It’s been nearly 49 years since The Rolling Stones, set to launch their latest European concert tour in Oslo on Monday, first landed in Norway and stayed in a hotel where the bathrooms were down the hall. The Stones’ first visit is said to have left them responsible for ending the age of Norwegian pop music innocence.
They’ve been in Oslo for the past week, rehearsing for their upcoming concert tour at Filmparken, Norway’s film studio complex in the quiet residential suburb of Jar. Dagbladet reported they ate dinner Sunday night at Oslo’s Theatercaféen but they’ve otherwise kept an unusually low profile, clearly unlike their first visit in June 1965 when they set off a frenzy among fans.
It was a time when young women still went to concerts in ironed blouses, bouffant hairdos and high-heeled shoes. Most young men had short hair and performing artists were generally “nice and polite,” wrote Asbjørn Bakke, a well-regarded Norwegian music author and journalists, in newspaper Aftenposten over the weekend. “It wasn’t just The Rolling Stones that hit the ground at (the old airport at) Fornebu on June 23, 1965,” Bakke wrote. “It was a thunderbolt.”
Mick Jagger, Keith Richard (still without the “s” on his last name at the time), Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman and Brian Jones “gave Norway the first warning about the new youth culture’s bad side, and about what would come later in the 1960s,” Asbjørnsen claimed.
After escaping from the hordes of screaming fans who met them at the airport at Fornebu, they checked in at the Hotell Viking next to Oslo’s central train station. The hotel, since remodelled and now known as the Clarion Hotel Royal Christiania, had been built for the 1952 Winter Olympics and was considered nice, but their rooms had no private bathrooms and the standard was modest to say the least. The Stones were already well-known, but they were met with no luxury in Oslo, and performed at a relatively small venue, Sjølysthallen, that no longer exists.
Someone, Asbjørnsen wrote, got the idea that the Stones might like to eat their dinner that night accompanied by a Norwegian rock band called The Green Onions from Moss. Drummer Georg V Ogden still hasn’t forgotten it. The band, he told Asbjørnsen, fired off three songs while the young English men ate and Keith Richard made a mess of his food, throwing his plate on the floor.
“I suspect that a local rock band wasn’t what they wanted most with their meal,” Ogden said. “But they were fairly nice and approachable.”
After an unsuccessful, and rather dramatic, attempt to drive the Stones with police escort to the beach on the fjord at Ingierstrand to “experience a Midsummer Party,” the Stones decided they were safer at the hotel. And once again, Keith showed his contempt for good manners by dumping his plate full of food upside down on the table.
“Mick had a kind of ‘herregud, give it a break’ look on his face, grabbed Richard by the hair, pulled his head back and stuffed some pills in his mouth,” said Sølvi Bryde, a music journalist and aid to at the time to impresario Barry Matheson, who had brought the Stones to Norway. “It was like they needed to dope down the troll.”
Contempt and quarrels
The Stones’ members, it turned out, weren’t getting along, arguing and jostling and cursing at one another. “There was just so much contempt in their behavior, scorn for their audience, their fans, for decency,” Bryde told Aftenposten. “They were irritable and quarreled. Mick provoked Keith, who then attacked an entire tray of open-faced sandwiches, and spread mayonnaise all over the mirrors and benches in the dressing room.”
But then they went out on stage and played eight cover songs from their albums and their most recent hit, The Last Time. “How long with the Stones roll?” read the headline (Hvor lenge ruller stenene?) of Bryde’s article for the magazine Familieblad in 1965.
At least 49 years, it turned out. On Monday evening, the aging but still-active Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Charlie Watts will be back out on a (much bigger) Oslo stage, joined by Ronnie Wood, at the Telenor Arena at Fornebu. The airport where the Stones landed at Fornebu closed down 16 years ago.