DAILY EVENING ITEM PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE LYNN MUSEUM AND HISTORICAL SOCIETY
An estimated 5,000 fans flocked to Manning Bowl 50 years ago tonight to see the Rolling Stones perform. However, it was cut short when fans broke through the police barriers separating the lawn seats from the stage. Police had to quell the disturbance with tear gas.
BY STEVE KRAUSE
LYNN — And to think, it came close to not happening at all.
The Rolling Stones were climbing the music charts when the band began their tour in February 1966 with two weeks in Australia and New Zealand where they did a two shows-a-night schedule. They were back at it again beginning March 26 with a northern European tour that wrapped up April 5 in Denmark.
While that was happening, on April 1, the group released “Aftermath,” which included the Stones’ staples “Under My Thumb,” “Paint It Black” and “Lady Jane,” on the U.S. version.
The frenetic pace of recording and touring left lead singer Mick Jagger exhausted. He was sent to a doctor on June 3, 1966, and was declared “unfit for work,” according to the group’s “Fifty Years” biography. The doctor ordered two weeks rest.
Three weeks later, the Stones embarked on their third tour of the year, and opened it at Manning Bowl in Lynn on June 24. The show ended up being memorable more for its own “aftermath.” Some fans say the intermittent rain that fell earlier in the evening, as the warm-up acts were performing, grew steadier when the Stones took the stage after 10 p.m. The Item’s account of the show in the June 25, 1966 edition backs that up.
But some fans who attended said while the rain was steady, it was not heavy. The band, in its original lineup of Jagger, Keith Richards, Brian Jones, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts, were scheduled to play a 10-song set that was supposed to end with “Satisfaction.” They got about halfway through that set before fans began to rush the stage. There were reports that one or two of the folding chairs were thrown at the group as they fled. The Stones rushed into a limousine, but at least one fan swears it was a police wagon, as tear gas was launched in an effort to quell the fracas.
The Stones had played outdoor venues since 1964, without incident. Later in the 1966 North American tour, they performed at Forest Hills in New York and also played at Winnipeg Stadium in Canada.
“Honestly, I’m not sure that anyone connected with booking the Stones into Manning Bowl had any idea who they were, other than that they were a British group,” said John L. O’Brien, Registrar of Deeds for Southern Essex County. O’Brien was 14 at the time and had just graduated from Breed Jr. High. He went with two of his friends and sat in the bleachers and not on the lawn seats.
“I have no idea why my parents let me go either,” he said. “But there we were.”
Swampscott’s Martha Valleriani went with her mother, which is something neither of them had planned.
“My brother bought me two tickets (which cost $3 and $5),” said Valleriani, who was 13 in 1966. “My mom wouldn’t let me go with a friend and my brother refused to go with me. So my mom went to her first, and only, rock concert, short as it was.”
For all the notoriety the band had amassed by 1966, the Stones came to Lynn amid very little fanfare, possibly because, “They were supposed to play at the Boston Garden, but it fell through, and they were desperate for a venue,” said Lynn native Walter Day, who was an accidental usher.
Lynn got the news about the concert from The Item, 12 days prior to the show, in a brief article with the TV listings. The reporter called the Stones “mop-haired English youths” and wrote more about the group’s growing popularity. The story mentioned a Battle of The Bands competition in Walpole, whose winner, The Mods, appeared on the Lynn bill. But as the show drew closer, concerned abutters contacted the Lynn Police with questions about the concert. As a result, there were 75 policemen hired to work the detail, plus several Registry of Motor Vehicle police.
If the city was late in catching onto what could happen, there was reason. There were plenty of other things occupying people’s minds back in June 1966. The biggest concern was a strike at General Electric Co. that lasted three weeks, ending June 30. Almost daily in The Item, the company and the union ran full-page dueling ads stating their points of view. There was restlessness on the picket lines. Police were deployed to keep things from getting out of hand.
Things were beginning to heat up in Southeast Asia, too, Also on June 24, 1966, the Red Sox were in last place in the 10-team American League, 21½ games behind the Baltimore Orioles. The New York Yankees were right down there with them. Gasoline cost 32 cents a gallon and the average cost of a new car was $2,650.
Finally, the area had been locked in a heat wave the week leading up to the 24th, with the promise, on the day of the concert, of relief from the scorching temperatures. It was possible, the forecast said, that rain could help usher in that break. Those showers would play a pivotal role in turning the Stones show into the melee it became.
Crowd accounts vary, depending upon the recollections of the fans who attended. But The Item estimated the number of fans at 5,000. Robert Walker of Hub Bub Productions of Boston, which put on the show, said 25,000 people would have shown up if there had been better public transportation to Lynn.
Those 5,000 people got to see a very good show, said O’Brien.
“I wanted to go just as much for the backup bands as the Stones,” he said. “They had The McCoys, and I loved ‘Hang On Sloopy.’ And the Standells did ‘Dirty Water.’ Great song. I was having a real good time.”
Day heard that something was going to happen at the Bowl earlier that day and snuck in over a fence.
“I saw a crowd of people, maybe 20 or 30, standing around and one of them came to me and asked me whether I wanted to be an usher,” said Day, 14 at the time.
After getting instructions on what to do, “it started raining and a bunch of us went under the stands on the behind-stage end of the bowl (Locust Street end), and when we got down there, we saw the McCoys warming up, a capella. They were singing ‘Paperback Writer’ by the Beatles and the harmonies just blew me away. That’s how they warmed up.”
Lynn native Artie Phillips was only 11. He said neither he nor his friend had a ticket, but he saw a police wagon trying to make its way into the stadium and jumped on the back of it. He got a look inside, and there, he said, was the band.
