This is an edited extract of a report by John Gale appeared on page 1 of the Observer on 6 July 1969
Before the Rolling Stones played in Hyde Park yesterday, Mick Jagger paid a tribute to the group’s former guitarist, Brian Jones, who died in the swimming pool of his home last week.
He asked the multitude in the Cockpit, a grassy bowl above the Serpentine, to ‘cool it for a minute because I would really like to say something about Brian. I don’t know how to do this thing, but I’m going to try ... I’m just going to say something that was written by Shelley.’
And he began: ‘Peace, peace, he is not dead, he does not sleep: He has awakened from the dreams of life...’
The mighty throng heard the poem in silence, and the dust of the day rose into the sultry air amid the oaks and elms and beeches. From far off you might have supposed that this great gathering had come to hear a famed religious leader or some Eastern mystic.
The thousands looked like a great dish of confetti, and the atmosphere was strangely peaceful. Could there really have been half a million? Some perched like birds in the trees: others stood on piles of tins or upturned litter baskets: girls climbed on the boys’ shoulders. And the concert was free.
When Jagger had finished reading, the Stones began to blast the air, and thousands of butterflies were released from cardboard boxes. Why the butterflies? ‘Because,’ said an organiser, ‘we thought it would be nice.’
Girls and boys wore ornate Chinese robes and smocks in coloured silk with wide purple and orange trousers. Some carried children on their backs or in carry-cots. A girl slept using a small black-and-white dog as a pillow. Others collected for Biafran relief. An old man wore rectangular purple glasses. There were even Scots Guardsmen.
A group of toughs in boots and jeans with their hair conspicuously shorn drew the attention of a police car.
In the musicians’ enclosure below the scaffolded bandstand, rockers and Hell’s Angels acted as stewards. They wore black leather jackets, Nazi steel helmets, dark glasses, and swastikas and crucifixes swinging from neck-chains against their bare chests.
Most were gentle and unmilitary and kept order well. Many in this enclosure were camp followers: beautiful girl friends and wives, some in transparent blouses, feeding their grubby, healthy children. Julie Felix was here in jeans. Marianne Faithfull carried a small child and wore a long white dress: an antique dealer wore a yellow-and-black checked plastic bowler hat. A girl official had small nipples peeking from her string dress.
‘It’s nicer that I expected,’ said a middle aged man.