The Rolling Stones - You Can't Always Get What You Want (TV Show '69)
The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus
The Story of ‘The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus’
The Rolling Stones, the Who and Marianne Faithfull were the marquee names. Also appearing was the Dirty Mac, a one-off supergroup comprised of John Lennon, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Yoko Ono and Jimi Hendrix Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell called the Dirty Mac. Bluesman Taj Mahal and Jethro Tull, who had just released their debut album six weeks earlier, rounded out the bill.
The special had its origins when Mick Jagger, looking for an innovative way to promote their just-released album, Beggars Banquet, teamed with director Michael Lindsay-Hogg to create a television concert with a circus theme – complete with clowns and acrobats – filmed in front of an audience of invited guests. The broadcast begins with all the performers entering at once, followed by Jagger, dressed as a ringmaster and looking somewhat impaired, giving an invocation to the viewers.
Jethro Tull were up first. This was during the brief spell when Tony Iommi was a member, and this was his only appearance with the group. It was not a true performance for Iommi, with the band miming “Song for Jeffrey” as Ian Anderson sang live.
The Who were next, stealing the show with a ferocious version of “A Quick One, While He’s Away.” Although the complete Rock and Roll Circus was never aired, the climax of the Who’s mini-opera was featured in their 1979 documentary The Kids Are Alright and in its entirety on its soundtrack album.
After Taj Mahal and Marianne Faithfull each sang a song, the Dirty Mac gave their only performance, singing “Yer Blues” and “Whole Lotta Yoko,” the latter an uptempo blues jam complete with violin and Ono wailing over it. (It was actually better than that sounds due to the quality of the instrumentalists.)
But when it was finally released in 1996, it was hard to see what the fuss was about. Yes, the opener, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” was sluggish, but they quickly rebounded with a solid “Parachute Woman.” And if Jagger’s writhing on the ground and revealing of devil-themed henna tattoos on his arms and torso during “Sympathy for the Devil” is cartoonish, at least his vocals are impassioned. They may be inconsistent, but it’s nonetheless listenable. Still, it probably wasn’t the best idea to play “No Expectations” in a higher key than the recorded version.
Maybe it also stayed buried for so long because it was Brian Jones’ final appearance with the Stones. Except for his slide part on “No Expectations,” his guitar playing is inaudible. Six months after the show was filmed, he was fired from the band he formed, and drowned a month later.
For all the controversy and mystery surrounding it for 28 years, these days The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus now comes across as a quaint time capsule of the last days of Swingin’ London. And as strange as the idea of combining a rock concert and a circus may be, it manages to work – even if the only person who wasn’t stoned was probably the guy who ate fire. You can see what we’re talking about from the comfort of your home, as the Rock and Roll Circus is now available on iTunes.
The project was originally conceived by Mick Jagger as a way of branching out from conventional records and concert performances. Jagger approached Michael Lindsay-Hogg, who had directed two promos for Stones songs (and would go on to direct the Beatles' Let It Be documentary), to make a full-length TV show for them. According to Lindsay-Hogg, the idea of combining rock music and a circus setting came to him when he was trying to come up with ideas; he drew a circle on a piece of paper and free-associated.
The Stones and their guests performed in a replica of a seedy big top on a British sound stage—the Intertel (V.T.R. Services) Studio, Wycombe Road, Wembley —in front of an invited audience. The performances began at around 2 pm on 11 December 1968, but setting up between acts and reloading cameras took longer than planned, which meant that the final performances took place at almost 5 o'clock the next morning.
By that time the audience and most of the Stones were exhausted; Jagger's sheer stamina managed to keep them going until the end. Jagger was reportedly so disappointed with his and the band's performance that he cancelled the airing of the film, and kept it from public view. Pete Townshend recalled:
When they really get moving, there is a kind of white magic that starts to replace the black magic, and everything starts to really fly. That didn't happen on this occasion; there's no question about that. They weren't just usurped by The Who, they were also usurped by Taj Mahal – who was just, as always, extraordinary. They were usurped to some extent by the event itself: the crowd by the time the Stones went on were radically festive.
