July 5th 1969.
Stones in the Park ,pt 2.
The Oral Histories
Rolling Stones, Family, Battered Ornaments (without Pete Brown), King Crimson, Roy Harper , Third Ear Band, Alexis Korner's New Church, Screw.
Following on from the concerts of the previous year which had seemed positively amateurish in comparison but so, so much more fun. The abiding memory for me was the presence of the Hells Angels as 'security'. It seemed such a contrast as Mick Jagger was releasing his butterflies, some of the Angels near us were knocking seven bells out of some hippy with their chains and clubs. I was 17 years old and scared to death. I remember very little of the supporting acts, Family and Roger Chapman belted out a great set, but King Crimson andAlexis Korner were a disappointment.
The concerts of 1968 were wonderful - groups such as Jethro Tull playing their Blues oriented set with Ian Anderson regaled in knee length moccasins and his half coat, backed up by Mick Abrahams magnificent guitar and the rhythm section of Glen Cornick and Clive Bunker - Dharma for One, Cat Squirrel, Serenade to a Cuckoo and A Song for Jeffrey. I think I bought my moccasins down at the Kensington Market the weekend after their Hyde Park Concert and never took them off thereafter. I followed Tull around the circuit that Summer totally entranced after seeing them first at the Marquee. I've been a Tull fan ever since but those early days culminating in This Was are still my favourite Tull times.
Also Fairport in their heyday, while Ashley Hutchings was still keen and happy to be in the band, Richard Thompson was still finding his way doing new and different things both with his guitar and with his song writing and the balance of vocals between Ian Matthews and Sandy Denny. And of course Martin Lamble was still alive. There was such variety in their music, true folk-rock, but still heavily influenced by the blues. I still believe that Sailors Life is the premier example of the folk-rock idiom. It is noticeable that Fairport now still have to perform many of the songs from the set they did on that August afternoon.
The Nice, Traffic and Fleetwood Mac, all before they became "super groups".
The only concert in the Park that came anywhere near the early
ones for me was the Canned Heat/John Sebastian concert in 1970.
back now if only we could have stopped time and gone around and around
in that Summer of 1968 - travelling to concerts at the weekends and going
to Windsor to hear Geno Washington and the Ram Jam Band during the week.
When the Bonzo Dog Do Dah Band were still strutting their stuff, with
Viv Stanshall doing his Head Ballet, and every time you saw John Mayall
he had a different line up!
I was lucky I lived in Bracknell, just outside London, I seem to remember we walked home from Sunbury after having watched Jethro Tull steal the show at the Nat Jazz and Blues Festival 1968.
I was at this one too. Not as good as the 68 one. It was, not surprisingly, very big. I was right at the back up a tree. No-one was very good that day, but, as one fan on the "ask Chappo" page commented, Family "blew the Stones off the stage". The Stones were messy. Don't know why. Maybe it was because Brian Jones had just died.
in Leeds the nearest I got to hearing decent music was either at the University
who brought in the big talent (The Bonzo Dog Band being the greatest visual
experience) or upstairs at The Pack Horse where you could catch intimate performances
by country blues singer/guitarists such as the superb Steve Phillips or visiting
Londoners like Alexis Korner. Each week I bought the
NME and scoured the gig guide in the hope that someone I liked was about to come "oop North", but since the demise of the ABC circuit when you could see everybody from The Beatles to Diana Ross to Little Richard for five shillings on-stage at a city centre cinema, very few rock acts really bothered any more.
America plundered British talent in the late '60s and not surprisingly
the groups who were capable of putting on a performance that lasted longer
than 20 minutes jumped on the gravy train and headed West where the "real
When the NME announced that my favourite band were planning to headline a free concert in London's Hyde Park, I decided that I would be there along with my drinking partner and best mate Nobby who usually accompanied me to gigs. For two Northerners who usually decided on how far they travelled by the reputation of the local beer, the excursion to London just to see a "pop" group was considered a bit radical if not altogether stupid. I was rather secretive about the trip, telling my mother that I'd be a bit late back as I was going to a concert. I only let slip that it was in London as I was leaving the house at 6.30am to catch the early train to Kings Cross. I doubt if she gave it a second thought.
