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The Rolling Stones July 5th 1969 Hyde Park, London

by Peter Hunt

The 60's Hyde Park Free Concerts became legendary and the Stones were scheduled to play in the summer of 1969, the largest ever concert in Britain up to that date. Brian Jones had sadly died a few days before the show, after having been sacked from the band.

The Stones had just finished recording perhaps their best ever single, 'Honkey Tonk Women', with Mick Taylor taking Jones's place. It was released on the 4th of July and performed live for the first time in the park that day.

The presence of the Hell's Angels as security was an unsettling portent of things to come later at Altamont. I was 21 years old and travelled up to London on the tube, along with my friend Eric. We arrived around noon to join the biggest crowd I had ever been in. Supporting acts included Family and Roger Chapman, King Crimson, the Third Ear Band (who we thought were tuning up for half an hour, but were actually performing), Battered Ornaments, Roy Harper, Alexis Korner's New Church, and Screw.

The Stones took the stage at around 5:30 to wild applause, Jagger wearing the now famous white voile dress from the designer Michael Fish. Calling for hush in memory of Brian Jones he recited some lines from Adonis, Shelley's elegy to John Keats. Then, releasing thousands of white butterflies, they rip into 'I'm Yours, She's Mine.' The Stones were under-rehearsed and ill-prepared, with new member Mick Taylor still feeling his way. They had only 2,00 watts of sound to reach out to the 25,000 fans who jammed the royal park on what turned out to be a perfect English summer's day. The sound may have been ragged and the conditions overcrowded but the atmosphere in the park that day was absolutely electric. We all knew we were watching rock history being made that afternoon. And when the African drummers finally started the long, drawn out intro to the last number, 'Sympathy For The Devil,' it was the closing highlight of an all-time great concert. The greatest rock and roll band in the world, no doubt about it.

Peter Hunt


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