by Joe Earp
When the Rolling Stones began playing gigs around London in 1962, the notion that a rock & roll band would last five years, let alone fifty, was seen as an impossible notion. After all how long would rock & roll, the latest teenage fad, last for? Other factors made it unlikely that such a momentous occasion would ever come to pass. “I didn’t expect to last until fifty myself, let alone with the Stones,” Keith Richards says with a laugh. “It’s incredible, really. In that sense we’re still living on borrowed time.”
“You have to put yourself back into that time,” Mick Jagger says about those early days when he and Keith and guitarist Brian Jones roomed together and were hustling gigs wherever they could find one. “Popular music wasn’t talked about on any kind of intellectual level. There was no such term as ‘popular culture.’ None of those things existed. Mick Jagger further commented that “suddenly popular music became bigger than it had ever been before. It became an important, perhaps the most important, art form of the period, after not at all being regarded as an art form before.”
Times and attitudes quickly changed, in short, and now over five decades later, the Rolling Stones are celebrating over fifty years in the business. With literally scores of genre-setting hits under the group’s belt — and fronted by two of rock’s biggest archetypes — the Rolling Stones have done more to define the look, attitude and sound of rock & roll than any other band in the genre’s history.
What is the band’s connection with Nottingham and more importantly with Beeston you might ask? Well, the band played just two shows in Nottingham, both during the early sixties. One was at the Odeon Cinema, Angel Row in October 1963. The second gig was at the Albert Hall in March 1964.
It was after the second gig when the band gate crashed a party in Beeston. The setting for the party was a house located in Elm Avenue, Beeston. The house belonged to Joan West, who was also ‘mine host’ for the evening. That night, the drummer Charlie Watts, took the phone call informing them that their single, All Over Now, had reached No. 1 in the US chart.
Joan who reported to the Nottingham Post in 2003 about the party commented that “”Charlie and Bill were fabulous, two of the most down-to-earth lads. Brian Jones was also there, but he was a bit rude. We ignored him. But kids got in the garden and shinned up the drainpipe to get at the Stones,” she said. At one point, they all fetched their guitars from the tour bus, sat in a circle in my lounge and began singing. I wish I had had a recorder. But no one got drunk, there wasn’t enough beer!”
Imagine the scene on Elm Avenue when the Stones soon got into the ‘swing of the party’. News of the bands presence soon spread and local fans were quickly descending on the house. The local police soon got wind of the Stones attendance and had to close Elm Avenue. The party was apparently a “very good one” and lasted into the early hours of the morning.
Years later the Stones can still remember the night. Wyman remembered the party, telling EG in 2002: “I met a girl there who was like a girlfriend on and off for two or three years.” Wyman himself has Nottingham connections, being a child evacuee during the Second World War. He was evacuated to Mansfield Woodhouse in Nottinghamshire where he spent some time there. He later commented that he still has a soft spot for the area.
So next time you walk down Elm Avenue remember that the road is not just another piece of suburban Beeston. But it was once a venue for a party to the Rolling Stones.