Poor old Brian Jones was well past his sell-by date by then… We spoke to Brian and he didn't really know what was going on. He was rather cut off from the others – there was a lot of embarrassed silence. But a delightful chap, and we felt rather sorry for him… I was approached for an interview by a chap from Record Mirror… I inadvertently remarked that the Stones were a bit under-rehearsed and that poor old Brian Jones couldn't even tune his guitar, which was literally the truth but a bit tactless and inappropriate for me to say. This was duly reported, whereupon Mick Jagger was mightily upset. I had to send a grovelling apology to his office.
According to Bill Wyman's book, Rolling with the Stones, the Stones also performed "Confessing the Blues", "Route 66" and an alternative take of "Sympathy for the Devil" with Brian Jones on guitar.
FootageThe project was abandoned until Director Michael Lindsay-Hogg attempted to edit the film in 1992 but, due to missing principal footage, the project was put on hold. Some of the footage of the concert was thought to be lost or destroyed until 1993, when it was discovered in a bin in the Who's private film vault by Director/Producer team Michael Gochanour and Robin Klein. Subsequent to their discovery, Gochanour/Klein completed the unfinished film in fall of 1996.
A significant segment, featuring The Who, had been shown theatrically in the documentary The Kids Are Alright (1979), the only public viewing of the film until its eventual release. The Stones' film was restored, edited, and finally released on CD and video in 1996. Included on the recordings are the introductions for each act, including some entertaining banter between Jagger and Lennon.
This concert is the only footage of Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi performing as a member of Jethro Tull, during his brief tenure as replacement for Mick Abrahams and at the same time the first footage of the band ever made (no live footage of the original Tull lineup exists). The band mimed to the album version of "A Song for Jeffrey" and "Fat Man" (so the guitar part is actually of Abrahams, and not Iommi's) as the Stones told them to cut their time down and it would save time on rehearsing, although Ian Anderson sings live on "A Song For Jeffrey". "Fat Man" never made the final release, although it is not unreasonable to assume he also sang that live, as the version which appears on the 1969 Stand Up album was recorded later. This footage also included some of Ian Anderson's first attempts of his now famous flute-playing position, with one leg in the air.
ReceptionIn a 1996 review, Janet Maslin lauded the "sleek young Stones in all their insolent glory presiding over this uneven but ripely nostalgic show"; although "rumor had it that the Stones... thought they looked tired and felt upstaged by the high-energy Who", "it hardly looks that way as Mick Jagger's fabulous performance nearly turns this into a one-man show." She called Jethro Tull's performance a "shaky start" by "arguably the most unbearable band of their day", said The Who "turn up early and stop traffic, delivering a fiery [performance]", and notes Yoko Ono's "glass-shattering shrieks" are "dutifully" backed by the Dirty Mac. She calls the concert-ending sing-along of "Salt of the Earth" smug and condescending, a "song about little people living in the real world".
Film premier, home video/DVDIn October 1996, following two days of screenings at the Walter Reade Theater as part of the New York Film Festival, The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus was released on VHS and laserdisc.
A DVD version, produced by Gochanour/Klein, was released in October 2004, with audio remixed into Dolby Surround by Michael Gochanour and co-producer Robin Klein. The DVD includes footage of the show, along with extra features directed by Gochanour and Klein, which include previously "lost" performances, an interview with Pete Townshend, and three audio commentaries. Of particular interest in the Townshend interview is his description of the genesis of the Circus project, which he claims was initially meant to involve the performers travelling across the United States via train (a concept used for a short concert series in Canada that was later documented in the feature film Festival Express). The remastered DVD also includes a special four-camera view of The Dirty Mac's performance of the Beatles' "Yer Blues" (showing Yoko Ono kneeling on the floor in front of the musicians, completely covered in a black sheet).
