ROLLING STONES: July 20, 1975 Hughes Stadium

by BRYAN RAYBURN

In my 30 years of collecting music and memorabilia, tape trading, and recording concerts, I have amassed close to a million hours of historical artifacts, many of them uncirculated outside the hands of a privileged few. I was recently asked to assemble a database of all the Colorado performances I have within my archive, as well as stories surrounding them and the venues where they took place, many of which no longer exist, except in the hearts and minds of those who were in attendance. The first one that popped out was this local gem of when The Stones played in Fort Collins. 

PERSONNEL: Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, Ron Wood, Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman, Ian Stewart, Billy Preston, Ollie Brown, Elton John*

SETLIST: Honky Tonk Women* / All Down The Line / If You Can’t Rock Me / Get Off Of My Cloud / Star Star / Gimme Shelter / Ain’t Too Proud To Beg / You Gotta Move / You Can’t Always Get What You Want / Happy / Tumbling Dice / It’s Only Rock ‘N Roll (But I Like It) / Band Introductions / Fingerprint File / Wild Horses / That’s Life / Outta Space / Brown Sugar / Midnight Rambler / Rip This Joint / Street Fighting Man / Jumpin’ Jack Flash

The Rolling Stones “Tour of the Americas ’75” was originally intended to reach both North and South America. The plans for concerts in Central and South America never solidified, due to a combination of currency fluctuations and security concerns, however, the tour covered only the United States and Canada. This was the Stones’ first tour with new guitarist Ronnie Wood, after Mick Taylor had left the band. The Tour of the Americas ’75 was not in support of any newly released material, as it began more than seven months after the release of their last studio album at the time, It’s Only Rock ‘N Roll. The tour was officially announced on May 1, with the band performing “Brown Sugar” on a moving flatbed truck which rolled down 5th Avenue in New York City. After the Stones finished the song, the band jumped into limousines and quickly disappeared, thus the scheduled press conference afterwards was never attended. The tour spanned 46 shows between June 1 and August 8, and covered 27 cities.

On Sunday, July 20, the Stones played their second show in Fort Collins, CO (the first being November 7 1969, Moby Arena) to a crowd of 40,000 at Hughes Stadium, with Charlie Daniels as the opening act. Colorado State Patrol reported vehicles backed up on Interstate 25 from Harmony Road to the Windsor exit. Many people parked along the adjoining streets to avoid the one-dollar parking charge at the stadium. The day before, the local drive-in close by was renting out camping and parking, and a local band played through evening while people tailgated.

This was the infamous show when Elton John, dressed in an L.A. Dodgers windbreaker and cowboy hat, joined the band on stage for their opening number “Honky Tonk Woman,” which reportedly was the only Stones song he knew at the time. Mick Jagger later introduced Elton as “Reg from Watford.” After several songs, John reappeared and remained until “Midnight Rambler,” ten numbers later! Billy Preston and Ian Stewart were reportedly upset with John’s aimless noodling, as was Keith Richards, due to his presence hampering access to the keyboards throughout the performance. Numerous statements from concert-goers recall people booing, and the band having a difficult time getting him to leave the stage. After the show, the Stones even turned down Elton’s offer to take a helicopter to a ranch for a barbecue.

An article in the July 24, 1975 in The Rocky Mountain Collegian described it as, “a weekend that killed one, enraged many, and enriched a few.” The death came when a 19-year-old soldier who came to Fort Collins for the concert dove off a cliff by Dixon Dam and drowned. People began arriving in town Friday night and camped on just about any open area they could find. Many concert-goers stayed up all of Saturday night and stormed the stadium at 5:30 a.m. in an attempt to get choice seats, even though the concert was not scheduled to start for another 11 hours! Alvin Miller reported people camped on his property Saturday and Sunday and that there were destroyed sections of an electric fence.

This epic concert was one of only three shows to take place at our beloved Hughes Stadium; the first being The Beach Boys and Chicago on July 6 1975, and the last one, Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Review with Joan Baez on May 23, 1976 for the recording of Dylan’s “Hard Rain” live album. This concert followed days of pouring rain, and the 25,000 in attendance consequently destroyed the stadium’s turf, which Barry Fey had to pay to replace. Following complaints from nearby stadium residents that the concerts were too loud, a judge granted an injunction on January 30, 1978, limiting concert noise to no more than 80 decibels at a nearby resident’s property line. Concert promoters said that these levels were effectively too low to stage an open-air concert, and so, that was the day the music died at Hughes Stadium.

The Live Music Archive

Black & white photos by Janice Belson