In 1970, the Rolling Stones were the first band to ever perform at the Olympic Stadium in Helsinki. However, the band’s arrival at the airport wasn’t met with the warmest of welcomes.
This series recalls famous visits and historical landings at Helsinki Airport. This time, we revisit the Rolling Stones’ arrival in Helsinki in 1970.
In the summer of 1970, when the Rolling Stones’ European tour rolled into Helsinki, the band was arguably the hottest live act on the planet. The Stones had performed in Finland once before, at a festival in Pori five years prior, but the gig in Helsinki was meant to be on a whole new scale. It was reportedly the first time any band had performed at an Olympic stadium anywhere in the world.
The photos of the Stones arriving at Helsinki Airport show front man Mick Jagger and other band members in iconic early 1970s rocker style. Unfortunately, adoring fans weren’t the only ones who welcomed the group. As news stories of the band’s, especially Jagger’s, wild lifestyle and drug use had reached the attention of Finnish officials, the band was stopped and their luggage raided by Finnish customs upon arrival. According to reports, Jagger was appalled by this treatment and called Finland a “police state” in the media.
Despite the incident, the stadium concert was held as planned. The venue, however, was half empty due to lackluster ticket sales: The entry price of ten marks was too high for most of the band’s young Finnish fans. Many who couldn’t afford to enter gathered outside the stadium to hear the concert, some even trying to force their way inside, before being stopped by security and the police.
Those who did make it to the concert were impressed by the band’s performance. Here’s how Atik Ismail, a legendary Finnish footballer, described the experience for Iltalehti magazine in 2007:
“I was thirteen. I cycled through the forest to the stadium, a soccer ball on the rear of my bike, wearing my team sweatpants.
I was a bit scared of what Mum and Dad would say. There’d been a story in the newspaper about Jagger and the band getting raided by customs when they landed at Helsinki Airport. But I was a good boy, and I still dug the Stones. My sister had brought me their album “Rolling Stones No. 2” and it really struck a chord. The first track on the A side, Everybody Needs Somebody to Love, was playing in my head as I sat down in my seat, right under the big screen.
Oh man, how they played, what rhythms, what kicks! When I came home, I got a real whooping for going. But it didn’t even hurt.”