Setlist History: The Rolling Stones' First US Show Was 'A Gas'

58 years ago today the Rolling Stones played their first US concert in front of 3,500 maniacal fans in Los Angeles' Inland Empire.

No, really, the kids went nuts.

“When they opened the doors, the screaming crowd jammed through en masse," San Bernardino Sun writer Ronald Plotkin reported the next day. "The doors, literally, were ripped off the hinges. One window was broken.”

Once inside, the fans were almost invited to mob Mick, Keith, Brian and the Stones during the show due negligence from the organizers who never saw what was to come.

The album of mostly covers that started it all.

“The previous weekend San Bernardino High School had held their graduation ceremony at The Swing and stairs had been put in at the front of the stage so graduates could walk up and receive their diplomas," the promoter Bob Lewis told the Sun in 2013.

"Well, we just left those stairs there for the Stones concert. We were so new at this. We didn’t know what to expect. Well, with those stairs, there were all these girls rushing the stage during the show. They could just run up there. In fact, one of those girls actually stole Mick Jagger’s tambourine," he recalled.

UFrom left to right, Bill Wyman, Brian Jones, Mick Jagger, Charlie Watts' arm, and Keith Richards at The Swing in 1964 – By The Swing's Facebook Page

The band was supporting its debut U.S. release, The Rolling Stones, England's Newest Hit Makers. which had just been released a few months prior. As would be the case for their first five US albums, it would contain mostly covers by the band's favorite Black rock and blues legends like Chuck Berry, Willie Dixon, Jimmy Reed, Marvin Gaye, etc.

Kicking off the show that night at The Swing, however, were the fateful words penned by Buddy Holly - "I'm gonna tell you how it's gonna be. You're gonna give your love to me."

"Not Fade Away" was such a powerful opening salvo in the set in '64, the Stone dusted it off as their set opener for the Voodoo Lounge Tour 30 years later for 130 shows.

Although Keith Richard and Mick Jagger would later become one of the most successful writing duos in music history, that night in 1964 only one song penned by the Glimmer Twins made it into the set, "Tell Me". The Stones would only perform "Tell Me" 13 times in their career, exclusively in '64-'65.

Why did the Stones start writing their own songs despite the fact that they had hits from putting their own spin to covers like Jerry Ragovoy's "Time Is on My Side" and Womack and Womack's "It's All Over Now"? Easy: their friendly rivalry with the Beatles (and a nudge from their manager Andrew Oldham). The competition was so friendly John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote "I Wanna Be Your Man" for the Stones and later recorded it themselves.

"I Wanna Be Your Man" was another song those lucky enough to be at The Swing in '64 got to hear live because the band only performed it two dozen times - mostly in '64 and then one final time in 2022 during their first tour in the UK without drummer Charlie Watts who had recently passed away.

While it may be true the Stones may have been tricked into playing their first US gig a long 67 miles east of Hollywood for their first foray into the States, the band returned later that year for a Halloween gig, and then again in '65 and '66.

UThe band enjoyed the Swing so much they played several times, here's a stub for their last performance there – By The Swing Auditorium Facebook Page

The band was paid $6,000 for that first show. When they returned to The Swing a year later in '65 they asked for, and received, $60,000.

While it's assured the screaming fans that first night loved everything, the cover they reportedly reacted the best to was the Nat King Cole hit "Route 66" written by Bobby Troup.

“They all knew the songs and they were all bopping. It was like being back home,” Richards told Rolling Stone magazine in 1971. “And ‘Route 66’ mentioned San Bernardino, so everybody was into it."

The second gig the Stones played in the States was less enjoyable, the guitarist said, as they performed to a mere 600 people in Omaha, Nebraska.

The Stones in '64 on the TAMI Show

But that first night across the pond was truly memorable for both the attendees, the pilfered tamborine, and the band.

“It was a straight gas, man,” Richards recalled.

The Stones have not announced any future tour dates, but it would be shocking if they aren't on the road again soon.

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