Here`s some more Stones for you. They have a lot of fanatic fans and their contribution to rock music is nothing less than legendary. Still rocking in 2020, they seem indestructible even if their age is catching up with them in various ways. They will live on in rock`n`roll history, that`s for sure!
Keith Altham joins the Stones Rock`n`Roll circus…
The greatest show on earth
The Rolling Stones put in some overtime last Wednesday when they spent 17 hours working on their telethon production of “The Rock and Roll Circus” which is likely to become a pop classic when it is shown. Michael Lyndsay Hogg, who directed some of the more memorable “Ready Steady Go!” sagas, produced this epic with a little help from his illustrious friends, John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Marianne Faithfull, Eric Clapton, Mitch Mitchell, Jethro Tull, classical pianist Julius Katchen, the Who and “perpetual” violinist lvri Gitlis.
It was, in fact, the most exciting pop show I have ever seen and one in which I was involved with those “maniacs” Keith Moon and Pete Townshend, who organised compulsory audience participation and early morning P.T. until 5 o’clock Thursday morning.
“If you had told me four years ago that we would have been involved in something like this I would never have believed you,” said Brian Jones, “but everyone is really enjoying themselves.”
Someone asked John (Lennon) what kind of amp he wanted and he just said “oh one that plays!” The idea is that if everyone has fun the people who watch will too! ”
When I arrived on set at the Wembley studios around noon I was distressed to find that the boxing kangaroo had been axed. I had also missed Mick wrestling with a live tiger the previous day.
We entered the viewing room in the studios where Michael was waxing enthusiastic over yesterday’s “rushes” of a mysterious American group called the Liquid Wallpaper.
“Oh, great work, Mike – nice shot — that’s the way to shoot rock and roll,” he drawled at a projection apparently taken by the cameraman standing on one leg, shooting under his left armpit through the strings of a guitar.
They were, in fact, very good, but my enthusiasm wained as I arose from my kneeling position in the darkened room and cracked my forehead on the sharp corner of a table.
Dabbing at the wound as the lights went up Michael kindly remarked on his way out, “How are you Keith — just sitting there bleeding — fine!
“The grand parade in the Circus ring was a photographer’s paradise with Yoko dressed as a witch with tall black pointed hat and John as a tumbler. Keith Moon minced up in black tights covered in bright glittering coloured spangles.
“Wait till I change out of my street clothes,” he quipped. Eric Clapton wore a suit of many colours and Mick was dressed as a ringmaster. The photographers were let in and crowded round like a cloud of locusts with Rolliflexes clicking. Ten minutes later Mick curtailed the photo call by announcing: “One more for Andy Gray,” referring to our Editor and the show was almost on.
The usual technical hitches resulted in the entire parade being stuck in the tunnel entrance to the ring from which the sound of Ivri’s interminable violin emerged along with loud rude noises from the Who attempting to play ancient brass instruments. Ivri launched into a Beatles composition.
“Hope you’ve got your performing rights money ready, mate — we’re all composers here,” quipped Townshend.
“Except me — I’m a decomposer!” added Moon. Much laughter from tunnel after 15 minutes of technical hitches.
Meanwhile, back in the sound room Jimmy Miller was semi-hysterical as engineer Glyn Johns raced around checking tapes.
“I haven’t had this much fun with my clothes on for weeks,” declared Jimmy. Jimmy also produced Traffic records and I asked him about the recent break-up of the group.
“It was a complete surprise to me,” he admitted. “I never thought Stevie would leave the group so suddenly. I know he has been very influenced by jazz organist Al Koopers’ recent one-man-work and that he has ideas about playing every instrument on future discs — even drums himself.”
Back in the ring the Parade was on with Cowboy, horse, midgets, clowns, trapeze artists, fire-eater and acrobats supplementing the pop stars.
That being completed, the other acts dispersed around the studios to watch Jethro Tull set up for their contribution, “A Song For Jeffrey.”