Kings Cross looked much the same in 1969 as it does today - a dirty,
litter strewn, pigeon dropping infested shed where one could depart into oblivion
and be accosted by a "lady of the night" in broad daylight! The journey had
left us hungry and thirsty so we headed out of the station, ignoring the women
who promised to show us a good time and searched for a Chinese restaurant and
a pub, in that order but preferably the former with a direct connection to the
latter. Somehow, when we finally arrived on the London streets beyond Kings
Cross we felt sadly let down by the metropolis. There was no sign of the huge
neon signs that flashed in our images of London as the centre of the universe,
and only the unsmiling faces of the locals reinforced the knowledge that we
were in England's capital city. Of course, once we had eaten our "three course
special" in a reasonable down-market Chinese restaurant and washed our tonsils
with Watney's Red Barrel we felt revived and ready to make the final leg of
our journey. We went on foot as we did not trust
London cabbies at all! London taxi drivers will no doubt be sadistically gratified to learn that Nobby and I made that "two minute" journey on foot to Hyde Park in about three hours. Not bad eh! And we got to see Carnaby Street and a load of mad hippies with shaven heads, wearing mango-coloured sheets.
had not realised that London had so many big parks close together, but we
knew we had found Hyde Park when the familiar strains of a 12 bar blues
riff played through a 100 watt Marshall amp distorted bv feedback and then
deafened by a bass run that was struggling to keep pace with a demented
drum solo wafted in our direction. As we quickened our pace towards where
the "music" was coming from, I noticed how nice the Park was considering
that it was in the middle of London. There was a lake where people were
feeding the ducks and families were relaxing with their picnic boxes, oblivious
to the vice and gangsterism that pervaded their city, according to The News
Of The World.
When Nobby and I finally arrived we realised that we had set off too late to claim one of the better patches of grass. There were some great groups playing but from where we were sitting they all looked and sounded the same - Levi's and Howlin'' Wolf have a lot to answer for. At one point, both Nobby and I were so moved by whoever it was who was playing that we stood up to get a better view only to be pelted with empty beer cans thrown by a contingent of Hell's Angels who just happened to be sitting behind us. We let them off with the mildest of reprimands. But when the Stones walked on-stage everybody jumped to their feet.
The crowd cheered everything that the Stones did, and when it came to the finale everyone appeared so exhausted by the entire contents of the day that they retired peacefully, walking back through Hyde Park and helped to collect litter and restore the park to its serene beauty
Harvey M Brown. York
I was the social secretary at Ewell Technical College in Surrey.
Family were my favourite group, so it was a must for me to go. I went with
Chris Briggs, who now works at Chrysalis, and a friend of mine called Chris
Jenvey who was also at Ewell Tech with me, and a girl called Jane who was
seeing Greg Lake of King Crimson at the time. They'd played their second
ever gig at Ewell Tech for &15 and were managed by David Enthoven who
I ran into at the Park t( We drove up from Purley in Chris Jenvey's mum's
car, a Triumph open-top. That Cockpit area was a fantastic place to have
it in - a lot of the other concerts were in the round in the bandstand which
was never as good. Family were fantastic, and when Crimson were on I took
a boat out onto the lake. The Stones were magnificent. There was no pressure
on you to buy anything; it was very relaxed. Absolutely remarkable.
It is of course a memorable occasion among the many I experience
during years in pursuit of musical diversion, although in truth I barely remember
much of it at all. What I do vividly recall is a few days prior to the show
during a lunch break away from the shipping office in Fenchurch Street where
I worked at the time, of making my way to Tower Hill for amusement of a different
At this time, the cobbled area outside the Tower Of London functions as a kind of lesser Speakers Corner, with all manner of religious and political ideologue holding forth and throngs of office clerks in gawping attendance.
this particular day my attention is distracted by the placard I see on a news
stand stating that the body of Brian Jones has been discovered afloat in his
own swimming pool. Now this is shocking news to me, as only recently is it reported
in the press that Jones parts company with The Rolling Stones and will not be
performing with them at Hyde Park this coming weekend. At the time, the general
public is kept ignorant of the Stones' use of hard drugs, and word is that the
guitarist merely outgrows Muddy Waters riffs and now intends to concentrate
his time producing esoterica like the recent Master Musicians Of Joujouka .
