When Grand Hotel staff had to turn hosepipes on Rolling Stones' fans

The Rolling Stones Show programme for Torquay Town Hall in August 1964

The Rolling Stones Show programme for Torquay Town Hall in August 1964 - Credit: Keith Perry

The Stones rolled into the Bay in August 1964 - and stayed for five days during which time they performed every day in concerts across the South West.

Their management had originally booked them in at the Queen’s Hotel on Torquay harbourside but police, fearing fans could cause chaos in the town centre, insisted they transfer to a location where disruption could be minimised.

And so it was that Messrs Jagger, Richards, Jones, Watts and Wyman set up their headquarters at the Grand Hotel.

Of course, that didn't prevent the fans from laying siege to the hotel in the hope of catching a glimpse of the group and the local newspaper reported at the time: “The vigil was kept up for hours but they were usually disappointed as the Stones left from the tradesman’s entrance in their Vauxhall estate car.

“Some of the more eager fans were not content with a watching and waiting role and began to try to climb to the Stones’ suite on the first floor. One or two managed to get in and were told they could stay awhile - as long as they didn't scream. Others, however, were not so lucky and were met by a stream of water from hosepipes directed by hotel staff.”

From the Grand the Stones set off to play in Weymouth, Weston-super-Mare, Exeter, Plymouth - and Torquay Town Hall where they played two concerts, the only dates on the tour which were not complete sell-outs.

I was at the second town hall concert - an all-seater affair - and unlike The Beatles’ Torquay date a year earlier this one was not marred by the hysterical, high pitched screaming of female fans.

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The playlist was based on the band’s debut album, released on Decca a few months earlier, which reflected their love of rhythm and blues and featured only one Jagger-Richards composition, “Tell Me (You're Coming Back)”.

Jagger’s animated, energetic stage presence was a revelation, contrasting with Richards’ laid-back approach as the Stones’ reeled off a string of blues-rock numbers including “Route 66”, Chuck Berry’s “Carol”, “Can I Get A Witness”, “You Can Make it if You Try”, “Walking the Dog” and their first top 10 hit from earlier in the year, “Not Fade Away”.

When I caught up with the Stones next, at the Exeter Odeon almost  a year later, the band remained loyal to its R&B roots but the Jagger-Richards songwriting partnership had begun to get into its stride with hit singles like “The Last Time” and “Satisfaction” - one of their most successful compositions of them all despite being originally banned by the BBC for its “suggestive” lyrics.

Stones programme from an Exeter concert

Stones programme from an Exeter concert - Credit: Keith Perry

That Exeter gig featured The Walker Brothers plus the first ‘supergroup’, Steam Packet, which comprised Rod Stewart, Julie Driscoll, organist Brian Augur and its founder, Long John Baldry.

Jagger, incidentally, gave Torquay a mixed review when asked what he thought of the resort.

“It’s a great town,” he told a local reporter. “But I wouldn't think there’s much to do in winter!”

For me, personally, 1964 and 1965 provided two lasting musical memories - those of seeing Chuck Berry, on his first UK tour, at Exeter Odeon and Bob Dylan, also on these shores for the first time, at Leicester’s De Montfort Hall.


Chuck Berry played in Exeter

Chuck Berry played in Exeter - Credit: Keith Perry

The programme from Chuck Berry's Exeter concert

The programme from Chuck Berry's Exeter concert - Credit: Keith Perry

Berry was an inspiration to many bands, the Stones among them, and on the bill with him that day was another early rock and roller, Carl Perkins, who wrote “Blue Suede Shoes”, an early Elvis hit.

But it was a young Geordie group, making their debut on the concert circuit, who came closest to stealing the show from its star. 

The Animals, with the unmistakable deep, blues-rock vocals of Eric Burden and soaring keyboard solo from Alan Price, gave a memorable performance of their recent realise, “House of the Rising Sun” which went on to top the charts for them at home and in the USA and which sounds as good today as it did  that night 56 years ago.

I did catch up with Chuck Berry again in 2004 when, aged 77 and with his best days long behind him, he played Torquay’s Princess Theatre. 

This time it was a local band, Duke Johnson (alias Colin Bowden) and The Scorchers who provided the support and although he reeled off his hits Berry’s trademark duck walk had become rather rheumatic and as a performance it obviously didn't bear comparison to the concert of 40 years earlier!

I 'discovered’ Bob Dylan in the basement of the long-gone record department of WH Smith in Fleet Street. 

The WH Smith record girls, Beryl, left, and Monica

The WH Smith record girls, Beryl, left, and Monica - Credit: Keith Perry

As teenagers this was the place to hear to the latest releases free of charge in one of their listening booths, courtesy of the long-suffering record department girls, Beryl and Monica, who provided the soundtrack to our youth  - even if we could rarely afford to buy any of it!

It was here, in the summer of 1963, that I first heard “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” and became an instant fan. 

Bob Dylan at De Montfort Hall in 1965

Bob Dylan at De Montfort Hall in 1965 - Credit: Keith Perry

So, when Dylan announced his first U.K. tour in 1965 to coincide with the release of “Bringing it All Back Home” I was delighted to succeed with my postal application for one of the 3,000 tickets for the Leicester concert.  

So it was on May  2 that year I pointed my ageing Standard 8 in the direction of the foreign parts of the East Midlands for what remains the most mesmerising concert I've ever seen.

From the opening bars of “Times They Are A Changing” to the finale, “It's All Over Now, Baby Blue”, it was Dylan classic after Dylan classic.

The Leicester Mercury reported: “His 100-minute solo performance to a sell-out audience of more then 3,000 at Leicester's De Montfort Hall last night proved by its sincerity and sheer magic that he will outlive and probably outgrow any mere popularity boom.”

Time has proved the reviewer right even if the following year, on his world tour, he was jeered by many for “going electric” and, in their view, betraying his folk roots.