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.