Rolling Stones’ concert in Albany 55 years ago recalled by those who were there

Clockwise from top left: A promotional poster for the 1965 shows at the Palace; Brian Jones and Mick Jagger on stage with the Rolling Stones on April 29, 1965; screaming fans at the show; a photo of Jagger with his maracas and one that was taken by a fan at one of the shows that day in Albany. (Photos at left from the collection of Gary Greenberg; photos at right by David Lucas)
PHOTOGRAPHER:

Clockwise from top left: A promotional poster for the 1965 shows at the Palace; Brian Jones and Mick Jagger on stage with the Rolling Stones on April 29, 1965; screaming fans at the show; a photo of Jagger with his maracas and one that was taken by a fan at one of the shows that day in Albany. (Photos at left from the collection of Gary Greenberg; photos at right by David Lucas)

Categories: -The Daily Gazette, Entertainment

The most important show Eddie Angel has ever attended — at least “historically” speaking — could never be his favorite.

Sure, he was just a 12-year-old Albany kid when the Rolling Stones blew his mind at the Palace Theatre on April 29, 1965. It had all the ingredients for a legendary moment in the Capital Region music scene and it was the first concert that the now-Nashville-based guitarist and leader of Los Straightjackets ever remembers attending.

But it also stunk… The Stones only played three songs before everyone got kicked out.

“All it was, was kids screaming,” Angel said. “They started playing but Jagger’s microphone started shorting out, cutting out. After three songs, he just got disgusted and they left. I got ripped off, man.”

Angel, who attended the first show of the Stones’ infamous doubleheader at the venue that day, doesn’t recall any refund offerings from the Palace after the alleged “microphone” incident, but according to another attendee, he may not even be recalling the concert correctly in the first place.

Ribs LaMothe, a Dallas, Texas resident and UAlbany alum, attended the same afternoon show when he was just 18 and in his second semester of college. The way he remembers it — an audience member threw a bottle at Jagger, prompting the group to close the curtains and call it quits.

“Somebody threw a bottle or something like that,” LaMonte said. “I didn’t understand what happened. All of a sudden, the curtain closed, they said ‘that’s the program, goodbye.’ We were way up at the balcony. We’re students, we had cheap seats. I was just thrilled to be able to see the Rolling Stones a quarter of a mile away.”

While attendees’ recollections of WTRY’s 55-year-old concert may be vague — and apparently at odds with each other — the longtime Stones fans still look at the show as an experience like no other. The first show may have been a bit of a dud due to its less-than-quality runtime, but those who attended the second show that day — including now-”SpongeBob SquarePants” songwriter Andy Paley and WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief Dave Lucas — enjoyed a full set, with closer and then-single “The Last Time” giving the 2,800-capacity crowd a proper send-off.

Regardless of which gig they attended, they all saw the Stones paint the city black.

The three-song Stones

But somebody must know something about how the first show got cut short. And that “somebody” says both Angel and LaMonte are partially correct. Bobby Dick, lead singer of the Capital Region’s iconic ’60s rock group the Sundowners, was only 18 when he got the important gig via a WTRY connection of opening for the Stones.

It was an important show for him, but apparently neither WTRY nor the Stones themselves saw it as that important, or maybe they just didn’t communicate. What really happened that night was a result of neither party bringing the right equipment, forcing the Stones to use the Sundowners’ equipment left over in their tour vehicle and propping it up on a wooden chair to get the sound right.

“We wound up using — and this is amazing — one Dukane column speaker,” Dick said. “It was a tall speaker with stuff you’d have in a 1954 Chevy. It was bizarre. And a Bogen 35-watt amp that you might use for a public address in a high school. One of the wires broke, so the Rolling Stones had to stop playing. I’m on stage with the Rolling Stones, twisting little wires — you screw [them] on, positive-positive. So Mick was getting pissed because the sound wasn’t there.”

Dick admits he’d understand if Jagger blamed him for the mess-up, which ultimately led to the Stones only playing three songs during the first gig and calling it off. At the end of the day, it was his speaker. But he insists no bottles were thrown at the Stones. Instead, he claims girls were simply throwing their panties — filled with jelly beans for added weight — at the rock stars.

“You can’t just throw panties. You have to have some weight in them. Sort of like David and Goliath,” Dick said laughing. “One of the girls put too many jelly beans and it hit one of the Rolling Stones. He stopped and said, ‘Please don’t throw them right at us.’ ”

The Stones roll into Albany

Before the show took place, the excitement for the Stones was just as obvious, at least with less panty-throwing action. Angel remembers shooting hoops in his driveway while blasting the 45 of “The Last Time” through a speaker out of his bedroom window, which he now admits “must’ve drove my neighbors nuts.” The song meant a lot to him. It still does. And all around him, Angel recalls “everybody starting a band” after the Beatles formed.

“Everybody was in a band or wanted to be in a band,” Angel said. “And it seemed like every week, a new record was coming out from England that was mind-blowing. Looking back, I’m pretty amazed that there were that many teenagers into the Rolling Stones at that point in time. They had ‘The Last Time,’ ‘Time is On My Side,’ but how was that appealing to teenagers? But it did. These British musicians just seemed like they landed from another planet.”

While the Stones weren’t necessarily the Stones at the time — as “Satisfaction” didn’t hit airwaves until a bit later in ‘65 — the excitement for the show was undeniable.

