Freddy Bannister Remembers The Rolling Stones

17:55 Monday 26th November 2012
Drive BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

CHRIS MANN: Well they haven’t faded away, have they? The Rolling Stones in fact have been on stage in London as the start of a series of gigs to mark their 50th anniversary. Last night’s show saw Mick Jagger strut across the stage in familiar style, as the band performed hits that spanned the decades. Now my next guest was one of the leading concert promoters of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. He knows the Rolling Stones well. He first booked them about 50 years ago, and then went on to book them many times, including for the Knebworth Festival, which he founded. Freddy Bannister is now retired and lives near Cambridge. Freddy, welcome.
FREDDY BANNISTER: Thank you very much Chris.
CHRIS MANN: Can you believe that all these years later so many bands from the ’60s are still going as strong as this?
FREDDY BANNISTER: No. It’s really hard to believe. When they first came out, everyone gave pop bands a two year life span.
CHRIS MANN: Yes, I remember the Beatles saying they hoped to be lasting a few months, perhaps a couple of years. And Ringo Starr said in one interview he hoped that he would be able to afford to open a hairdressing salon of his own out of it all. (THEY LAUGH) Many years later, yes, I thinkhe’s earned at least as much as that. What do you think it is about the Rolling Stones then that is so different and so long lasting?
FREDDY BANNISTER: Well that’s a little difficult, but I think it’s their high energy. Also that their music is blues-based, which is timeless.
CHRIS MANN: Of course it is. Well, former band members Bill Wyman and Mick Taylor also made an appearance last night. The O2 show was a sell-out, I can tell you, but some fans had mixed views about whether it was woprth the high ticket prices. (VOXPOP) Four hundred pounds some people were paying for that. Now I remember you were famous in your day Freddy for not charging too much at Knebworth and other festivals, because you set out to make things affordable, didn’t you?
FREDDY BANNISTER: Yes. That was the idea. We always thought the fans were the people that were important. And I have to say I was pretty surprised when I saw the ticket prices for the O2 gig.
CHRIS MANN: Yes, they were immediately reselling for literally thousands of pounds, once they’d started. Tell us the first time that you came across the Rolling Stones, the first time that you booked them you can remember.
FREDDY BANNISTER: The first time was in 1963 for the Wallington Public Halls. (THEY LAUGH)
CHRIS MANN: That doesn’t sound like a big venue to me.
FREDDY BANNISTER: Four hundred capacity.
CHRIS MANN: Fabulous. And how were they?
FREDDY BANNISTER: Well, they nearly got me locked up, because they were just breaking in that area. They grew up in that sort of general area, and were very big there first of all. And when we booked them and announced the gig, there was a great deal of local interest. And when I arrived at the Hall before they were due on, we had so many people outside the Hall that the police were there, and there was a minor riot going on. So I had to open the Hall up and at four in the aftrenoon we were closed, full.
CHRIS MANN: Extraordinary, the whole effect of the Rolling Stones. And of course they were the anti-Beatles.
FREDDY BANNISTER: That’s absolutely right. They were the bad boys.
CHRIS MANN: And revelled in it. And it was a good marketing ploy probably, even if it was slightly true.
FREDDY BANNISTER: Right! I’m sure it was.
CHRIS MANN: Oh really? Tell us more. Not too much though. (THEY LAUGH) No, those were fun times. They’ve all got back together again, despite all the differences they’ve had over the years, for this O2 gig. Tell us about your friendship with Mick, and him coming round to the house. He was pretty hands-on in terms of managing the Stones.
FREDDY BANNISTER: Mmm. I wouldn’t say we were friends. But when we did the gig at Knebworth, we wanted to make it something special. He wanted to make it something special. He’s a very astute business person, a very astute person altogether, bright and very calculating. And so he would come round to our house, which also housed my office I might say, and we would talk about how we would make the gig different from anything that they’d done before.
CHRIS MANN: And did you?
FREDDY BANNISTER: Yes we did. First off they didn’t want, or Mick didn’t want the gig to be announced in the music press, so we had to come up with a different way of letting the people know that it was happening.
CHRIS MANN: Perhaps that was one of the things that’s kept them going for so long, is they stayed one step ahead. They haven’t done the same thing time (and again). They reinvented themselves, if you like.
FREDDY BANNISTER: Oh I think that’s absolutely right. Yes.
CHRIS MANN: What do you think of the future for them? Is there? They’ve done fifty years now. Do you think they’ll .. They’re 69, 70 and 71 I think the three eldest members . Will they move on to something else, or stop? What would you think?
FREDDY BANNISTER: I think their music is timeless. The blues are timeless. And I think they should go until they drop.
CHRIS MANN: (LAUGHS) Quite literally probably. Your favourite memory of the Stones, Freddy?
FREDDY BANNISTER: Well it’s actually an anti-Stones; maybe I shouldn’t mention it. But I will anyway. When we arrived at Knebworth one day, just before the sound check, it was to find that .. I should explain that the stage was in the shape of Mick Jagger’s lips, It was a huge affair. And 10cc, who were the support band to the Stones at that gig, had arranged for a crane to be in place, and were busy lowering a very large drooping moustache and a large nose over these lips.
CHRIS MANN: Sounds like it looked like Frank Zappa at the end of it, or Groucho Marx.
FREDDY BANNISTER: It looked more like Groucho Marx. And we hastily put a stop to it.
CHRIS MANN: Freddy, it’s been a great pleasure. Thank you for joining us, to give us your memories of the Rolling Stones.
FREDDY BANNISTER: Not at all. Thank you.