Filmed in 1968 but not seen until 1996, THE ROLLING STONES ROCK-AND-ROLL CIRCUS transforms several major rock acts from the 1960s into circus routines. This lively concert film could not have possibly lived up to its "holy grail" legend, but the plotless, music-jammed hour (plus)
features a fascinating, heretofore unseen glimpse into the rock-pop culture of yesteryear.
In THE ROLLING STONE ROCK-AND-ROLL CIRCUS, Mick Jagger introduces a series of circus and music acts within a circus tent filled with rock fan spectators. Jethro Tull performs "Song for Jeffrey." The Who follow with "A Quick One (While He's Away)." An elderly couple from Sir Robert Fossett's Circus
then perform an act. Taj Mahal belts "Ain't That A Lot of Love." Marianne Faithfull croons "Something Better." An African circus team performs an exotic routine. John Lennon and Mick Jagger share a "babbitt and bromide" moment off-stage. The Dirty Mac, an impromptu all-star band featuring Lennon,
Eric Clapton, Keith Richard and Mitch Mitchell, jam to "Yer Blues." Yoko Ono joins the Dirty Mac for "Whole Lotta Yoko." Jagger and the Rolling Stones execute a set of five numbers, including, "Jumpin' Jack Flash," "Parachute Woman," "No Expectations," "You Can't Always Get What You Want" and
"Sympathy for the Devil." Finally, the Stones and the entire cast and audience sing and sway to "Salt of the Earth," the grand finale.
In the pre-music video era of the rock concert and rock documentary film (GIMME SHELTER, WOODSTOCK, LET IT BE), THE ROLLING STONES ROCK-AND-ROLL CIRCUS might have been overlooked as a short, relatively lightweight cycle entry without the proper social significance--i.e. overt references to the
Vietnam War, the drug culture and '60s angst. Yet, CIRCUS never saw the light of day in '68 because the film's creator, Mick Jagger, reportedly felt that The Who stole the film from the Stones with their one powerhouse number, "A Quick One (While He's Away)." (This sequence was later used as an
excerpt in The Who's 1979 film, THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT). Today, the reconstructed CIRCUS film--once thought lost--is enjoyable to watch as a time capsule of the era: admittedly, CIRCUS is more HULLABALOO than Maysles brothers, but Mick really has nothing to worry about, performance-wise.
The highlights of CIRCUS include not only the Who and Stones segments (Jagger is particularly good on "Sympathy for the Devil"), but also Taj Mahal's one number. Marianne Faithful, then Jagger's girlfriend, shines during her torch song, but she is given less screen time than any of the other
stars. The sexism continues at the end when Jagger blocks Faithfull's face during the finale. The only other female star, Yoko Ono, supplies the low point of the picture--an ear-shattering wail to her own composition, "Whole Lotta Yoko." The biggest disappointment of CIRCUS is that then-and-now
legends, Jagger and Lennon, banter amusingly, but make no music together--a prime opportunity lost. They do both appear in the finale, but this campy, humanitarian-themed song (with lines like "say a prayer for the common foot soldier") is at odds with the sexy, hard-rock business that has
preceded it. By the end, THE ROLLING STONES ROCK-AND-ROLL CIRCUS serves its purpose as a satisfying film record of some talented individuals--and some tacky circus acts--although to declare the film itself as great is probably overstating the case.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: Filmed in 1968 but not seen until 1996, THE ROLLING STONES ROCK-AND-ROLL CIRCUS transforms several major rock acts from the 1960s into circus routines. This lively concert film could not have possibly lived up to its "holy grail" legend, but the plotless,… (more)