In an interview with Radio Wave’s Scott Gallagher, Peter Fielding recounted how his band The Executives beat a hasty retreat the night they warmed up for the Rolling Stones.
Friday 24th July 1964 will be forever etched in Peter Fielding’s mind, and not just because he and his bandmates were hired as the support act for The Stones. This was the infamous gig that ended in a riot and a 44-year ban on the legendary rock group performing in Blackpool.
The Executives were used to working with other pro bands but none quite as big as the Rolling Stones. Taking to the stage for the first of their two planned spots of the night, they did four or five numbers.
But rather than warming the crowd up, the penny began, quite literally, to drop that things weren’t going to go as planned.
As more and more coins landed on stage and the band looked apprehensively at each other, chants from the thousands-strong crowd began:
“We want The Stones…We want the Stones…”
Peter said: “They were rather inebriated, it was later on in the evening, people were having a good time. So we hastily said yeah, thank you very much, we’re done, alligators and crocodiles, ladies and gentlemen, thank you. And we cleared off.
“And then the MC came on and said: “You’ve been waiting for them, here they are - the guys!” and they came on through the back door of the stage…The Stones!”
There was a buzz coming from the crowd, and Pete recalled: “they started off with a song called Oh Mona, it was a Bo Didley number, they were big fans, so were we.”
The noise built up into a crescendo and they only managed to get through two numbers before things took an unpleasant turn. Peter said: “There were all…mainly guys, tough looking hombres…pressed up against the front of the stage and I think one of them spit at Keith Richards.”
Keith is reported to have retaliated, and things quickly escalated. “This bloke took umbrage and his mates were backing him up…they started to throw bottles on the stage so that started a free for all,” said Peter. “Anything they could find they started throwing on the stage and The Stones eventually gave up and made a quick retreat.
“All the girls were screaming. It was frightening, it just erupted into mass fighting.”
“And then all this front lot got on the stage and pulled all The Stones’ gear off on to the floor and smashed it all up. I think we helped to get the drum kit off the stage but the rest of the amplifiers and stuff like that got thrown on to the floor into the crowd.”
They even pulled a grand piano off the stage.
“It fell on its back,” said Peter. “All the girls were screaming. It was frightening, it just erupted into mass fighting.
“We ran, grabbed what gear of ours we could - some of ours got smashed up as well. We made a beeline up the back stairs and along the top galleries to an escape route to get away because it was that dangerous. They were full on these blokes, it’s a wonder no one was killed.
Peter remembered it took two or three hours before the venue’s security staff and police could disperse them, and it’s thought around 50 of the audience were treated for injuries in hospital.
“It was a hell of a night,” Peter declared.
It’s rumoured that the crowd were outraged by the “suggestive” nature of The Rolling Stones’ performance but Peter maintains the riot was not The Rolling Stones’ fault, and in 2018 the Blackpool council buried the hatchet and lifted the ban.
Peter can confirm this was an unusual occurrence and performing in a resident band at the Winter Gardens during the 60s holds many fond memories: “It was absolutely great, we loved it. It was very enjoyable, and we had no trouble at all. We’d never been insulted on stage before!” he laughed.