Friday, February 01, 2008

The Dirty Mac

In late 1968, The Rolling Stones decided to put on a concert event on a soundstage, invite a ton of the day's top musicians and film the whole thing for a movie. Jagger was the ringleader and of course The Stones closed the whole thing out with their own set. On paper, what a great idea! They called it The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus.

The trouble is, their set stunk. They had been up for days, ingesting all sorts of recreational fuel, and when it came time to take the stage, they put in a mediocre performance.

Other performers were not so unlucky, and, for example, The Who blew everyone away with their blazing rendition of A Quick One. This is the highlight, for me, of the band's The Kids Are Alright film, and I know many others share my opinion.

Another top performance was the supergroup put together by John Lennon, just for the event. Here we had Lennon on guitar and vocals, Eric Clapton on lead guitar, Keith Richards on bass and Mitch Mitchell on drums. He called the band "The Dirty Mac."

They did one song, "Yer Blues" from the White Album. As much as everyone loves The Beatles, this version totally slays the original. They did another little jam with Yoko but it's not really worth mention.

Lennon's live performances after The Beatles were pretty spotty. He put bands together very quickly for benefit concerts and did one off appearances, but I have never heard anything that really blew me away like the R&R Circus performance. He seems under rehearsed and even a bit nervous.

However, here he is fully confident. It's great to watch.

Needless to say, The Stones shelved the whole movie idea due to their lousy set, and none of this saw the light of day (except for the Who's Quick One) until The Stones decided to release the film on DVD almost 30 years later, in 1996.

The YouTube clip below starts with Lennon and Jagger having a pretty glazed chat. You can taste their huge egos here, and can sense their rivalry but also friendship. Then we get the full song. Enjoy.



8 comments:

Neddrum said...

I've always wondered why Lennon accepted the invitation to play and why the Stones picked him as opposed to Paul or George...or the Beatles as a whole? I realize that it's 1968 and the fab four are "retired" from live performance not to mention that they are falling apart as a group. There's not much back story that I've been able to find about this very unique performance. Oh...and why would Mitch Mitchell be on the show and not Hendrix?

Dr. John said...

That was just frickin' AWESOME! I had no idea Keith Richards could play bass so well either. What is with the get up on all the audience members? Looks like some kind of weird performance art...

Isorski said...

Neddrum, I think they didn't invite the Beatles to perform because it would have totally overshadowed their own appearance. There are photos of George Harrison there, but as far as I know, he didn't play...

VoxMoose said...

Love that clip. It is interesting to note (it is hard to see on the YouTube clip, but is more obvious in the DVD) that Yoko spends the entire piece crawling into a black sack and writhing near Keith Richards' feet (!?!). At least she isn't "singing", which she does in a later piece along with the melody played a rather agitated looking fiddler.

Another weird bit in the Rock and Roll Circus I've seen is Jethro Tull performing (miming!) with none other than Tony Iommi on guitar. If you like Tull or Iommi, it is a must see but still a general curiosity for anyone else.

Isorski said...

Wow, Tony Iommi was in Jethro Dull? Unreal!

VoxMoose said...

I know. Weird stuff. Here's a picture from RRCircus. He's the guy with the white hat.

Don Capone said...

I love this clip. Such a killer version. I wish Lennon had put this band together for a whole album.

harmolodic said...

Much as the Stones' set played like a opening band rather than a headliner, I'll always have a soft spot for the Rock n' Roll Circus version of "You Can't Always Get What You Want." I dug Jagger's ad-libbing on that one.