With 60 years in the music business, the Rolling Stones can perhaps finally say that they got their satisfaction by celebrating the anniversary of their first-ever live show that took place on July 12, at the London Marquee club.
During the memorable night, the Rolling Stones played covers of their all-time guru Chuck Berry, but also those of Robert Johnson, Don Ray, Paul Anka and Bo Diddley. It was only a year later that the band played its own songs.
But it all started on October 17, 1961, when on the second platform of the Dartford railway station where two young men, Michael “Mick” Philip Jagger and Keith Richards, inspired by classic American rock’n’roll decided to form a rock band. Apart from Chuck Berry, the young things looked up to bluesman Muddy Waters and listened to recordings of Little Richard, Howlin’ Wolf and Bo Diddley.
This was nothing extraordinary for all the British youths of the 1960s. The UK was enthralled by rhythm n’ blues born in the 1950s, with Alexis Korner (1928-1984) as its pioneer.
THE ROLLING STONES TURN SIXTY TODAY!!! July 12 1962 is where it officially all started for the world’s greatest rock’n’roll band!! Join us in celebrating, by tweeting why you love the Stones and your favourite songs and memories!! ??#StonesSIXTY pic.twitter.com/CbEsojNA2A
— The Rolling Stones (@RollingStones) July 12, 2022
The stage, i.e. the Marquee Club at 165 Oxford Street, for the first act of the Rolling Stone epic was established on April 19, 1958, by Harold Pendleton. Several months later the Ealing Jazz Club was set up and it was not long before it started resounding with classic jazz, blues and related genres. Jagger and Richards were drawn to it like moths to a flame. The establishment of the Rolling Stones came only as a natural result of the general atmosphere of musical novelties brewing in the clubs of London and, not to forget, the duo meeting Richard “Dick” Clifford Taylor – the third founder of the band.
It is at that time that Korner assembled the Blues Incorporated band, consisting of guitarist Brian Jones, pianist Ian Stwart and drummer Charles “Charlie” Watts. Following the meeting with Korner, Jagger and Richards participated in his band’s rehearsals. When in 1962 Jagger, Taylor and Richards parted ways with Korner’s band, the trio was joined by Jones and Stewart.
The name for their band was born out of an accident. When Brian Jones contacted the “Jazz Weekly” local newspaper to publish a call for band members, he was asked about the name of the band. As it happened, Muddy Waters’ “Rolling Stone” CD lay in front of him. He gave it a look and told the receiver that his band’s name was “The Rolling Stones”. Thus the legend was born.
Bill Wyman at Olympic Recording Studio in Barnes, south west London recording backing for the Stones’ track “We Love You”, May 19, 1967. Photo: Daily Mirror/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images
In a 2010 interview for Life, Keith Richards recalled the sidelines of the Stones’ first show. July 12, 1962, was a Thursday. Each Thursday there was a music show at the London Marquee. Korner’s Blues Incorporated was set to perform but opted out last minute as it had received an invitation to give a live show at the BBC studio. Jones managed to convince the owner of the Marquee Club, Harold Pendleton, to let the Rolling Stones play in replacement for Blues Incorporated. It was Mick Jagger who covered the expenses related to the show and the rental of musical equipment. At the end of the day, Mick Jagger did vocals, Keith Richards and Brian Jones were playing the guitars, Richard “Dick” Taylor was stroking the bass guitar, Ian Stewart was tapping the keys and Anthony “Tony” Chapman manned the drums.
The musicians exclusively sang covers, including blues standards such as “(I Believe I’ll) Dust My Broom” by Robert Johnson (1936), boogie-woogie-styled “Down the Road a Piece” (1940) by Don Ray and Chucka Berry’s “Back in the USA”. Also during the night, the Stones performed their own version of Jay McShanna’s “Confessin’ the Blues”. Also on the setlist were “Bright Lights, Big City” by Jim Reed, “Tell Me That You Love Me” by Paul Anka (1957), “Blues Before Sunrise” by Leroy Carra and Scrapper Blackwell (1934). The group performed a total of 20 songs during the night, according to setlist.fm. Alas, no recording of the event made it to our times.
For the next couple of months, the Rolling Stones played cover songs in London alone, mainly on the main stage of The Ealing Jazz Club. In December 1962, Billy Wyman replaced Taylor and a couple of weeks later Charles “Charlie” Watts started playing the drums.
A song called “Stoned”, published on November 1, 1963, by Decca Records is considered the Stones’ first original title. The B-side of the single featured a cover of “I Wanna Be Your Man” by John Lennon and Paul McCartney (The Beatles).
The Stones published their first album in April 1964, which turned out a grand success, granting the band worldwide recognition. From then on, the band played for thousands at stadiums in the US and Europe. Still, the Stones would return every now and then to the Marquee in the 1970s.
It is estimated that the Rolling Stones sold around 250 million CDs ever since they published their first single. The band’s official website reads that it played over 2,000 shows in several dozen countries.
Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones performing in Warsaw in 1967 pic.twitter.com/TbAm8cXnUv
— Christopher Lash (@rightbankwarsaw) December 8, 2015
A subversive element
The band descended on Poland a total of four times with the legendary double show at the Congress Hall of the Palace of Culture and Science on April 13, 1967, going down in history. Unlike their debut performance at the Marquee, the Stones’ first show in Poland happened not without intervention from Citizens’ Militia – the Polish communist police force.
A reporter for the “Politechnik” journal wrote “Unwashed fanatics of big-beat… launched a hooligan fracas, stones and bottles were cast, pummeling ensued. The militia were showered with rocks and bricks as car windows were smashed and candelabra demolished. The militia intervened immediately and several trouble-makers were apprehended… But to no avail. A militiaman who stood next to me was hit with a rock, while another one barely dodged a hurled beer bottle. It took nearly an entire hour for the militia to bring back order without resorting to the use of force, however, when the belligerency of the long-haired reached its apex, truncheons began to fall.”
An optional follow-up show in the 1970s was out of the question for the Stones. Jagger was put on the persona non grata list of the Polish People’s Republic (PRL) communist regime because he had been “sentenced by the British government for the possession of drugs.”
The Rolling Stones 13.04.1967 Warsaw pic.twitter.com/hKezA1YfCB
— mustang039 (@mustan0391) June 9, 2018
Martial Law and the economic crisis of the 1980s that followed did not make the Stones’ return more possible either.
It was only after Communism fell that the Stones made their grand return in August 1998. They performed at the Katowice Saucer (Spodek). Their third performance took place on July 25, 2007, at the Warsaw Służew Horse Racing Track. The last time they performed in Poland was on July 8, 2018, at the National Stadium in Warsaw. Despite Charles Watts’ passing away in 2021, the Stones’ world tour continues.