The Rolling Stones at Hyde Park in 1969: one of the greatest gigs ever?
5 July 2022, 08:00
This weekend, the Stones return to Hyde Park, 53 years after they first played an incredible free show there. Here's the full story of what happened and what was on the setlist.
The free show is one of the most famous gigs in history. The date was originally intended as a way of introducing their new guitarist, Mick Taylor, but their founding member Brian Jones had drowned at his home just two days earlier, so the show quickly turned into a tribute to their fallen comrade.... even though they'd had to sack him for being unreliable.
The show was free, meaning accurate crowd estimates are vague... but it’s thought anything between 250,000 and half a million people showed up.
Other bands performing that day included Third Ear Band, Screw, prog legends, King Crimson, blues legend Alexis Korner's New Church, Roy Harper, Battered Ornaments and the critically-acclaimed Family.
The hot weather upped the pollen count, meaning Mick's allergies flared up. Jagger -wearing a white dress coat, made by ultra-trendy boutique Mr Fish - opened the Stones' set by reading a section of Percy Bysshe Shelley's poem Adonais, as a tribute to Brian Jones.
Shelley's poem was about the death of fellow poet Keats and one of the lines Mick read was: "Peace, peace! he is not dead, he doth not sleep / He hath awaken'd from the dream of life."
When Mick finished the reading, boxes of Cabbage White butterflies were released into the crowd. Unfortunately, the heat had killed a lot of them off.
Jagger's partner Marianne Faithfull watched from "the wings" with her son Nicholas.
The Stones' set opened with a cover of Johnny Winter's I'm Yours And I'm Hers. Other covers included Mercy Mercy and Robert Johnson's blues standard Love In Vain.
On advice from The Grateful Dead, the Stones employed the services of Hell's Angels to run security, The British bikers were fine - but when the band tried the same set-up with American Angels at the Altamont racetrack in California later that year, their behaviour would result in a murder of one gig-goer.
The Stones also debuted some brand new material at the Hyde Park show - classics like Midnight Rambler and Street Fighting Man had their first live airing, while other favourites such as (I Can't Get No) Satsfaction and Jumping Jack Flash were also on the setlist.
Keef later told Rolling Stone magazine: "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 show ended with and 18-minute version of the funky Sympathy For The Devil, and everyone who helped clear up after the gig got a free copy of the new single Honky Tonk Women.
The Rolling Stones at Hyde Park setlist 5th July 1969
- I'm Yours And I'm Hers
- Jumping' 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
- Sympathy For The Devil
63 years later, the Stones have again returned to Hyde Park for two shows... but people had to pay this time!