PHOTO BY BOB ROCHE
Harry Sandler and Jack Petersen of the Mods practice in Sandler’s basement.
BY THOMAS GRILLO
BROOKLINE — It was a night to remember.
Two members of the Mods, a rock and roll cover band that opened for the Rolling Stones at Lynn’s Manning Bowl 50 years ago, said the evening is etched in their memory.
“We walked into the dressing room and said, ‘That’s the (expletive) Rolling Stones,’ all five of them, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman and Brian Jones,” recalled Harry Sandler, 69, the drummer.
A month earlier, the five-member teen group won a Battle of the Bands competition at the former Four Seasons Arena on Route 1 in Norwood. They competed against dozens of other scruffy young musicians for the honor to be the Stones’ opener.
“We were amazed when we won,” said Sandler. “Just minutes before, we were five kids from the South Shore that were watching these performers that turned a whole generation around on the Ed Sullivan Show.”
While the gig was unpaid, they earned epic bragging rights, a chance to play before thousands and warm up the crowd for one of the hottest British bands.
On the day of the performance, June 24, 1966, the Mods arrived three hours before show time, set up their equipment and did a quick soundcheck. Sandler noticed the security consisted of six Lynn police officers and a handful of wooden barricades.
As the 17,000 ecstatic Stones fans trickled into the stadium, the Mods played a 35-minute set with songs that included their version of the Beatles’ “Twist and Shout” and “Money,” “You Really Got Me” by the Kinks and the Kingsmen’s “Louie Louie,” among others.
But don’t fret if you were there and can’t recall their performance. Only 2,000 fans were seated when the Mods played, while the rest filed in later, Sandler recalled.
The other opening acts played next. The McCoys, who had a hit with “Hang On Sloopy,” the Standells with “Dirty Water,” a tune about Boston, and the Tradewinds, best known for “New York’s a Lonely Town,” rocked the house.
While those bands played, the Mods hung out with the Stones in a dressing room beneath the stands. Sandler said the Stones were drug-free, didn’t have an entourage of groupies and had just a few roadies. They didn’t even have a deli plate.
“We talked shop, about the band’s equipment,” Sandler said. “It was very casual. We made small talk with Mick Jagger.”
Sandler regrets not taking any pictures that night. But he did remember to do one thing.
“I pocketed an empty can of beer that Mick was drinking from and brought it home to my 15-year-old sister who was a huge fan,” he said. “I gave it to her and said, ‘This is Mick Jagger’s beer can,’ She was ecstatic.”
Then the Stones took the stage.
But 20 minutes later, the skies opened, the crowd surged the stage and police set off tear gas.
Arnie “Woo Woo” Ginsburg, the WMEX radio announcer who introduced the Stones to the Lynn crowd and now lives in Maine, remembers the show.
“It was a foggy night and I was on stage most of the time,” said Ginsburg, 89. “But once fans came on stage, the police ordered the Stones to stop playing and one of the officers shot off tear gas. At that moment, I was standing next to Jagger and I couldn’t see well for at least 45 minutes. It wasn’t violent. That’s the way that I remember it.”
Minutes before the show was called, Brian Jones was sitting cross-legged on the stage, playing the dulcimer to “Lady James,” according to Mods rhythm guitarist Jack Petersen, 70.
“We had the best view because we were sitting at the rear of the stage and Brian was getting shocked because of the rain,” he said. “The audience surged the stage, the rains came, the police freaked out and lobbed tear gas. Brian stopped playing, handed me the dulcimer and said, ‘See you later, mate,’ and the five guys got into a limo and waved goodbye.”
Last month, The Item’s publisher asked the Rolling Stones to complete the show they started that summer night in 1966. In a page one open letter, he requested the British rockers complete the set that ended early.
Thomas Grillo can be reached at [email protected]