Sympathy for the Stones as Blackpool buries the hatchet over 1964 riot

The Rolling Stones said it was only rock 'n' roll, but the people of Blackpool didn't like it and promptly banned them from the town. But now, 44 years after their gig at the Empress Ballroom ended in a riot, Blackpool has lifted the ban on the Stones playing a gig in the town and apologised to the band.

Back in 1964 the Rolling Stones were banished from the town after their "suggestive" gig ended in chaos. Angry fans smashed crystal chandeliers, tore seats and smashed a Steinway grand piano. Bottles and stones were hurled, and 50 of the audience had to be treated in hospital.

According to witnesses, the Stones were playing to a capacity audience of about 7,000 at the gig on 24 July 1964, when some of the crowd started spitting at them. One man was seen by Keith Richards with his hands on the stage and telling others to aim their phlegm at his fellow guitarist Brian Jones. Richards warned the man but the spitting began. He is then said to have stood on the man's hands and kicked his nose. The place erupted and the band ran off the stage before police officers with dogs calmed the situation.

The riot angered the town council fathers so much that they placed an indefinite ban on the Stones ever performing in Blackpool again. But now, nearly half a century on, the council has decided to lift the ban and invite the ageing rockers back to the seaside resort.

Peter Callow, the leader of Blackpool Council, explained: "From what I hear, some sections of the crowd were outraged at the performance – they found it suggestive. Nowadays it would probably seem very normal, but back then the Rolling Stones were very new to the scene and it wasn't something the fans were used to. A lot of people got very wound up. The crowd were hysterical and they went wild and trashed our world famous ballroom.

"As you'd imagine, the council and the people who ran the venue at the time weren't very happy about it all and banned the band from returning to the resort. But I think it's now time for reconciliation. It's time to bury the hatchet and extend the hand of friendship. I want to say: 'Come back, Mick. All is forgiven.'"

Blackpool has chosen to lift the ban to coincide with the release of Martin Scorsese's biopic of the band titled Shine A Light, which premieres on 2 April in Leicester Square, London, and 100 other cinemas in the UK, including Blackpool's Odeon. Mr Callow added: "When we heard that they'd be coming back here, albeit not in the flesh, the topic of their ban surfaced again and I decided it was time to lift it and let bygones be bygones. I've instructed my staff at the town hall to write a letter to the band's management explaining that the ban has now been lifted and that we would welcome them back if they could fit us in on one of their world tours. The ideal scenario would be if they wanted to come back and play a gig or come and turn on the illuminations."

A spokesman for the band said that it would be making no comment on the lifting of the ban.


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