Viewing your Watchlist and recommended content requires Javascript

  • TBC
  • Documentary, Music
  • 1969
  • 53 mins

The Stones In The Park

The Stones In The Park


Mick, Keith, Bill and Charlie, plus new boy Mick Taylor captured live at a free concert in Hyde Park in 1969, two days after the death of Brian Jones


Between 1969 and 1972 the Rolling Stones were the subject of four films, each of which explored a different facet of the band and the public's perception of them.

Jean-Luc Godard's One Plus One (aka Sympathy For The Devil) from 1969 was a wearying polemic that made you wish the director would put aside his agenda and let the band play some rock 'n' roll. The Maysles brothers' Gimme Shelter was a grimly fascinating account of the band's Altamont gig, where their flirtation with the dark side was made manifest in the murder of a fan by one of the Hell's Angels hired for security.

That was followed by photographer Robert Frank's Cocksucker Blues in 1972, a perilously candid account of the boredom, drug-abuse and cheerless excess that accompanied the Stones' 1972 tour. So unflattering was the film's portrayal of the band that it's been suppressed ever since, though anyone who knows where to look can dredge up a copy and watch Keith hurling a TV out of his hotel room and nodding out backstage.

By comparison The Stones In The Park is a rather pale concert film, but it's significant nonetheless. Filmed by a Granada crew on 5 July 1969 in front of an estimated audience of 50,000, it catches the band just two days after the death of founder Brian Jones. The gig marked the hurried debut of new guitarist Mick Taylor, and the first performance of a shuffling new number called 'Honky Tonk Women'. But it's for the band's eulogy to Jones that the film has passed into rock history, a white-frocked Jagger reciting Shelley's poem 'Adonais' and then releasing 3,500 white butterflies into the audience.

The live action is intercut with an interview conducted that same afternoon with Jagger, and some fascinating footage of London's basking hairies. What's striking about the concert - in 1969 one of the largest events of its kind ever staged in the UK - is how accessible the band were to the audience, and the cheerful chaos that accompanies an under-rehearsed and distinctly underwhelming performance.

'I'm Free' is the Stones at their sloppiest. 'Sympathy For The Devil' is accompanied by a dozen African drummers, but it's not until Charlie steers the song out of a percussive cul-de-sac that it begins to achieve any sort of groove. 'Jumping Jack Flash' is the one moment of genuine, unfettered energy, but even the band acknowledged the concert wasn't great. "Hyde Park was one of the most abysmal shows we've ever done," was Keith's assessment years later. "But it was also one of the most important."

It's a film that captures the moment rather than the music, and its mix of Englishness and intimacy (pay close attention and you can see Paul McCartney mooching happily about in the crowd) have a quaint appeal not normally associated with the band. While Gimme Shelter had the Hell's Angels knocking about members of The Jefferson Airplane on stage, The Stones In The Park features bowling on the green, boating on the lake and some bemused-looking bobbies standing well back. This being their satanic majesties however, the band's celebration/wake for the founder they ditched wouldn't be complete without its own dark rumour: by the time the butterflies were shaken out of their boxes it's said, most of them were dead.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, Bill Wyman, Charlie Watts, Mick Taylor
  • Director: Leslie Woodhead
  • Producer: Jo Durden-Smith

In a nutshell

It isn't the greatest film about the band and it isn't their greatest performance, but for fans it captures the band at a significant moment, and for social historians there are some far out folk in a park.

by Jon Fortgang

Latest from Film4...

  • Film4

    The Salt Of The Earth

    Brazilian documentary about the life of visionary photographer Sebastião Salgado, directed by Wim Wenders and Sebastião's son Juliano Ribeiro Salgado.

  • Film4


    AnnaLynne McCord stars as a teenager with an unhealthy fascination with gore and surgery.

    On Film4: 29 Oct 11:05PM

  • Film4

    Black Cinema Season on Film4

    To tie-in with the launch of the BFIs Black Star season, Film4 presents a celebration of black filmmaking talent both in front of and behind the camera.

  • Film4

    FilmFear on Film4

    This Halloween, Film4 becomes FilmFear. Join us for seven nights of petrifying premieres and classics from the crypt.

  • Channel 4 Blog

    TIFF 2016: Top Ten Editor Michael Leader runs through ten standouts from the Toronto International Film Festival...   The Oath I'd already seen three of the four Film4-backed films screening in Toronto (inc

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Baltasar Kormakur on The Oath

    As his Film4-backed Icelandic thriller The Oath premieres in Toronto, director/writer/actor Baltasar Kormakur speaks with editor Michael Leader about making films in Hollywood, returning to

Register with

Personalise your Film4 experience

  • Set film reminders
  • Build your watchlist
  • Get film suggestions

or Register