Credit: Bert Voerhoff


Rare footage of The Rolling Stones performing 'Brown Sugar' in Melbourne, 1973


The Rolling Stones were conquerers of stadiums all around the globe by 1973, a band in their prime after dominating the 1960s and becoming the ultimate rock ‘n’ roll experience on the planet. With Mick Jagger leading the way, the Stones were putting on an unprecedented show in any venue they stepped foot in.

The year was a chaotic time for the band, one which was marred after the tour of the States resulted in a number of arrests at their concerts on a nightly basis. Repeated riots continued to blight their efforts to perform live and, before their summer North American tour, they were heading to Australia to medicate the country’s need for rock ‘n’ roll which was equally as anarchic.

As ever, this string of live dates didn’t go as planned with the Stones originally hoping to visit Japan for a five-night residency at the Nippon Budokan in a high-profile appearance. However, the band were refused entry to the country by the Japanese Foreign Minister who branded Jagger a criminal for his previous drug convictions. In an emphatic denial, the minister publically announced that the frontman would not be allowed to enter the country.

The Japanese dates were due to take place from January 28th to February 1st and saw the group sell well over 55,000 tickets. However, just a day before their first performance was set to take place, Japanese officials made a final confirmation of their decision to not let the Stones land final. It meant the dates were scrapped and the concert promoter had to refund all ticket sales.

With the Asia leg of the tour now cancelled, the Stones were raring to go for the Oceania dates which saw them visit Auckland, Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and Sydney. The Melbourne venue was a rather peculiar one for a concert, the iconic rockers taking over Kooyong Tennis Courts for a three-show residency that would go down in history.

The Australian run of shows were also met with criticism by the country’s more conservative citizens. Negative headlines would see the band labelled as no good hell raisers who, according to the critics, had absolutely no place entering the Oceanian country let alone performing in stadiums and being hero-worshipped upon their arrival.

Unfortunately, there was one minor issue on the run of dates when at one of the show’s at Adelaide’s Memorial Drive Park found 5,000 fans clashing with the local police which led to 21 arrests being made. The incident will have no doubt pleased the conservative contingent who were vehemently against the band’s arrival.

This then led to high-profile Labor Party Immigration Minister Al Grassby making the following statement: “The Stones are an excellent example to Australian youth. I told them I was putting my faith in them and hoped they would do the right thing. I have no regrets that I let them in — yes, I went out on a limb to give them visas — to give a man a bad name and hang him is immoral and un-Australian.”

Brown Sugar‘ was the perfect opener to get the party started and it couldn’t have been any more appropriate considering the song was written in the Australian outback whilst Jagger was shooting the film, Ned Kelly. He recalled to Uncut in 2015: “I wrote it in the middle of a field, playing an electric guitar through headphones, which was a new thing then.”

Check out the electrifying footage of The Stones causing chaos in Melbourne with ‘Brown Sugar’, below.

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