Eric Clapton was casting covetous glances at a midget’s huge red-crepe bow tie — “I’d give anything for that,” he whispered.
“Ask him for it,” suggested Keith Richard.
“He won’t part with it,” replied Eric. ” Made it himself.”
” Nick it,” suggested Keith. “You wear his tie and I’ll wear his trousers!”
In spite of all their musical progression it’s most noticeable of late that the Stones are becoming very much interested in blues music again. It was Jagger who expressed admiration of Jethro Tull’s brand of blues and asked them on the show.
Brilliant guitarist that he is, Clapton admitted that his inspirations were really still in his past. “I’m still a rocker,” he grinned, “and there’s nothing I can do about it!”
The event of the afternoon was probably the Super Group composed of Lennon, Clapton, Richard and Mitchell. They played a version of Lennon’s “Yer Blue’s.”
For one or two people it was interesting to note that as a guitarist Lennon, to quote one critic — “is not half bad.”
It was even more noticeable at one or two impromptu jam sessions back stage with the Super stars getting into old rock and rollers like “Hound Dog” and “Peggy Sue.”
Yoko provided a strange diversion to one side with a new dance in which she contrived to wiggle completely inside her voluminous black dress so that neither head or limbs were exposed.
Their second number was an improvisation with Yoko giving us an exhibition of “Japanese throat” which I do not pretend to understand so I will not attempt to criticise.
Sometimes I think she is quietly laughing at our attempts to read meaning into the meaningless.
It really is time that people were kinder towards John and Yoko. As far as I know they have never intentionally hurt or abused anyone and yet they have become the butt for every cheap comic stuck for a joke.
They spent the entire day and next morning along with us, supporting the Stones show from the audience. Photographers returned with smiles and reports of the new “mellow fellow” which is Lennon.
A tea lady brought back excited news after they signed her autograph book and chatted to her: “I was a little frightened of them but they were so nice it made me ashamed!”
Lennon, the millionaire who sat perched about on amplifiers and boxes in his old blue denims — a hole in the elbow and biro marks on the well worn knee — is a man worth watching and listening to and when people like him, Townshend, Burdon, Jagger, Walker, Marriott and Lane quit this business so will I. Talent and guts are rare combinations.
Meanwhile back at the show, Miss Marianne Faithfull in a beautiful aubergine gown sat with regal elegance upon a divan and trilled a Gerry Goffin “Something Better” number quite superbly arranged by one Mick Jagger which may yet see her return to records.
Trapeze artists were suspended above pianist Julius Katchen, who admires present pop groups because so much in the classical world is becoming “machine made,” while he played “The Firebird” and a piece of Brahms.
A nice man, as well as a gifted pianist. Clowns, fire-eater and cowboy on horseback led to the Who.
The Who did their mini opera in which Keith Moon regaled us with his latest impersonation of a human fountain by having beer spilled onto his snare drums while in top gear.
Although he might smile at the thought, Townshend is now almost a piece of pop-folklore with his catherine wheel like arm movements and aggresive leaps. The act must make great TV.
Around about 2 am the Stones were on stage and warming up with “Route 66.”
They got through “Jumping Jack Flash” and “No Expectations” to prove they still have the most exciting group sound in the world and the most interesting visual vocalist in Jagger.
At times he strikes attitudes reminiscent of an obscene Nureyev!
“Sympathy With the Devil” was Mick at his provocative best, in which he whipped off his shirt to reveal a tattooed Devil’s head on his chest.
This resulted in the total collapse of a young lady near the stage. “You Can’t Always Have What You Want” is their new number which may be the next single – and likely their next number one.
By 6.30 am Pete Townshend had donned a red leather seat as a hat which together with his red pancho made him look like a member of the Klu Klux Klan.
We all ended up on the finale — “Salt of the Earth” — and I rather suspect I may be seen in a soppy hat and smock amidst the others in a rousing chorus at the end.
At 6.30 am I was earning my lift home by helping pack the Stones amplifiers.