“I couldn’t tell which of them I saw,” he said. “But it was definitely the band,” said Phillips, who now lives in Exeter, N.H.
Norman Cole, who later became a city councilor, also snuck in.
“If you were small enough, and I was, you could wedge your way through the fence and that’s how I and some of my friends got in,” he said. “But I was way on the other side of the field (from the stage). I didn’t see much. I don’t recall it raining all that hard, though.”
Up to that point, the concert was uneventful, until things fell apart. Since this was the first stop on the U.S. tour, the plan was for the Stones to sing two songs live in the U.S. for the first time, “Mother’s Little Helper” and “Lady Jane,” which featured Jones on the dulcimer. “Lady Jane” came about midway through the prescribed set, but it’s the last song they did that night, said Harry Sandler, the drummer for the Mods.
“It was right after that, fans started rushing the stage,” he said.
Sandler said that by today’s standards, that wouldn’t seem unusual. But it was only two years earlier, during the initial stages of Beatlemania, that crowd control at concerts became an issue.
“If you grew up during that era you remember what it was like,” he said. “At all those Beatles shows, kids were trying to get close to the stage, they wanted to be near the musicians, touch the musicians.
“There were just these police barriers, and there was no way those were going to stop anyone from surging forward,” he said. “I’d imagine, outside of dogs, which I don’t remember the police having, the next easiest way to turn a crowd like that back was with tear gas.”
The Stones, he said, simply placed their instruments down and left the stage.
“Brian Jones handed me his dulcimer on the way out,” Sandler said, “and I handed it to one of their road crew.”
Sandler isn’t the only person to hint that it wasn’t so much the rain but the growing restlessness of the fans that caused the Stones to flee the stage.
Day, who was standing in the front, said he saw a projectile hit the singer in the chest and heard him scream out “ow!” After that, the group left the stage.
“I found myself up front, and it was one of those situations where everyone’s crushed,” Day said. “Moments later, there were chairs being thrown.”
O’Brien, on the other hand, didn’t think it was a big deal.
“I’ve seen worse,” he said. “From where I sat, it didn’t seem that bad.”
Among the songs the Stones never got to play were “19th Nervous Breakdown” and “Satisfaction.”
Jagger provided a glimpse of what he’d been thinking.
“It was a bit of an outdoor crazy,” he said in an interview later in the “Fifty Years” biography. “It wasn’t well-secured. A few people got a bit drunk. There were a few cops and that was the end of it.”
By now, Arnie “Woo Woo” Ginsberg, the popular WMEX disc jockey who had emceed the show, began exhorting the crowd to calm down, but his words fell on deaf ears. Fans continued to rush the stage, according to The Item report the next day, and then the tear gas commenced.
“I don’t know if you’ve ever been tear gassed,” Sandler said. “It’s awful. It hurts.”
If memories of other aspects from that show are fuzzy, most people have vivid recollections of the tear gas.
“It’s the only time in my life I’ve ever been tear gassed,” said Day. “It is a terrible experience.”
Others spoke of the crowd panicking, with their eyes, stinging, running for the exits.
Bob Berk, former owner of Standard of Lynn, said the only problem for the police was that the wind was blowing back toward them, and the gas never affected fans in front.
“The gas went off and the police had to run for cover from the gas blowing back toward them,” he said.
When the smoke cleared, there were four injuries and three arrests. The injured included Donna Rubay, 19, of Lynn; Frances Porter, 18, of Milton; Ursula Visconte, 16, of Everett; and Earl “Junior” Boyce of Lynn.
The Item reported that patrons left the stadium in such a hurry they left broken chairs and articles of clothing behind.
Concerts at the complex since the Stones show have been rare. Ray Charles played a benefit, along with the Four Tops, in 1976. It would be nine more years before the Fraser Field-Manning Bowl complex saw another rock concert, this one in 1984 when the Beach Boys came to Lynn. A year later, Motley Crue, the Kinks and Aerosmith played at Manning Bowl amid much controversy and consternation. In almost every case, the 1966 concert by the Rolling Stones was cited as the main reason people expressed reservations.
There has not been a rock show at either facility since, though Lynn City Hall has become a popular place for concerts.
The Stones had their share of incidents surrounding their shows after that. In 1972, due to play in Boston, their plane was diverted to Warwick, R.I., and they were arrested at the airport after a scuffle with authorities. They eventually made it to the Garden, but not before Boston Mayor Kevin H. White had to take the stage and plead with the crowd to behave, as there was racial unrest occurring in other parts of the city.
Their Dec. 6, 1969 free concert at the Altamont Speedway in San Francisco resulted in one death when a member of the Hell’s Angels, who were working the security, stabbed a fan who rushed the stage.
Future events would prove that police who acted quickly to quell the Manning Bowl fracas knew what was coming. In 1979, fans of The Who tried to storm the entrance of the Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati and trampled 11 people to death.
Three years after the Stones concert, O’Brien was off to the Woodstock rock festival. He said he is proud of the fact that he’s one of the few Lynners who saw the Stones and went to the iconic music festival.
Day said all he can I remember is that it was raining.
“How hard, I cannot remember,” he said. “It was quite a thing. It was fun, and amazing, and somehow I became a background figure in all of this.”
As for Keith Richards, his recollection began and ended with the tear gas.
“Things got a little blurry in the ’60s,” he said in the biography. “Tear gas. That was the other continuous smell of the ’60s. Can’t say I miss it.”
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Postscript: On May 10, Item Publisher Ted Grant, in a letter that encompassed Page 1, offered a staggering $737 to the Stones to return to Lynn and finish the concert. So far, no word from Mick. Or Keith. But time is on our side.