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Rolling Stones at Hyde Park 1969
June 13, 1969: The Stones hold a press conference at Hyde Park, London to introduce new band member Mick Taylor and also to announce their free concert on July 5.
Mick Taylor, about joining the Rolling Stones: “I was pretty sure at first but I felt I wanted a little time to think things over. I examined my own reasons for wanting to do it. And they were for the experience and the musical reasons more than for the recognition and the money. It was so unexpected. It’s all a bit strange for me, but I don’t really feel a part of the group yet and I won’t do until I have been with them for quite a while and played with them on gigs. What they do is a mixture of soul, folk and blues and I like all those things.”
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A free outdoor concert featuring the Rolling Stones, King Crimson, Screw, Alexis Korner’s New Church, Family, and the Battered Ornaments was held in Hyde Park on July 5, 1969. The Stones in the Park was attended by an estimated 250,000–500,000 people. This wsa the Stones’ first public performance in more than two years and it was intended to be Mick Taylor’s debut, but circumstances changed as a result of the death of former member Brian Jones two days before. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards created a 14-song setlist while the band was in rehearsal at the Beatles’ studio in a Savile Row basement; the Hyde Park concert would mark many of the songs’ first public performances. Watkins Electric Music, who had previously handled amplification at events held in Hyde Park, provided the PA system.
By the morning of July 5, 7,000 people had already gathered in Hyde Park. Jones’ supporters began showing up with candles on July 4 in honor of him. Before the Stones’ performance started, Jagger gave a brief eulogy on stage by reading two stanzas of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem Adonais, which was written in response to John Keats’ passing. Several hundred cabbage white butterflies were released following the concert. They performed “I’m Yours and I’m Hers” and “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”, “Mercy Mercy,” “Down Home Girl,” “Stray Cat Blues,” “No Expectations,” “I’m Free,” “Loving Cup,” “Love in Vain,” “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” “Honky Tonk Women,” “Midnight Rambler,” “Street Fighting Man,” and “Sympathy for the Devil” (with the band joined onstage by several African tribal drummers during 18 minutes)
While many critics agree that the concert was memorable, they also concur that the Stones did not give one of their best performances, and that the guitars they used to play were out of tune. Richards gave a review of their performance in a 1971 interview with Rolling Stone magazine, saying, “We played pretty bad until near the end, because we hadn’t played for years … Nobody minded, because they just wanted to hear us play again” Granada Television recorded and aired a segment of the concert featuring the Stones in September of the same year Since then, it has been made available on DVD and Blu-ray. Although the performances weren’t free, the band announced in April 2013 that they would play two return shows on July 6 and 13, which they did.
The Stones’ performance wasn’t the first rock event to take place in London’s public park. A year earlier, Pink Floyd was the featured act at the first free concert. Several other bands soon followed, including Blind Faith in June 1969, which featured Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood. (Marianne Faithfull and Mick Jagger both came, but the Stones’ concert is the one that everyone remembers) Anyone of a certain age will immediately recognize the concert you’re referring to when asked, “Were you at the Hyde Park concert?”.
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