“I hope they don’t think we’re a rock ‘n’ roll outfit.”
The words of Michael Philip Jagger in July 1962 when the only thing he and the rest of the fledgling Rolling Stones wanted to be was a blues band. Seven years later, almost to the day, Sam Cutler who worked for Blackhill Enterprises, the company that arranged the free concerts in Hyde Park, went on stage to announce the band to the hundreds of thousands gathered in the royal park.
“The greatest rock and roll band in the world. They’re incredible; let’s hear it for the Stones!”
It was 5.25pm on Saturday 5 July 1969. For the Rolling Stones it was their first full concert in over 2 years, barring a short, 2 song, cameo at the NME Poll Winners Concert a year earlier that had been Brian Jones last appearance with the band. In June 1969 Brian left the group, setting in motion thirty-three days that would change the Stones forever more. Mick Taylor replaced him, before Brian then spawned a dozen conspiracy theories by dying in mysterious circumstances. Surrounding these events was uncertainty about the band being able to tour America due to Mick and Keith’s, as well as Brian’s, drug busts.
We will never know all that happened between Mick and Keith and the rest of the band over Brian’s situation as a Rolling Stone. It’s quite likely they can’t remember themselves all that went on during the later part of 1968 and early 1969. The truth always depends on who tells it, and in this case there were numerous different truths. For the last 40 years there have been stories and whispers from people saying that Brian wanted to leave of his own accord. This was probably true. He had lost his band mates along the way and he knew he was never going to regain control of the group that he had formed.
The Hyde Park concert was far from the greatest gig the Stones ever performed, but this was the dawn of the ‘Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band in the World’. Come December at the Stones’ finale to their hugely successful American tour – the massive free concert at Altamont, just outside San Francisco – things almost went spectacularly and horribly wrong. But life turns upon events, and the Rolling Stones survived to become the Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band in the World, not just because Sam Cutler called them that for the very first time at Hyde Park in the summer of ’69 and throughout the US tour. They have done so because of all that happened over those fateful thirty odd days, forty years ago.
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