Throughout our 150th-anniversary celebrations, we will take a closer look at 15 significant events from our eclectic history. Whether you’re familiar with these particular pieces of history or not, we hope you enjoy walking down memory lane with us.
Did you catch the snippet of the Rolling Stones’ 1966 concert at the Hall in our newly-released film, Your Room Will be Ready, narrated by none other than Mick Jagger himself?
Were you there? Tell us about it – we’d love to hear what you remember of this event.
The Stones performed at the Hall on four occasions, including one of only two times they shared a bill with the Beatles in 1963. But we wanted to shine a light on their final appearance in 1966, which culminated in a stage invasion and riot. More on that later, but first…
Tonite Let’s All Make Love in London
That significant gig would probably have only lived on in the hazy memories of those present had it not been captured by counterculture filmmaker Peter Whitehead at the time to appear in his 1967 film Tonite Let’s All Make Love in London. This disjointed Swinging London documentary, subtitled “A Pop Concerto,” comprises a number of different “movements,” each depicting a different theme underscored by music.
The scenes were also later edited into the promo for the Stones’ single Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing In The Shadow?
You mentioned a riot, what happened?
The British fans of the greatest rock’n‘roll band in the world, most of whom were teenagers who skipped school to see their favourite rebels, had been awaiting the return of their heroes from the US for almost a year. So when the Stones launched their 23-date tour of Britain at the Hall on 23 September 1966, the excitement was at an all-time high.
But there are many more reasons why this particular Royal Albert Hall show would go down in history as one of their most explosive.
Top of the bill at the Hall for the first time, the group introduced their fans to the Ike & Tina Turner Revue, whose sensational opening performance, and especially Tina Turner’s raw energy, left quite the impression on the thousands of youngsters gathered in the auditorium that day. The first half of the show also featured The Yardbirds with Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page as lead guitarists and Peter Jay and The New Jaywalkers.
Now we don’t know about you, but that’s what we call a line-up.
After a first half like that, the room was appropriately buzzing with excitement for the main act, and that’s probably why the witness accounts of how the mini-riot started differ slightly but, whatever song the Stones opened their set with, the whole thing was soon halted by dozens (or hundreds, depending on who you ask) of frenzied fans pushing past the ushers and clambering on stage to grab a handful of skin, hair, clothes, or whatever they could, of their heroes.
“I have some wonderful memories of performing there with the Stones in the 1960s when once or twice it did get a bit wild, with enthusiastic fans joining us on stage and almost bringing the show to an abrupt end – but we soldiered on and had a great time.” Mick Jagger
Managers, agents and PRs rushed from their front-row seats to assist the security guards, who were perhaps more accustomed to sedate chamber music recitals and easily overwhelmed by the relentless volley of teenage bodies hurtling past them.
“Keith Richard was knocked to the ground, Mick was almost strangled, while Brian Jones and Bill Wyman took to their heels, followed closely by dozens of determined fans. Charlie Watts sat quietly behind his drums watching the scene,” reported Norrie Drummond, who was reviewing “the pop world’s social event of the year” for the New Musical Express at the time.
But the New Musical Express reporter wasn’t entirely accurate, however, in his observation about Brian Jones’s haste to leave the stage. On the contrary, one of the most striking images of Peter Whitehead’s film is the sight of the dandified lead guitarist hugging his knees and laughing like a mad prince, revelling in the chaos and destruction around him.
The announcement came that unless everyone returned to their seats the show would be cancelled, which seemed to calm down the fans enough so that the gig could continue.
“Standing in a flowered jacket that glittered as with pearls or sequins, with his head between his legs and his arms outstretched, [Mick Jagger] looked more like a gymnast in fancy dress than he ever did. Certainly the Stones generate great excitement… and we were treated to all the visual goodies that usually accompany one of their shows: sobbing fans pouring on to the stage in hundreds and the beautiful [Stones’ manager] Mr. Oldham waving his expensively suited arms decorously in the air.” International Times, 14 October 1966
Not that things got more sedate from that point. The Stones’ producer and manager Andrew Loog Oldham originally planned to record the Royal Albert Hall gig as a live album to capitalise on their popularity in the US market, which was heightened in 1966 by a notoriously successful North American concert tour supporting their hit album Aftermath. However, discouraged by the fan hysteria accompanying the band in concert at the time, and the deafening sound levels of their explosive appearance on our stage, Andrew Loog Oldham abandoned his original idea and instead selected ten concert recordings from other sources alongside two older studio tracks, which were overdubbed with crowd noise to give the impression of an entirely live album. Fun fact: all the tracks were still credited to the Royal Albert Hall performance in the liner notes of the original LP. Bit cheeky if you ask us.
This wasn’t the first time that Peter Whitehead turned his 16mm hand-held camera and his brilliant eye for detail to a riot at a Stones concert. In September 1965 he had accompanied the group on a trip to Ireland to make what became the first Rolling Stones documentary, Charlie Is My Darling, which remained unreleased until 2012, but that you can now watch on YouTube below:
9 ways you can support us
This extended closure has put the Royal Albert Hall, like many other venues, in a perilous situation.
Without shows on we have lost our major source of funding, but there remains a number of ways you can continue to support the Royal Albert Hall during this crisis:
Please support the Royal Albert Hall during the coronavirus crisis.
Registered charity No.254543. Text-to-donate operates via major UK networks only and cost the donation amount plus one standard rate message.