Coming face to face with the Rolling Stones in St Albans

The tour line up

The tour line up - Credit: Archant

When Alan Cannon Jones quickly ran home from work to grab his tea before the latest star-studded concert at the old Odeon cinema in London Road, he figured the journey would be relatively uneventful.

Old pictures of building

Old pictures of building - Credit: Archant

But as the 17-year-old turned the corner onto Lower Paxton Road he found himself face-to-face with arguably the greatest rock ’n’ roll band of all time, the Rolling Stones.

The tailor, who has made suits for David Bowie, said: “I was an apprentice at the time at a company called Nicholson’s, on Sutton Road.

“On my way home from work to Cotton Mill Lane, I went down some steps down at the side of the Odeon I used to use as a short cut home. I came past the cinema, went down the stairs, and when I got to the bottom of the stairs there was a coach there and they were all just getting off the coach.”

It seems incomprehensible to imagine one of the most infamous bands in music history calmly walking into the building that will soon become the Odyssey cinema, but they were just one of many now legendary acts to play on the stage which has now been lovingly restored.

Alan, 67, who lived in the city until he was 24, fondly remembers the Stones’ St Albans show on October 30 in 1963, which was part of their first UK tour alongside Little Richard, Bo Diddley and the Everly Brothers.

He said: “The Stones came on and then were followed by Little Richard, and there was a local guy at that time known as Cuddles. Whenever there was anything going on he would jump up on stage and beg to sing with them. He actually sang with Little Richard.”

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Cuddles, a former St Albans road sweeper, used to make the national news with his stage invasions, joining the likes of Jerry Lee Lewis on stage in London before signing a record deal with Pye Records.

Alan went on: “There was a break but all you could get was an ice-cream or Coca Cola. Then after the break it was Bo Diddley, I’d heard of Bo Diddley but I’d never heard his music, it was the most amazing thing I’ve ever heard. The sound was just incredible.”

Although regularly featuring rock ‘n’ roll acts, the Odyssey was apparently far from an unkempt venue: “Everybody was very smart, all the staff there were very well dressed, they had a doorman, on the door, similar to if you go to a hotel in London. That’s how the guy at the Odeon was dressed, in a deep maroon uniform.”

He said of the Stones: “We were just intrigued to see them really and to see what they looked like, rather than what they sounded like. I remember being shocked, as they were the first people that we saw visibly with long hair.”

Alan added that he was excited to hear about the forthcoming cinema: “I found it a bit strange that for a city of that size they don’t have a cinema.

“I remember as a youngster there was the Chequers, the Odeon and the Gaumont. The Chequers is where the Maltings is now, it was really old and we used to call it the flea pit.”

Speaking about the St Albans music scene in the 60s, Alan said: “It was an amazing time that’s never been repeated.”