Top 7 Iconic Moments from The Rolling Stones’ Tours

A rolling stone gathers no moss. A proverb becomes a Muddy Waters song. Then the Muddy Waters song is picked to name a young band in London. 

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You can’t call a band The Rolling Stones and not hit the road. The Stones have logged many miles in six decades. Seven iconic moments from The Rolling Stones tours stand out in this legendary band’s long career. Dedicated to Charlie Watts. 

1. Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, 1964

In 1964 The Rolling Stones had just begun their second U.S. tour. On October 29, they performed at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. Dubbed the T.A.M.I. Show, the concert for Teen Age Music International (or Teenage Awards Music International on some posters) featured some of the biggest names in rock ’n’ roll and R&B. 

The Rolling Stones shared the bill with James Brown, Chuck Berry, The Beach Boys, Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, and others. Free tickets were given away to more than 2,500 teenage fans. James Brown was scheduled to headline but was replaced by The Rolling Stones on the day of the show. Keith Richards lamented going on after James Brown. Richards said it was the worst mistake of the band’s career as Brown delivered an electric performance. 

The British Invasion was well underway in the U.S. and The Rolling Stones were one of the bands leading the takeover of popular culture in America. 

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2. Hyde Park, 1969

The Stones played a free show in Hyde Park on July 5, 1969. The Stones hadn’t performed in more than two years and this concert was the first with their new guitarist Mick Taylor. Taylor had replaced the band’s founder, Brian Jones, who was let go from the band a month earlier.

Circumstances around the concert changed when Jones was found dead two days before the Hyde Park show. The Stones decided they must continue. Mick Jagger read Percy B. Shelley’s Adonais—an elegy for Romantic English poet John Keats—in tribute to Jones. White butterflies were released after Jagger’s recital.

It wasn’t to be one of The Stones’ finest moments. Reeling from Jones’s death, they struggled through the set, fighting out-of-tune guitars. Mick Jagger’s usual energy was missing and his voice sounded weak according to critics at the time. Keith Richards said the band was out of practice after two years away from the stage.

A massive crowd had gathered for the show—estimated between 250,000 and 500,000 people.

Regardless of the lackluster performance, the Hyde Park concert was pivotal for The Rolling Stones because it’s how the band found the strength to carry on. 

3. Altamont Speedway Free Festival, 1969

Remembered as a violent and tragic event, The Rolling Stones headlined a free festival at the Altamont Speedway outside of Tracy, California. An estimated 300,000 people arrived to watch The Stones along with Santana; Jefferson Airplane; Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young; and the Grateful Dead. 

Hells Angels were brought in for security which proved to be fateful when violence erupted. As each act took the stage, tension grew between the crowd and the Hells Angels. The Grateful Dead chose not to play due to the increasing violence. 

When The Rolling Stones concert began, a fan named Meredith Hunter approached the stage and was beaten back by the Hells Angels. Hunter returned with a gun only to be stabbed and beaten to death. He was only 18 years old. 

The free festival was a catastrophic event of violence and death. Many fans were injured, cars either stolen or wrecked, a drug-induced drowning in a nearby canal, and two additional accidental deaths marked one of the most tragic concerts in history.

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4. The Marquee Club, 1971

One month before the release of Sticky Fingers, The Rolling Stones played the Marquee Club in London. A rare club date for the band, the intimate setting was used to debut new songs. 

Rock royalty showed up to watch the gig, including Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton. A camera crew was brought in to film the show. The film documents Mick Taylor’s influence on the band. The Stones ripped through a new song called “Brown Sugar,” now a classic.  

5. Madison Square Garden, 1972

Returning to tour the U.S. for the first time since the Altamont tragedy, The Rolling Stones ended the run with three nights at Madison Square Garden in New York. At the venue, Dick Cavett interviewed the band for his show on ABC. Cavett’s program aired performances of “Brown Sugar” and “Street Fighting Man.” Cavett, prior to airing the performances, tells his audience not to be concerned about the frenzy in the crowd, it’s only excitement and not a riot. 

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6. Some Girls: Live In Texas, 1978

The concert film, recorded July 18, 1978, at Will Rogers Auditorium in Fort Worth, Texas, sees The Stones at the height of their live powers. Out promoting their album, Some Girls, the band gives an energetic performance in front of 25,000 fans.

Ronnie Wood was made an official member in 1975, and the chemistry between him and Keith Richards is captured on 16mm film. New songs “Beast of Burden” and “Shattered” hold up with classics like “Honky Tonk Women” and “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.”

7. The Checkerboard Lounge, 1981

A legendary band performs with their idol on the South Side of Chicago on November 22, 1981. The Rolling Stones joined Muddy Waters onstage at the Checkerboard Lounge performing “Baby Please Don’t Go,” “Hoochie Coochie Man,” and “Mannish Boy.” It was the only time The Rolling Stones performed live with Muddy Waters. 

The performance was thankfully recorded and released as a concert video and live album, mixed by the legendary Bob Clearmountain.

Brian Jones named the band after the song “Rollin’ Stone,” recorded by Muddy Waters in 1950. Thirty-one years later The Rolling Stones traveled full circle. 

Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images

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