Even without the full knowledge of the facts, this sudden news strikes me as
a grim portent, as indeed turns out to be the case.
The free concerts in London's parks are a feature of the late '60s that do not outlast the decade. What perhaps is the first of these the previous summer when Jefferson Airplane announce an impromptu outing on Parliament Hill Fields precursory to their show at the Chalk Farm Roundhouse alongside The Doors. In the event, it is a day of high winds and rain, and the score or so of us who turn up are rewarded with a sound check and a glimpse of a sulky looking Grace Slick before we all troop disconsolately home. By now; however, these are regular if still low-key weekend events in Hyde Park attracting audiences of barely more than a few hundred souls, where I see dozens of untried acts like The Nice, Family, King Crimson, Third Ear Band, Jethro Tull, Clouds, White Rabbit, the ubiquitous Edgar Broughton Blues Band and the even more ubiquitous Roy Harper, as they go through their paces and the on looking crowd folic in the grass.
It is immediately apparent as I make my way across the park from Speakers Corner to the Serpentine this afternoon that today is very different. From all corners, streams of people converge like tributaries towards the lake, while huddles of scowling skinheads skirt its fringe. At the front, a sprawl of motorbikes effectively block the audience from close proximity; to the stage and a contingent of rocker denim guard these young men I recognize them at once as the same posse of would-be Hell's Angels from Wales who lately descend in force upon the Arts Lab in Drury Lane, lording it over the timid hippies who arrive there to see Jack Moore's art films and even usurping Jim Haynes as first in line for free pussy. They are hired as security by the Stones' torpid MC Cutler, the man who coins the phrase "the greatest rock'n'roll band in the world", and they while away the hours by consuming alcohol and snarling belligerently at anyone who strays too close.
Finally, the Stones take the stage to wild applause: Jagger wearing the white frock familiar from a thousand photographs since. He calls for quiet, wishing to recite a few lines I from Shelley's elegy to John Keats, Adonis, in memory of Jones, but the crowd cannot hear him above the din. He repeats his request, then repeats it again. Finally exasperated, he cries: "Cool it! Fucking shut up, I wanna read a poem for Brian." Unfortunately when the film of the concert makes it to the television screen I discover that the epithet recorded above is artfully edited out. What really dismays me though is the sight of my own face briefly glimpsed in one of the crowd scenes.
Penny Reel ©
(Penny Reel is a well respected freelance writer whose work appeared in the NME and Black Echoes , he has also written a book about the late fabled reggae maestro Dennis Brown titled- Deep Down With Dennis Brown -Cool Runnings and the Crown Prince of Reggae, which you can order online by clicking on the link.
The six of us were all 14, and none of us cared much for the Stones.
They had peaked four years earlier and so were the sort of thing older brothers
raved about. Brian Jones's death meant nothing to us - we viewed him as a sad
old geezer. But it was free and we only lived a 4/6 return train journey from
central London. We got there later than most. If there were 250,000 people there
we must have been numbers 249,000 to 249,005. The group next to us used spoons
and knives as digging implements to bury something or other seconds before the
arrival of some policemen with a dog. We were asked if we were interested in
a score (we didn't know or have the gumption to ask of what).
And on the way home we were chased by a gang of skinheads who apparently didn't like our shoulder-length hair. They were no match for us - our baseball boots gave us a strong advantage over their Doc Martens. Enough talking points to keep us going for weeks.
Backstage in the park was an overcrowded and somewhat desperate psychedelic garden party. The major novelty was the presence of the fledgling Hell's Angels - Buttons, Dave Wild Child and the rest - who had been recruited by stage manager Sam Cutler as auxiliary security and, I suspect, something for Joe Durden Smith and his Granada TV crew to point their cameras at. Back then, the Brit Angels were still going through the transition from the studded 59 Club rocker image to the sawn-off denim and Harley mode of their American cousins. Little did any of us realize that we were seeing Altamont in the making.
Blackhill Enterprises, who were booking gigs for my band The Deviants
at the time, had done me proud with backstage passes. I had a blue one that
seemingly got me anywhere except actually onto the stage, and was more than
enough to keep coppers, Angels and rented security at bay. About the only person
I observed with no need for a pass was Allen Klein, the Stones' new manager,
a squat, gangster figure in an Hawaiian shirt like a bit player from a Martin
Scorsese movie, who muscled his way to the stage with nothing more than the
continuously repeated phrase, "I'm Allen Klein, fuck off."
