How the Rolling Stones Rocked the Iron Curtain


The Rolling Stones performing at Sala Kongresowa of the Palace of Culture and Science, 1967

“The eastern side of the Iron Curtain calls forth many images: empty shelves, people queuing, joyless dictators… but not necessarily the Rolling Stones. If you were a Communist party leader, trying to isolate your people from the moral decay of Western civilization, would you invite a notorious rock band, not only involved in sex and drugs scandals but also willing to take on political matters, to perform in your capital? Not the most obvious thing to do, right? Therefore, how is it that in 1967 – the middle of the Cold War – Mick, Keith, Brian, Bill, and Charlie came to Poland and performed in Warsaw, at a huge hall known for being traditionally used for the Communist Party’s plenary congresses? There is no easy answer to this question and since numerous myths have grown surrounding this event, let’s do some fact checking before we go any further. In 1967, the Rolling Stones hit the road to promote their Between the Buttons album. As a band notorious for breaking laws, rules, boundaries, and customs, they started toying with the idea of performing in Moscow and becoming the most controversial rock band to play on the other side of the Iron Curtain. Preliminary arrangements were even made but eventually (and obviously) the authorities didn’t allow it to happen. … Deputy director Wiesław Jakubowski was a highly controversial person. On one hand he ran Pagart, a dysfunctional and corrupt organisation, on the other, he was the only person who had enough passion and contacts to even consider inviting international music stars. … Bill Wyman wrote in his diary that back in 1967 the Iron Curtain was still very firm. The idea of a decadent Western band performing inside the Eastern Bloc was going way beyond what people believed was possible. Moreover, he claims that the idea was entirely theirs, that the fee the Polish organiser offered was pitiful and the only thing that pushed them beyond the Curtain was rumours of their underground popularity and ‘their will to crash the borders between the East and the West’, years before ‘glasnost’ came to life. …”
culture: May 2016 (Video)
Open Culture: The Rolling Stones Play a Gig in Communist Warsaw and a Riot Ensues (Video)


Władysław Jakubowski, director of Pagart

About 1960s: Days of Rage

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