The Rolling Stones at Hyde Park in 1969: one of the greatest gigs ever?

5 July 2022, 08:00

Mick Jagger performing live onstage at free Hyde Park Concert in 1969
Mick Jagger performing live onstage at free Hyde Park Concert in 1969. Picture: PA Images/Trinity Mirror/Mirrorpix/Alamy Stock Photo

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 photocall Introducing Mick Taylor (2nd Left) who took Brian Jones place in the band to press in Hyde Park 13 June 1969
The photocall Introducing Mick Taylor (2nd Left) who took Brian Jones place in the band to press in Hyde Park 13 June 1969. Picture: PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

Huge crowds gathered to watch the all day concert at Hyde Park, which was headlined by the Rolling Stones. 5th July 1969
Huge crowds gathered to watch the all day concert at Hyde Park, which was headlined by the Rolling Stones. 5th July 1969. Picture: Trinity Mirror / Mirrorpix / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

Part of the vast crowd gathered in Hyde Park for the free concert given by the Rolling Stones. 5th July 1969.
Part of the vast crowd gathered in Hyde Park for the free concert given by the Rolling Stones. 5th July 1969. Picture: Trinity Mirror / Mirrorpix / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

Mick Jagger reads Shelley to the gathered Stones fans as a tribute to the late Brian Jones
Mick Jagger reads Shelley to the gathered Stones fans as a tribute to the late Brian Jones. Picture: Trinity Mirror / Mirrorpix / Alamy Stock Photo

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."

The Rolling Stones on stage at their free concert in London's Hyde Park on 5 July 1969
The Rolling Stones on stage at their free concert in London's Hyde Park on 5 July 1969. Picture: Trinity Mirror / Mirrorpix / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

Tom Keylock releases Butterflies at the free concert in London's Hyde Park on 5 July 1969?
Tom Keylock releases Butterflies at the free concert in London's Hyde Park on 5 July 1969? Picture: Trinity Mirror / Mirrorpix / Alamy Stock Photo

Jagger's partner Marianne Faithfull watched from "the wings" with her son Nicholas.

Marianne Faithfull and her young son Nicholas attend a Rolling Stones concert in London's Hyde Park.
Marianne Faithfull and her young son Nicholas attend a Rolling Stones concert in London's Hyde Park. Picture: Trinity Mirror / Mirrorpix / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

Mick Taylor and Mick Jagger performing live onstage at free Hyde Park concert
Mick Taylor and Mick Jagger performing live onstage at free Hyde Park concert. Picture: RB/Redferns/Getty Images

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.

Some of the impromptu "security" that managed the Stones&squot; show at Hyde Park
Some of the impromptu "security" that managed the Stones' show at Hyde Park. Picture: Keystone Press / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

Mick Jagger and Keith Richards at the Rolling Stones concert at Hyde Park 5th July 1969.
Mick Jagger and Keith Richards at the Rolling Stones concert at Hyde Park 5th July 1969. Picture: Trinity Mirror / Mirrorpix / Alamy Stock Photo

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 Rolling Stones at Hyde Park, 5th July 1969
The Rolling Stones at Hyde Park, 5th July 1969. Picture: Trinity Mirror / Mirrorpix / Alamy Stock Photo

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
Some of the fans of The Rolling Stones at Hyde Park on 5th July 1969
Some of the fans of The Rolling Stones at Hyde Park on 5th July 1969. Picture: Trinity Mirror / Mirrorpix / Alamy Stock Photo

63 years later, the Stones have again returned to Hyde Park for two shows... but people had to pay this time!

The Rolling Stones perform at American Express present BST Hyde Park at Hyde Park on June 25, 2022
The Rolling Stones perform at American Express present BST Hyde Park at Hyde Park on June 25, 2022. Picture: : REUTERS / Alamy Stock Photo

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