With nothing to do and little to drink, the elite enclosure quickly became anticlimactic until the Stones themselves arrived, roaring through with motorcycle escort in a World War II ambulance belonging to Pete Brown's Battered Ornaments. At that point everyone began jockeying for a position from which to take in the main event. I went with the flow for long enough to watch Mick come out in Marianne's legendary white mini dress, and read the segment from Shelley's Adonis: "Peace, peace, he is not dead, he doth not sleep/He hath awakened from the dream of life."
At that point, road crew moved forward with a number of large cardboard
boxes and released a cloud of cabbage white butterflies that spiralled up
over the unprecedented crowd that covered the grass of The Cockpit and even
hung in the trees that surrounded it. Only those nearby were able to observe
that at least half of the butterflies had died in transit and the roadies'
last move was to up-end the boxes causing a cascade of dead butterflies
to litter the stage at Jagger's feet. The image of the dead butterflies
and a single glimpse of Marianne Faithful, wasted and looking totally hopeless,
had filled me with a gloomy premonition that an era was at an end.
The same evening, we went to see The Who and Chuck Berry, double-billed at the Albert Hall. Opposing supporters of each act would settle scores left over from the Mods and rockers conflicts of a few years earlier and the show would end in welter of Teddy Boys, mike stands and tear gas. But that, as they say, is another story.
Mick Farren, Los Angeles
I too was at a public school - Dulwich College - in that summer of 1969, and Saturday morning meant we had to go to school. But we were 15, would-be hippies and anarchists, and when we heard about the Blind Faith concert, we had to be there. We had already seen Soft Machine and the Nice play for free at Parliament Hill Fields (were they really on the same bill? I'm sure my memory is not playing tricks) and had liked being part of whatever it was that was going on back then. So, at morning break, we boldly walked out of the main gate, figuring correctly that if we looked confident enough, no one would stop us. We got to Hyde Park, kept walking along the path until we suddenly found we were the only ones still standing, and, encouraged by abuse - and flying cans - from the crowd around us, squeezed ourselves into a tiny space next to a group who seemed to us very cool (probably all now chartered accountants) and enjoyed a reasonable view. Blind Faith were unmemorable, but Edgar Broughton's Out Demons Out was a highlight. Sadly, it was a bit difficult to appear cool in such a crowd when wearing a white school shirt, even with tie removed... We thought we'd do the same for the Stones. We successfully strolled out of school and made it as far as the park. But this was something completely different. By the time we got there, there was no chance of a view. All we could do was get as far along the path from the Marble Arch end as we could, then find a tiny space to fit into. It was not comfortable. We were still in at least parts of a school uniform, it was baking hot, we had no food or drink, god knows what anyone did about toilets, and we had no sight of the stage. My main memory was the mc letting us know between sets how big the crowd was getting: "There must be 100,000 people here, man....police estimate the crowd at 150,000....there are now 200,000 of you out there..." We could only take his word for it, but it was comforting to think that, even if we didn't see the Stones, we were part of a phenomenon. The Stones sounded OK, as far as we could tell, from over the rise, but we had our reward later in the year when they came home from their Altamont tour. They arranged a small show at short notice at a West End theatre one Sunday night and tickets were sold first come, first served. My schoolfriend Dave Potter (whose mum bought him all the music papers because she loved Vince Hill and Anita Harris!) persuaded his dad to leave work and buy us tickets. And that time we SAW the Stones as well as hearing them...
Nick Jenkins , Leeds
Thanks for your website.
Along with a group of friends from north-east Hampshire, i was at the Hyde Park concert. because we arrived the night before (and slept in the park) we were able to be fairly close to the front.
The washroom facilities were hopelessly inadequate, I recall., which was a real challenge for me, as a person who always hated public toilets anyway.
I always felt The Stones were fairly poor that day, and buying a video a couple of years ago confirmed that!
Leaving the concert, I was almost run over by Ginger Baker's Jensen.
Thanks again for this valuable resource!
now living in Brandon, Manitoba. www.ukadians.com - our band website.
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)