Philomena and The Stones

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(Last Updated On: July 3, 2019)

Back in 1964 a young Mick Jagger observed, “Torquay’s a great town. But I shouldn’t think there’s much to do in the winter’.

In their early days the Stones needed a centre for their regional tour of the south west – they very sensibly chose Torquay. This was in August 1964 when The Stones performed theatre concerts every day across the South West, including Weymouth, Weston-super-Mare, Exeter, Plymouth, and the Town Hall.

For five days the Stones used the Grand Hotel as a base. Originally, they were going to stay at the Queens Hotel but, on police advice, this was changed to The Grand – the idea being that that a hotel further from the town centre could be kept secret from fans. This worked until the last concert at the Town Hall, where security had been provided by “burly boxers” from the Torbay Amateur Boxing Club – for some reason, Torquay was the only town on whole tour where seats were left unsold.

These were the days before security had to be vetted and certificated. Fortunately the Bay’s boxers weren’t anything like the Hell’s Angels hired as security at the disastrous Stones’ appearance five years later at the Altamont Festival which ended the counterculture dream of peace and love…

And these were also clearly the days before health and safety was taken seriously. It was reported at the time: “As soon as word was passed around crowds of eager fans – mostly girls, needless to say – began to gather outside The Grand hoping for a glimpse of their idols. The vigil was kept up for hours in some cases, but they were usually disappointed as the Stones left from a back entrance in their Vauxhall estate car.

“Some of the more eager fans, however, were not content with a waiting and watching role and began to try to climb to the Stones suite on the first floor. One or two managed to get in and were told they could stay awhile as long as they didn’t scream. Others, however, were not so lucky and were met by a stream of water from hosepipes directed by hotel staff.”

And it’s great to hear from one of those Stones’ fans who were actually there. Philomena Feeney (née Holloway) got in touch to tell us, “I was one of the two girls that got in!

“Myself and my best friend found out about them staying at The Grand as one of our school friends had a family member working there. We ran all the way from Castle Circus to the hotel and waited patiently for a glimpse. We were rewarded when their 2-tone pale green Vauxhall estate, (Reg No, BYF 935B), drove straight in with all of the band members except Bill Wyman in it. It wasn’t long before one of the ‘bouncers’ said they were in a room off the flat roof. I climbed up and when the hoses were turned on I was surprised and delighted when Mick Jagger opened a window and said “quick get in here”!!!

“All members except Bill Wyman were in the room and they signed the back of my Rolling Stones album. Someone went off to get Bill Wyman to sign it and I noticed that they were all smoking Peter Stuyvesant cigarettes and the ashtrays had a few ‘dog ends’ in them. I asked if I could have one from Mick Jagger’s ashtray and was promptly given two to take with me. I can’t remember whether I went back down the way I got in or went through the hotel – I was in such a euphoric state that everything afterwards is a blank.

“I am now 70 years old and can recall that as vividly as if it was yesterday”.

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Kevin Dixon went to Audley Park – now Torquay Academy – and South Devon College when it was at Torre. After studying at Birmingham City University, he returned home because there’s nowhere else quite like Torquay. He then became involved in community and adult education, completed a PhD at Exeter University , and started writing about the weird and unknown side of town. He now Chairs Healthwatch Torbay and is involved in health and social care in the Bay.