Rolling Stones: Bedlam bliss at the town hall

Article on experiences with The Rolling Stones, including a quote from Mark Seymour.

Author:  TimeOut, The New Zealand Herald.

Date: 22 November 2014.

Original URL:


Article Text

Musos on their favourite Stones songs and memories.

Harry Lyon had front row seats for the Stones’ first NZ show.

“I’ve seen the Stones every time they’ve toured New Zealand. The first time was 1965 and I had front-row seats for their Auckland show for me and my mate, thanks to my aunt Kathie who worked in the ticket office at John Courts. We were 14 and already died-in-the wool Stones fans. We clipped the newspaper ads and counted down the days to the show.

Opening acts were the forgettable Newbeats and impressive local heroes Ray Columbus and The Invaders. Then, bedlam: A sold-out Town Hall filled with over-excited teenagers about to have their first experience of dangerous rock’n’roll, courtesy of the original bad boys of 60s Brit Pop, The Rolling Stones.

Unlike the Beatles, who I’d seen the previous year, the Stone’s musical centre of gravity was considerably lower than the fringe shaking mop-tops. This was nasty Chicago blues-inspired music that hit a primal chord in my nascent rock’n’roll heart.

Oh, and hey, they looked cool. Most bands at the time had uniforms but these guys looked like students. Jagger: desert boots; Keef: checked shirt; Brian: aloof with striped pirate shirt and the Vox teardrop guitar; weird Bill: in a suit and holding his bass that funny way; and the bemused Charlie taking care of business up the back.

The repertoire was made up of tracks from the first three albums; the eponymous first, 12×5 and Unstoppable Stones. So, the set had songs like Down the Road a Piece, Mona, Not Fade Away, and the only one I remember for sure, Little Red Rooster, introduced by Charlie after much fanfare from Mick.

Being in the front row meant the band sound was fat even though, typical for those days, the only mics were for vocals.

The Stones didn’t rely on the Town Hall PA and had what seemed a huge single 18″ speaker mounted in a flared plywood horn that pumped out the vocals from one side of the stage. Musically, The Stones had edge and energy and completely delivered on what had been hyped as a pretty big promise.

It all seemed to be over in a flash but I was ecstatic and back for more when they returned to play The Civic in 1966, front row … thanks again Kathie!” Harry Lyon of Hello Sailor on his early days with the Stones.

“Listening to Brown Sugar on my sister’s turntable in my bedroom, through headphones, while studying integral calculus and ignoring my father, 1974,” Mark Seymour, of Hunters and Collectors, opening for the Stones at Mt Smart tonight.

“I’d been lying if I didn’t say that in the early days I based my whole frontman style on Michael Philip Jagger. I first saw them live at Western Springs, February 1973, at the tender age of 16. I bought the famous [Bruce Jarvis] poster of Mick in the electric blue jumpsuit and stuck it on my bedroom wall – and I still have the T-shirt. Mick is my Man!” Peter Urlich, onetime frontman for Th’Dudes.

“Our family used to go camping every summer, and at Christmas all five of us were given 45s, so that was a lot of new songs to listen to, as some of them had two songs per side. It was amazing – we had this little portable record player that ran on batteries and so there was this great stack of new songs. I was given Jumping Jack Flash by the Rolling Stones. I had never heard anything like that opening guitar riff. It scared me and intrigued me at the same time. I think I was probably only about 6 or 7 years old, but it left a lasting impression on me, and also had me pondering the words ‘crossfire hurricane’ over and over in my head.” Dianne Swann, The Bads.

“When I was in my second year at jazz school, I would listen to Don’t Stop every morning, really loud in my headphones as I walked down Rolleston St to uni. It helped to neutralise the academic environment for me, and remind me that it’s the ‘fire’ in music that is most important to me.” Thomas Oliver, Wellington songwriter and guitarist.

“When I was 5 years old I would sing Satisfaction with a passion. I thought Sir Mick was saying ‘and I cry, and I cry’, so I have a little laugh about that every now and then.” Louis Baker, Wellington singer-songwriter and frontman for Brockaflowersaurus Rex.

“My favourite Stones story is set one afternoon in the flat next to Ed’s house. Some great people moved into that house and we used to go over there to drink, eat, listen to music, etc. One Sunday, all drinking and hanging out, a group of us sat on the musty damp floor in the front room. There were two people jokingly pushing each other by the window. All of a sudden the lead break from Sympathy to the Devil ripped through the room. Me and Cal looked at each other for a moment our faces screwed up at the lightning bolt of piercing, bone-dry guitar. Then bang, the two people jostling knocked over a vase, which broke into thousands, also an exceptional sound. We sat there for hours until a rat stuck his face in the door.” Sven Petterson, guitarist for Racing and The Checks.

“Under My Thumb is universally loved by the band – its fantastic lyrics, hooky marimbas and that driving acoustic make it one of The Stones best in our opinion. The song is regularly thrashed when on tour and attempted when in the rehearsal room. It’s an amazing piece of songwriting with that classic Rolling Stones groove and swagger. When we started as a band the main thing we wanted to achieve was to be an exceptional live outfit – it was bands like the Stones that inspired us to do that (who better to reference than the band with the greatest frontman on the planet). Thank goodness there are still bands like this with an amazing legacy that get out on stage and blow people away without a laptop in sight – bring on November 22.” Dave Rowlands, guitarist for Clap Clap Riot.


As years go by: When the Stones came to town …

1965 The Big Beat ’65 tour with with Roy Orbison, The Newbeats, Ray Columbus and the Invaders
February 1, Theatre Royal, Christchurch (two shows)
February 2, Invercargill, Civic Theatre (two shows)
February 3, Dunedin Town Hall (two shows)
February 6, Auckland Town Hall (two shows)
February 8, Wellington Town Hall (two shows)

1966 tour with The Searchers and Max Merritt and the Meteors
February 28, Wellington Town Hall (two shows)
March 1, Civic Theatre Auckland (two shows)

February 11, Western Springs Stadium, Auckland (daytime show)

1988 Mick Jagger solo tour
November 3, The Gluepot, Ponsonby secret show
November 5, Western Springs Stadium, Auckland

1995 Voodoo Lounge Tour
April 16 and 17, Western Springs Stadium
April 18, Westpac Stadium, Wellington

2006 A Bigger Bang Tour
April 16, Western Springs Stadium, Auckland
April 18, Westpac Stadium, Wellington