The UK's Woodstock moment...
The Rolling Stones free concert at Hyde Park in 1969
Before Woodstock and the summer of love, the Rolling Stones played to nearly 500,000 people in Hyde Park, for free, with a collection of other bands, in an event which helped to define UK youth culture in the late 1960s.
We partnered with Hstry.org to create an online historical re-enactment of the day using social media. We shared the sights, sounds, smells and vibes of one of the most significant concerts to have ever taken place in the UK which had a lasting impact on culture, not just music.
We believe that the 1969 concert was historically, culturally and musically significant, for a number of reasons...
Hyde Park had been staging a series of free concerts since the summer of 1968. 'Super-group' Blind Faith played to 120,000 people the month before but securing the Stones was a major coup for organisers. The Stones had not played together for over two years and were due to release a new album.
- Brian Jones, who had been kicked out of the band he founded only a few months earlier, was replaced by guitarist Mick Taylor. Sadly, two days before the concert, Jones passed away from a suspected drug overdose in the swimming pool at his home in Sussex. The Stones decided to dedicate the concert to the memory of Brian Jones.
- Woodstock is well understood to be a cultural touchstone in America and a pivotal moment in rock and roll history. However, Stones in The Park was of equal importance in the UK. The atmosphere, ethos and outcomes of both events were similar. Music fans camped out in Hyde Park the night before, drugs were shared between friends and strangers, the poor sound quality and (sometimes) performances were inconsequential to the overall significance of the events. Both were events which helped a generation define themselves.
- The daytime open-air free concert in Hyde Park was followed by a separate, unrelated concert to the south of the park. Chuck Berry and The Who played to a packed house at the Royal Albert Hall that same evening. This combination of acts ensured a wide range of concert-goers descended onto central London that day. Hippies, mods, rockers, bikers, and the young were all present in the park and at the hall later on.
- Surprisingly, little violence was reported to have taken place - despite the presence of Hell's Angels 'security team'. A few months later, the Stones concert at Altamont would infamously end in tragedy, despite using a similar logistical set-up.
- Of the other bands who played in the park that day, arguably only King Crimson went on to enjoy a dedicated following. Family had enjoyed minor success in the UK.
- The only existing public video recording of the event, from a Granada television documentary (later released on DVD), shows that the band struggled to keep tune and, as band members later agreed, they were not on their best form. However, few people in the crowd noticed. The atmosphere of the event trumped the performances and most people were just happy to become part of the day.
Read on to discover out how we re-created the concert!