Mick Jagger’s 5AM Rally Saved the Rolling Stones’ ‘Rock And Roll Circus’
Michael Lindsay-Hogg, who directed the Rolling Stones’ 1968 concert movie Rock And Roll Circus, remembered how Mick Jagger rallied his band mates to deliver a powerful last-minute performance through their sickness and exhaustion.
The TV production was intended to be a showcase of British musical talent of the time, including the Who, Eric Clapton, John Lennon and Tony Iommi’s only appearance as a member of Jethro Tull. However, the Stones felt so bad about the results, especially their own performance, that it lay unreleased for nearly 30 years.
“The Stones didn’t come on until two in the morning,” Lindsay-Hogg told Uncut in a new interview. “They were the hosts; they’d been there all day, and we were now into December 12. The cameramen were weary. We did a couple of takes of each song. Glyn Johns and Jimmy Miller in the truck outside would ask for another take, or I would ask. Gradually, it started grinding them down. It had been a long day, and they were sapped.”
He added that, despite being “young and strong and vital,” the band were “also a bit wobbly.” He explained: “Pete Townshend said that Keith [Richards] alternated between looking green and yellow – who knows what he was doing? – and Brian [Jones] really wasn’t well. He’d let himself go, and didn’t have the constitution for it. It was sad. The night before the first rehearsal, he called me at 11 p.m. and said, ‘I’m not going to come tomorrow. They’re being so mean to me; I don’t feel part of the Rolling Stones any more.’ I said, ‘You have to come, you are the Rolling Stones.’ So he did, but he was alienated.”
Despite everyone in the production looking forward to the band’s performance of “Sympathy For the Devil,” the first take “was no good,” Lindsay-Hogg remembered. Jagger, Richards and he conferred with band manager Allen Klein to discuss the possibility of trying again that afternoon, but the costs were prohibitive. The decision was made to go for one final take.
“Mick then gave as great a rock ’n’ roll performance as I have ever seen,” the director said. “That’s him pulling out all the stops at five in the morning, pushing the entire band through. He’s saying, ‘Let my will be your will.’ It’s extraordinary. He used the camera as the audience. … Pete said he really understood Mick Jagger for the first time that night, how he commanded the attention of the camera. For my money, he’s one of the three greatest performing artists of the last century.”