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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The Stones in the Park was a free outdoor festival held in Hyde Park on 5 July 1969, headlined by the Rolling Stones and featuring Third Ear Band, King Crimson, Screw, Alexis Korner’s New Church, Family and the Battered Ornaments, in front of an estimated audience between 250,000–500,000 spectators.
It was the Stones’ first public concert in over two years, and was planned as an introduction of new guitarist, Mick Taylor, though circumstances inevitably changed following the death of former member Brian Jones two days earlier. The band rehearsed at the Beatles’ studio in a basement on Savile Row, and Mick Jagger and Keith Richards came up with a 14-song set; the Hyde Park concert would be the first time many of the songs had been played before a public audience. The PA system was supplied by Watkins Electric Music, who had handled amplification at previous Hyde Park events.
Fans started to arrive at the park with candles on 4 July in tribute to Jones, and by the morning of 5 July, 7,000 people had already gathered. Jagger read a short eulogy on stage before the Stones’ set began, reading two stanzas of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem on John Keats’s death, Adonaïs, from a calf-bound book. After this recital, several hundred cabbage white butterflies were released. The setlist for their performance was “I’m Yours & I’m Hers”, “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”. During the 18-minute-long rendition of “Sympathy for the Devil”, a number of African tribal drummers joined the band.
While the event is considered a memorable one by several critics, they also agree that it was not one of the Stones’ best performances, and the guitars played during the concert were out of tune. In a 1971 interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Richards evaluated their performance, “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.” The Stones’ portion of concert was filmed by Granada Television and broadcast that September. It has since been released on DVD and Blu-ray. In April 2013, the band announced their intention to play two return concerts on 6 and 13 July, although the performances were not free.
(Ref. rolling stones hyde park 1969)