A jaunt in the park
I had mixed feelings about the Stones in the Park in 1969. It was like they were taking it away from us. We’d grown used to the small crowds of regulars coming along to frolic in the everlasting sunshine, listening to Roy Harper and outing the odd demon or two. The Hyde Park Free concerts were suddenly becoming mass events and that is not really what they were about. It was nowhere near as much fun being part of such a huge crowd. Those small crowds had felt like family.
We got their early and had a paddle in a boat on the serpentine before making our way into the hollow that formed the natural amphitheatre. It was already packed.
Opher in the Serpentine at the Stones in the Park
We got in as close as we could but were still a little way back to the right of the stage. We had a good view but I really liked being right at the front.
The concert was OK. I thought Alexis Korner was OK but nothing outstanding. Roy Harper did a good set. The Battered Ornaments lacked Pete Brown. Barking College. King Crimson did a great 20th Century Schizoid Man and a good set. Family were fabulous. But everyone was there for the Stones!
It was a strange one. Brian Jones had been kicked out of the band and replaced by Mick Taylor. Then Brian had been found dead in his swimming pool. There have been all sorts of conspiracy theories going round about that one!
The Stones came on and loads of butterflies were released from cardboard boxes. They seemed reluctant to go and the boxes were shaken and banged. A few fluttered up but it was hardly the spectacle hoped for. Most of them seemed dead.
The band came on and looked a bit nervous with Mick in his white frock. They started off with Mick reading a Shelley poem in memory of Brian and then they kicked in. They sounded a bit ragged to me and the texture was not great. It all sounded a bit thin. I liked Mick’s guitar and really like Honky Tonk Women. I also thought the African drummer was looking and sounding the part.
All told it was a bit disappointing though I’ve heard the soundtrack and that sounded OK. Perhaps it was that the equipment back then was rarely adequate for a big outdoor event. Or perhaps it was that the Stones were under rehearsed and hadn’t quite gelled together yet. Or were they just nervous and defensive following what had happened to Brian. Whatever – it was a start! Their time with Mick Taylor was arguably the best and most creative of their whole career.
Every time the film comes on the telly I look for us. I can see where we were but I can’t find us. It would be quite a shock to see us at that time in all our glory. I was so full of life, optimism and energy. I’d love to go back for a day or two just to feel what it was like to be so naïve and happy.
At the end of the gig we were all told that anyone who picked up two bags of litter would get a free Honky Tonk Women single. Liz and I picked up two bags of said litter and duly presented it to the caravan. A grumpy guy told us there were no more singles. I protested and he went off and got me one from somewhere.
I still have it!