July 11th, 1962: Mick Jagger, nerves in tow, paces backstage at the Marquee Club. His appetite lost to pre-show jitters, he’s a skeletal figure with butterflies fluttering in his stomach. It’s not just any gig; it’s The Rolling Stones’ debut, and the venue is the notoriously snobbish Marquee Club.
Backstage, the venue officials worsen matters by informing the band that their scruffy appearance clashes with the trad jazz purists in the lounge. Undeterred, The Stones make a bold move, refusing to conform. They head out early, unprofessionally tuning in front of the audience.
Brian Jones, their leader, known for his crooked aplomb, had always displayed boldness. Asthma and croup marked his childhood, but he embraced his outsider status. Now, facing a pivotal moment, he rallied the band—Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, Ian Stewart, and others. The mission: to go out, give it their all, and embrace the destiny of The Rolling Stones.
As they began to play, boos erupted from the trad jazz crowd. However, mods in the audience appreciated the new sound, drowning out the naysayers with their energetic dance. A violent divide in the room ensued.
The first song, “Kansas City,” written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller in 1952, kicked off the set. Despite clashes between mods and trads, the band powered through “Baby What’s Wrong” and found their groove with Chuck Berry’s “Confessin’ The Blues.” After a solid 90 minutes and 20 songs, they stumbled out into the early Friday morning air, exhilarated to have survived the Marquee Club’s famed Thursday night slot.
Though they hadn’t pleased everyone, the blues songs on the handwritten setlist had resonated well enough with a raucous originality to ensure they’d be back in a hurry.