn't. The Stones too sounded ropy,
and it took Ginger Johnson's African Drummers' percussive intro to Sympathy
For The Devil to really get the crowd going.
My sister's freak dancing to Jumping Jack Flash or some such crowd-pleaser was captured for posterity by the cameras of Granada ! It's her performance rather than Jagger's posturing and poetry that made Stones in the Park for me.
Bryan Biggs, Liverpool
As I raced down from my 64 p a week garret in Notting Hill, I was
bubbling at the prospect of seeing the greatest rock'n'roll band in the
world, for FREE! I'd seen them in Dublin in '65, and for 13 shillings my
life had been ruined forever. Jagger pranced on, sporting a gauche little
number, the first in a long line of wardrobe mistakes. We solemnly sat through
the poetry reading and some buffoonery involving butterflies. Keith had
a great day.
After the opener, a slide affair, pilfered from one Johnny Winter, he went out of time, and never quite came back in. Damn trick- when you're completely off your onion. He later became somewhat befuddled in a preposterously turgid version of Sympathy For The Devil, bum notes sailing out over the Serpentine.
Meanwhile, Mick Taylor soldiered on slightly rattled, pretending nothing was amiss. After two hours, they actually became a mite tedious, the two Micks sprawling on the stage during a slow blues workout. Their cool had evaporated, Their Satanic Majesties emasculated by their own garden party.
Keith Christmas was positive that Donovan performed
I was just looking at your
website on the Rolling Stones' Hyde Park concert back in 1969 and I have a very
definite memory that Donovan got up and did a short set
I remember he got half the audience to do an 'oooh' and the other half to do an 'ahhh' in time to a fairly ordinary song
the sound of so many people going 'ooh, ahhh' in time was amazing - you could feel the air move
I must have missed Crimson but I do remember the Stones were shite, but then they often were after that
I had just finished playing the acoustic guitar on David Bowie's first album and I remember they played 'Space Oddity' that day
It is nearly 40 years to
the day since this concert and I remember it as if it was yesterday. Myself
and three friends travelled down from the Wirral in my Triumph Herald the previous
day and slept under the stars overnight in the park. We were about 100 yards
from the stage centre and had a good view and the sound was crystal clear.
The objective was to see my favourite band of the time (the Stones of course) but I had my musical head turned by another band on the bill who up until then, I had not heard of.
That band was KING CRIMSON who gave a dynamic display of musicianship surpassing all the other bands on the bill. I have been hooked on this band and its derivatives ever since.
I was knocked out by the tight rhythm changes and power of 21st Century Schizoid Man and Greg Lake’s majestic vocals. Ian McDonalds flute playing in Court of the Crimson King was just beautiful and when the band completed their set with a rendition of Mars which included 20,000 watts of mellotron sounds swirling around, I realised that this truly was new musical experience and the start of progressive rock.
For me, the rest of the show (including the Stones to some extent) was an anti-climax after Crimson.
I found the Stones lethargic, sometimes disjointed and clearly affected by the sad passing of Brian Jones and had difficulty keeping their guitars in tune in the blistering heat.
Anyway, I can categorically state that neither Donavon or Roy Harper were on the bill.
The line up in order of appearance was:-
Third Ear Band
Alexis Korner’s New Church
Concert reviews and info -1968-71
(These pages include large photogalleries of the concert, most especially King Crimson and Jack Bruce. )
Concert reviews and info -1974-76( all updated Nov 2018)