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Rock'n'roll shook to it's foundations as the Rolling Stones come to Norwich

PUBLISHED: 16:36 09 April 2014 | UPDATED: 17:12 09 April 2014

The Rolling Stones at the Gaumont Theatre, Norwich in April 1964

The Rolling Stones at the Gaumont Theatre, Norwich in April 1964

EDP Library

In Norwich of the 21st century it is a building which is empty and abandoned, waiting for the demolition men to move in, but there was a time 50 years ago....

The Rolling Stones at the Gaumont Theatre, Norwich in April 1964The Rolling Stones at the Gaumont Theatre, Norwich in April 1964

The girls were screaming their heads off and inside the band they loved with such a passion were having a heated debate over whose turn it was to pay for their fish and chip supper.

This was April 1964 and the Rolling Stones were playing the Gaumont (formerly the Carlton) on All Saints’ Green. A place with a great history but no future.

It opened as the grand Carlton Cinema in the early 1930s and was later extended to become a 2,000-seat cinema and venue for live entertainment attracting many big names over the decades.

There was dancing in the street outside when the original king of rock ‘n’ roll, Bill Haley, arrived in the 1950s – times where changing and music led the way.

In was in 1963 that The Beatles played the old Grosvenor in Prince of Wales Road – another fine building which stood in the way of progress – before going off to be the biggest band in the world.

They changed the music scene. A collection of bands emerged and the one-night stands attracted huge crowds across the land.

But there was one band which stood head and shoulders above the others – they were called the Rolling Stones and they gained a reputation as the bad boys of pop.

The Theatre Royal was hosting a string of shows, featuring the likes of The Kinks and The Hollies, but in April of 1964 Robert Stigwood’s All Stars show arrived at the Gaumont round the corner.

On the bill were the Le Roys, Billie Davis, Jet Harris (ex-Shadows), Mike Sarne, The Innocents, Mike Berry, Heinz and the Rolling Stones. And they were the boys everyone wanted to see.

This is what our man in the stalls thought of it all.

Headlined: “The Stones: Seen But Not Heard”, he wrote:

“The Stones hit town. And there were screams. And screams. And then just one long drawn-out sound which defied description.

“On a decibel rating there could have been no doubt at all that the Rolling Stones’ appearances at the Gaumont Theatre, Norwich, last night were an unqualified success.

“Visually – which is the only way one can judge them during a live performance – the group have an eccentric air about them.

“They dress casually, have their now famous hair at shoulder length, and when they jerk into movement on stage, it’s obvious they’ve been practising.

“When the curtains drew back to reveal all this, the audience was already in full cry.

“The uniformed staff who had been standing in two groups at the front of the house deployed, but only one girl – during the first performance, anyway – attempted to rush the stage.

“It was virtually impossible to say what the numbers were being played but this didn’t matter.

“It was the Stones themselves that counted. The high point in their act seemed to come when one of them picked up a set of maraccas, and another bounded forward with a tambourine.”

I think it’s fair to say it was a good night!”

Eventually the crowd drifted 
off and the Rolling Stones went off to become the biggest rock band in the world. And they are still rockin.’

As for the Gaumont, the live music and the film shows ended when it became a bingo hall. Permission has now been given for the building, which has structural problems, to be demolished.

Where you there? If so please drop me a line at derek.james2013@gmail.com or write to me at Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE. Perhaps you also have other memories of the Gaumont to share before it disappears?

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