The Rolling Stones First Played 50 Years Ago; Watch Them Explode Into Fame Shortly Thereafter

Just four days ago, the Rolling Stones cel­e­brat­ed the fifti­eth anniver­sary of their first con­cert, which hap­pened on July 12, 1962 at Lon­don’s Mar­quee club. Arti­cles have quot­ed lead singer Mick Jag­ger as describ­ing the crowd that evening as the kind of audi­ence they’d expect­ed as a band: “col­lege stu­dents hav­ing a night out,” an “art-school kind of crowd” who “weren’t par­tic­u­lar­ly demon­stra­tive, but they appre­ci­at­ed and enjoyed the set.” But the Stones’ demo­graph­ic would soon both shift and expand dra­mat­i­cal­ly: “A few months lat­er we were play­ing in front of 11 year olds who were scream­ing at us.” You can wit­ness this very phe­nom­e­non in the 1964 news­reel above; per­haps all of the kids lined up out­side the the­ater aren’t quite that young, but we’re def­i­nite­ly not look­ing at a col­le­giate crowd. Still, what this full house (“in fact,” the nar­ra­tor says, “it could have been filled ten times over”) lacks in matu­ri­ty, they make up for in raw enthu­si­asm.

This short film comes from British Pathé, then known as Pathé News, a pro­duc­er of news­reels from the very ear­ly twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry right up to the sev­en­ties. They cap­tured the Stones per­form­ing in 1964, after they had already racked up a con­sid­er­able degree of fame, espe­cial­ly in their own coun­try. The show itself takes place in Kingston upon Hull, a medi­um-sided city in the north­east of Eng­land. Sum­mon­ing the sur­pris­ing sense of fun that mid-six­ties Eng­lish media some­times could when cov­er­ing pop­u­lar cul­ture, this news­reel, called Rolling Stones Gath­er Moss, opens with Jag­ger, Kei­th Richards, Bri­an Jones, Char­lie Watts, and Bill Wyman try­ing to hitch a ride along­side the grassy road to the venue. “Lit­tle do they know, they’re hav­ing their legs pulled,” the announc­er says of the unhesi­tat­ing motorists, “because these appar­ent hitch­hik­ers, so bland­ly ignored, are five of the most famous young men in show busi­ness, the Rolling Stones. Some of these motorists will be kick­ing them­selves when they learn they missed the chance of a life­time of get­ting to know them.” But the his­tor­i­cal moment remains cap­tured on film, as do count­less oth­ers, among the 90,000 clips in Pathé’s online archive.

Relat­ed con­tent:

The Rolling Stones Sing Jin­gle for Rice Krispies Com­mer­cial (1964)

Jean-Luc Godard Films The Rolling Stones Record­ing “Sym­pa­thy for the Dev­il” (1968)

The Rolling Stones Jam With Their Idol, Mud­dy Waters

John Lennon and The Rolling Stones Sing Bud­dy Hol­ly

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.


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