DVD track listing
- David Dalton's written historic introduction (0:33)
- "Entry of the Gladiators" (Julius Fučík) – Orchester /
The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus Parade /
Mick Jagger's introduction of Rock and Roll Circus (2:10)
- Mick Jagger's introduction of Jethro Tull /
"Song for Jeffrey" (Ian Anderson) – Jethro Tull (3:43)
- Keith Richards's introduction of The Who /
"A Quick One While He's Away" (Pete Townshend) – The Who (7:40)
- "Over the Waves" (Juventino Rosas) – Orchester (1:20)
- "Ain't That a Lot of Love" (Willia Dean "Deanie" Parker, Homer Banks) – Taj Mahal (3:52)
- Charlie Watts' introduction of Marianne Faithfull /
"Something Better" (Barry Mann, Gerry Goffin) – Marianne Faithfull (2:37)
- Keith Richards's introduction of Danny Camara /
"Fire Eater and Luna (Donyale Luna)" (1:28)
- Mick Jagger and John Lennon's introduction of The Dirty Mac (1:05)
- "Yer Blues" (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) – The Dirty Mac (4:26)
- "Whole Lotta Yoko" (Yoko Ono) – Yoko Ono, Ivry Gitlis, The Dirty Mac (5:03)
- John Lennon's introduction of The Rolling Stones/
"Jumping Jack Flash" (Mick Jagger, Keith Richards) – The Rolling Stones (3:38)
- "Parachute Woman" (Jagger, Richards) – The Rolling Stones (2:57)
- "No Expectations" (Jagger, Richards) – The Rolling Stones (4:07)
- "You Can't Always Get What You Want" (Jagger, Richards) – The Rolling Stones (4:27)
- "Sympathy for the Devil" (Jagger, Richards) – The Rolling Stones (8:52)
- "Salt of the Earth" (Jagger, Richards) – The Rolling Stones (4:56)
- Credits, to the sound of "Salt of the Earth" (2:45)
Sideshows (DVD extras)Interview – Pete Townshend (18:26)
- "Checkin' Up on My Baby" (Sonny Boy Williamson) – Taj Mahal (5:39)
- "Leaving Trunk" (Sleepy John Estes) – Taj Mahal (6:28)
- "Corinna" (Taj Mahal, Jesse Ed Davis) – Taj Mahal (3:51)
- Brian Jones' introduction of Julius Katchen /
"Ritual Fire Dance" – Julius Katchen (4:21)
- "Sonata in C 1st Movement" – Julius Katchen (2:11)
- "Yer Blues" TK2 Quad Split – The Dirty Mac (4:35)
- Bill Wyman's introduction of The Clowns /
"The Clowns" (2:01)
- "Close, But No Cigar" – John Lennon and Mick Jagger (0:43)
- "Sympathy for the Devil" (Fatboy Slim Remix Video) – The Rolling Stones (4:29)
- "The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus". Turner Classic Movies. Atlanta: Turner Broadcasting System (Time Warner). Retrieved 19 July 2016.
- Maslin, Janet (12 October 1996). "Taking a Trip Back in Time To the Sleek Young Stones". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-08-23.
- "The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus". CD Universe Store.
- The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus on IMDb
- Brusie, David (12 Feb 2009). "1996: The Rolling Stones - The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus". Tiny Mix Tapes.
- See infobox picture for appearances
- Fischer, Russ (04.02.2008). "STONES ON FILM: THE ROLLING STONES ROCK AND ROLL CIRCUS (1968/1996)". Chud.com. Check date values in:
- "London's old (and present) ITV studios". An incomplete history of London's television studios.
- Dalton, David (March 19, 1970). "The Rolling Stones' Masterful Rock & Roll Circus". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 12 May 2017.
- Mojo, issue number and date unknown
- Mojo, issue number and date unknown
- Shooting The Rolling Stones Rock'n Roll Circus 10 - 12 December 1968: London, Intertel Studios
- Farley, Christopher John (18 October 2004). "Starry Circus". Time. Retrieved 2012-08-23.
- DVD Extras on Amazon: Unseen Footage