May 15, 1965 was the date of the Rolling Stones’ third of four concerts in San Bernardino, and like the first two, it’s going to be commemorated in this space.
Perhaps the only 20th century musical acts with more cultural impact than the Stones would be the Beatles or Frank Sinatra (your mileage may vary), so we may as round up all the known facts. History must be served.
As a refresher, the British band performed its first concert in North America at San Bernardino’s Swing Auditorium on June 5, 1964, back before almost anyone in the States had heard of them, and got a rapturous reception, while flopping on the rest of the tour. When they returned to the Swing on Oct. 31 that year, they were again a hit, and by then were well-enough known that the rest of the tour went much better.
“Officer Enforces ‘No Touch’ Rule” was the caption of this Sun-Telegram photo from San Bernardino’s Swing Auditorium concert May 15, 1965 with the Rolling Stones. (File photo)
Some fans brought their own signs to San Bernardino’s Swing Auditorium on May 15, 1965 for the Rolling Stones’ third concert. “A Sign of Teen-Age Love Springs Up” was the Sun-Telegram’s caption. (File photo)
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Bill Wyman, left, and Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones play May 15, 1965 at San Bernardino’s Swing Auditorium. (File photo)
Wendy Nicholass and Mick Jagger are photographed backstage at San Bernardino’s Swing Auditorium, probably before the band’s May 15, 1965 concert, the band’s third of four at Swing. (Courtesy Wendy Lambert)
Girls in the audience react to the Rolling Stones at Swing Auditorium in San Bernardino on May 15, 1965. Original Sun-Telegram caption: “Rolling Stones Gather No Moss, but Shrieks, and Sighs, and Moans.” (File photo)
By the way, if you want an idea of what the Stones were like at that second Swing concert, the 1964 music documentary “The T.A.M.I. Show” provides evidence. Part of an all-star concert at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium only two days before their San Bernardino performance, the Stones run through “Around and Around,” “Time is on My Side” and “It’s All Over Now,” all to be done at the Swing, plus “Off the Hook.”
You can see that Mick Jagger is already showing confidence as a frontman. Keith Richards, by contrast, is just another member of the band.
Anyway, back to the May 15, 1965 concert. The band was touring the country to promote its third album, “The Rolling Stones, Now!” According to the chronology on the fan site timeisonourside.com, on May 11-12 they recorded at RCA Studios in Los Angeles, where they laid down “Cry to Me,” “The Spider and the Fly” and a little number titled “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” — perhaps you’ve heard of it?
After a concert in San Francisco May 14, they headed south for dates in San Bernardino, Long Beach and San Diego.
At the Swing, a 10,000-capacity hall on the National Orange Show Fairgrounds, 3,000 fans showed up that Saturday night, paying $4 to $5, according to an account in the San Bernardino Sun-Telegram.
The stage was roped off, with 35 policemen in helmets posted at entrances and exits, patrolling the aisles and surrounding the stage. “Two matrons were present,” the newspaper’s Ron Plotkin wrote, “as well as a nurse.”
(Six days later, a barbershop quartet concert, titled “Barbershop’s A-Poppin’,” drew 6,000 to the Swing. Yes, men in straw boaters outdrew the Stones. However, I don’t believe any nurses or riot cops were required.)
Starting at 8:30 p.m., four acts warmed up the audience for the Stones. The first three: the Bushmen of Rialto, the Driftwoods from Big Bear and the Torquays from San Bernardino.
Interviewed in 2008 by The Sun’s Nick Cataldo, Bushmen rhythm guitarist Wayne Gondos recalled the show as the biggest of their short career. The teenagers, who attended Rialto Junior High and Eisenhower High, had won a battle of the bands contest for their opening slot.
“It was exciting. We couldn’t hear ourselves play,” Gondos said. “The curtains opened and all I could hear was screaming. It was impossible to see anything because of the bright spotlights in our face. The crowd was getting so crazy that we were decoyed out the back door and into a laundry truck.”
The final opening act: the Byrds, whose “Mr. Tambourine Man” single had been released in April. Isn’t that something? L.A.’s Byrds opening for London’s Stones — in San Bernardino.
Cutting it a bit close, the Stones arrived at the Swing at 9:45 p.m. Backstage, the band “signed autographs for about 30 swooning girls whose names were chosen in a drawing out front,” Plotkin wrote.
The band then took questions from reporters, who included John Morthland, the San Bernardino High teen who had scored an interview with the band the previous October for the Sun-Telegram and who went on to write for Rolling Stone and Texas Monthly.
“We don’t listen when we hear ourselves termed ‘symbols of resistance against authority’ and that sort of rubbish,” Richards said. “We don’t even think about it, because we are not in beauty contests. We want them to like our music. That’s what we’re onstage for.”
“We couldn’t believe the crowd we got in San Bernardino,” Jagger exclaimed of the June 1964 concert. “It was very good — the best place on the entire tour. They put us on a lot of variety shows with dog acts and that gear, and people just didn’t like it. I guess they just weren’t ready for us yet. But here it was just like back in England.”
At 10:15 p.m., with the crowd chanting “We want the Stones,” the band took the stage for a 30-minute set.
“From that moment until after their last number at 10:45,” Plotkin wrote, “the huge hall echoed with an almost continual roar — three thousand youngsters screaming themselves hoarse. Three girls tried to break onto the stage and were carried out of the hall by police. Many literally sobbed with joy throughout the performance. Others threw personal items like brushes and combs onto the stage as offerings to the Stones.”
Well, the long-haired band could have made use of brushes and combs, right?
The exact setlist isn’t known, but Morthland’s story says the band opened with “I Need You,” and that as Jagger pointed to girls in the crowd, each reacted as if he were addressing her personally. Other songs named by Morthland: “Around and Around,” “Time is on My Side,” “Off the Hook,” “Little Red Rooster,” “Route 66” — a hit at the two previous Swing shows, it has the crowd-pleasing line “Kingman, Barstow, San Bernardino” — and “The Last Time.”
The curtain swung shut, Plotkin wrote, and the band dropped their instruments and ran out the stage door, where a driver waited in a car with the engine running. They were soon on the San Bernardino Freeway, bound for an L.A. hotel.
The road manager told Morthland the band would be back in October, but the next we would see of them was also the last we would see of them: July 24, 1966, their fourth and final San Bernardino concert.
David Allen gathers moss Friday, Sunday and Wednesday. Email firstname.lastname@example.org, phone 909-483-9339, visit insidesocal.com/davidallen, like davidallencolumnist on Facebook and follow @davidallen909 on Twitter.