I imagine we all saw the announcement this week that the Rolling Stones will be playing outdoors in Hyde Park on 6 July, almost 44 years to the day since they played their famous, generational gig there on July 5 1969.
The cost of a ticket in 1969? Nothing, nada, zip and zilch. No ticket needed, just roll on up and sit where you like because believe it or not, it was completely free.
In 2013, the tickets – basic standing tickets, mind! – start at £95 and go up to £299. If you want the VIP experience, it’ll cost you £599 or £750 depending on the package you choose. If you want to sit down, then the only ticket that actually gets you something to sit on is the one that sets you back 750 knicker. If you can bear an evening listening to Bon Jovi the night before, then you can buy a joint ticket for both for £1120.
These prices outdo even the bizarre figures I was quoted when they played the O2 at the end of November. The only option I was presented with – and had 2 minutes to agree or lose forever – was a ticket on row Z side-on to the stage costing £275. I declined their kind offer. Who the hell is buying tickets at these prices? I hear you you ask. Well, someone is, because they’ve just added a second date the following Saturday, 13 July.
The Stones in the Park in 1969 is probably the most famous free concert of all time and it’s either fitting or ironic (or both) that they should announce these astronomical ticket prices in the same week that the Sunday Times printed its updated Rich List (Jagger £200 million, Keef £175 million, if you’re interested) and that that globaliser of the everyone-for-themself mentality, Margaret Thatcher, finally pegged out at 87. It’s what she would have wanted.
Reflexively anyone over 40 immediately now starts muttering about how much better things were ‘back in my day’. Hell, there were dozens of free shows in Hyde Park back in the age of Aquarius: the Floyd, Fleetwood Mac, Traffic and 120,000 saw Blind Faith’s debut. And they continued into the 1970s too, with Humble Pie, Queen and dozens of others. When Grand Funk Railroad played in 1971, they were so loud they could be heard half way down Oxford Street – and the wind was blowing against them. If you went deaf, at least you did it for free.
It’s reckoned a quarter of a million people saw the Stones in July 1969. They said – well, their management said – that it was the biggest gathering in the world since the death of Rudolf Valentino in 1926. Fans camped out all night on a beautifully hot summer’s weekend – we apparently had hot weekends in the Sixties as well as free concerts – and everything finished at the very unrock’n’roll hour of 6.30pm. Of only 12 arrests, one was the MD of yoghurt peddlers Chambourcy for breaking Royal Park regulations and selling yoghurts to fans. Not giving them away, but selling them. At a free festival, maaaaaan. And fans were offered a free record for every 3 sacks of rubbish they collected which shifted 15 tons of debris rather nicely, leaving Hyde Park significantly cleaner than when they arrived. Damage to the park was assessed at only £100.