“They didn’t have an awful lot of hits at that time,” Lucas said. “It was just before ‘Satisfaction’ came out, and that was the song that rooted them in the culture. A couple weeks after the show, someone in their organization gave one of the DJs at WTRY a copy of ‘Satisfaction.’ ”

WTRY presented the two shows on April 29, with one at 6:45 p.m. and another at 8:45 p.m., both featuring openers the Sundowners and the Knickerbockers — a group known for its Beatles sound-alike hit “Lies.” According to coverage in the April 30 edition of the Times Union, the group met fans before and between gigs, looking both “half-bored and half-amused.” During that time, Jagger ordered cheeseburgers and a coke, Brian Jones was playing with a slinky and Charlie Watts sat with his wife, Shirley.

Dick — who admits he may have been a bit jealous of the guy’s ability to win-over fans at the time — said he remembers the exact moment the Stones pulled up to the venue.

“They arrived and they had that road look — you know, when you fall asleep on a bus and your head is flat,” Dick said, laughing. “I tell the story that, when they came off, they looked worse.”

Regardless of the Stones’ sleep schedule, dozens were lined up outside of the venue before doors opened for the first show — with the TU projecting at least 2,000 fans filling up the venue. For the second show, approximately 2,800 packed the house. Attendees remember a mad rush into the venue, as seats were first-come-first-served.

“As the magic time approached, the audience chanted ‘We want the Stones’ and clapped in unison,” the TU article reports. “An awesome ovation greeted the casually dressed stars. ‘You must stay in your seats,’ admonished [presenter Lee] Gray, to little avail. The kids threw crumpled notes onstage, hopped about happily and finally returned to some semblance of order.”

Very few photos remain of the disorderly shows, with Lucas’ among the few. The then 14-year-old snuck in his mother’s Kodak box camera to get some shots of the rising superstars.

“It was my first rock concert,” Lucas said. “And for some unknown reason, I asked my mom if I could take it with me. It was this weird-looking camera that opened up, you had to snap the film in and took these crazy black-and-white pictures, which I still have.”

Screaming fans

Lucas got a ride to the Palace from a friend’s mother at the time. During the show, on each side of him, were screaming girls.

“They were maybe 12 or 13. Of course, I was 14 and when you’re 14, anybody younger than you is little. Throughout the whole concert, on either side of me, they were screaming at the top of their lungs. My ears are still ringing today from that.”

Paley — who was seated toward the front of the venue for the second show — remembers things similarly. He was 13 years old and his sisters brought him along to the concert.

“I don’t remember anything about the mechanics of getting tickets, I was just the one they brought along to the show,” Paley said. “And I was super, super excited.”

The screaming, he said, was for everybody. He even did a bit of his own when he touched Bill Wyman in the middle of the show. “Girls were screaming for the Knickerbockers too,” Paley said. “It wasn’t like they were only going to scream for the Stones.”

LaMothe, too, can’t forget the screaming, even from where he was sitting in the balcony. “There was so much noise, and I had never been to anything like this before,” he said.

Man with maraca

As for what they played — which could barely be heard over the noise — the TU reported that the Stones ran through cuts like “I Wanna Be Your Man” and “Not Fade Away” before closing with “The Last Time.” Through the performances, Jagger was playing a set of maracas with floral details — one of which now sits in Gary Greenberg’s music memorabilia collection.

Back in 2008, he bought the instrument from a show attendee, who recounted her story and experience getting autographs from the band in a letter to the buyer, as she slipped past security to meet the Stones.

“I bent down, scooped up the nicest one and put it under my madras coat into a large pocket as my coat was conveniently reversible,” the fan wrote. “From there, we noticed activity leading upstairs to offices and joined a line of office workers, fans who’d won the station’s [meet-and-greet] contest and DJs waiting outside a small office where the Stones were obviously waiting for the next show.”

Greenberg now says the maraca is one of his prized Jagger items in his Stones collection — which includes various demos and stage-worn attire. Dick said Jagger had all the maracas rubber-banded together and played them during “Not Fade Away.”

Between shows, fans were allowed in the rooms in groups of three to meet the band before they prepped for their second show of the night — which was reportedly a full set.

Neither the maraca-stealing fan’s recollection of leaving the first show nor the TU’s report of the night mentioned the haphazard three-song set. Regardless of what actually happened, the second show was a memorable experience for those in attendance.

“I’d have to rate it in the top three or four shows I’ve ever been to,” Lucas said. “In terms of having a great childhood memory — the Rolling Stones, that was it.”

But not everybody was into it. A negative review from the Knickerbocker News on April 30 — which reported on the arrests of three fans at the show — called the Stones a “minor-league” version of the Beatles meant for teens. For the next month, the newspaper received a few letters from readers about the comment.

“I also know many other persons 20 and over who both work, as myself, and go to college who consider the Stones great musical pioneers in the field of rhythm and blues,” wrote reader Jean Brown.

Others disagreed.

“In any opinion, they are slobs,” wrote anonymous reader R.C. “They can’t sing, they can’t play musical instruments, they are sloppily dressed and groomed. I watched them because I thought it was a comedy act … They should be barred from America as an act of Congress.”

Still, the fans who left the show to see their favorite band become the world’s “greatest rock band” in no time, now consider attending the show as one of the best decisions they’ve ever made.

Angel, who is now a successful musician himself, sees the historical event in a new light.

“Now I see it through what I do, I’ve played places like that,” Angel said. “It’s nothing glamorous about the dressing rooms there. I’m just amazed that they were that popular that fast for teenage kids. They were playing blues stuff. They were already big, man.”

And although Lucas doesn’t remember too much from the show outside of the still-rocking photos he took on his mother’s old Kodak, he can’t forget its impact.

“It’s the soundtrack of my life,” Lucas said. “Every time events happen in my life, there always seems to be a Rolling Stones song that goes along with them. From the ones when I was a kid, all the way to now. If there’s a soundtrack to my life, then the Rolling Stones have made it — and they’ve done a great job.”

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