Inside New 'Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus' Releases: Exclusive

Mark and Colleen Hayward/Redferns
The Rolling Stones perform live on stage on the set of the Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus at Intertel TV Studio in Wembley, London on Dec. 11, 1968. 

Michael Lindsay-Hogg, director of The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus, says new sonic and visual upgrades to the film have made it “reborn 50 years later.” “I was knocked out by how vivid the images, the picture still are, the sound where the voices and the music and the ambient sound and the crowd sound all are together,” he tells Billboard.   

ABKCO has slated a new deluxe edition for release June 7 with Blu-ray, DVD and two CDs (and separately on CDs or three LPs) with expanded audio and a new 4K restoration plus Dolby Atmos sound on the Blu-ray for its 50th anniversary,   

The project started after Mick Jagger called Lindsay-Hogg and said he'd wanted to do a TV special. He'd worked with the Rolling Stones previously on some music videos and when they appeared on the British music series Ready Steady Go. The concept for the circus idea was inspired by some doodling. “I was thinking I don't have any ideas and as well as drawing little stick figures and stuff like that.” The idea was to be that the show should be “like s small European traveling circus” and somewhat like the Stones themselves “sort of seedy and (staying) out too late at night.”

The Who were the first group Jagger considered to appear on the bill. They contributed one of the highlights of the show, a stunning version of “A Quick One (While He's Away).” Jethro Tull, a then up-and-coming group who had impressed both Lindsay-Hogg and Jagger after they saw them on a British TV music show, were picked to open. Taj Mahal, a favorite of Keith Richards', was chosen, as was Marianne Faithfull. “Marianne fitted not only because she was going out with Mick, but there seemed to be a quality to her and a real beauty which would be a wonderful addition to the show,” he says.

Jagger and Lindsay-Hogg had an idea of putting together a one-time supergroup for the show. They first contacted Steve Winwood. “We called him like once every 10 days and said, 'You got this together yet?'” But nothing happened. “About three days before the show, we have a big six-minute hole in the show. Mick said, 'What did you think about John (Lennon)? Would he do it?' I'd done some videos with the Beatles so we weren't unknown to each other.” (Lindsay-Hogg later went on to direct the Beatles in Let It Be.) “And I thought of all of them he'd be the most likely to jump in.”

John accepted. The supergroup, called Dirty Mac, was comprised of Lennon, Eric Clapton, Richards and Mitch Mitchell of the Jimi Hendrix Experience on drums. Lennon also brought Yoko Ono with him.

Did Lindsay-Hogg have a specific idea on filming the show going in? “I knew that it was going to be intimate and I knew that they were going to be playing on stages which were pretty small. It would be more like where they begun in small clubs. So I wanted it to be intimate and I especially wanted it to be intimate with Mick. Because he's one of the greatest performing people of the last hundred years.”

He says he told Jagger, “Whenever you feel like it, find a camera and if it's on a sort of good angle for me, I'll hold on that camera (and) you play to that camera. And that's why the show has a kind of singular intimacy between Mick and the viewer (and) the camera, especially (during) 'Sympathy For the Devil.'”

One of the more unusual moments in the show was Yoko Ono's vocalizing with classical violinist Ivry Gitlis in a song now titled “Whole Lotta Yoko.” According to Lindsay-Hogg, their duet wasn't planned. “(Gitlis) thought he was going to be playing with these musicians of a different genre. And then unbeknownst to him and indeed to me, Yoko gets out of a black bag and and John keeps encouraging her, saying, 'Yeah go on, go on.' And then she starts singing and she blows the place away. ”

The new 50th anniversary releases have been expanded over the previous versions. The audio is expanded to two CDs with nine new tracks, including three John Lennon/Dirty Mac outtakes with a second take of “Yer Blues” and a rehearsal of the Beatles' “Revolution.” The video version will feature three commentary tracks.

“The difference in this version...is the kind of density of the sound , the layering of the sound,” says Lindsay-Hogg. “Robin (Klein) has been working with Dolby for a couple of years on the new mix. And the print looks wonderful. Tony Richmond, our cinematographer, has just made sure it's as good as it can be.”

Beatles fans also are anticipating the release of a new movie taken from the group's Let It Be archives to be directed by Peter Jackson. Lindsay-Hogg says he's all in favor of it and looking forward to Jackson's film. “I'm very excited by it, really. Peter and I have met and he quizzed me a lot about the original Let It Be. He's a wonderful movie maker and second of all, he's a real Beatles fan. I'm more than glad that Peter is doing it. Peter is going to be able to show stuff that I would have wanted in the original to do with the relationship between the Beatles, the interaction between them, but wasn't able to. With Peter's movie and then the re-release of my movie, we'll get a much bigger picture of what that time was really like and what was going on between them. I couldn't be happier.”

Track listings:

The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus (4K FILM)

THE FILM

Song For Jeffrey - Jethro Tull
A Quick One While He's Away - The Who
Ain't That A Lot Of Love - Taj Mahal
Something Better - Marianne Faithfull
Yer Blues - The Dirty Mac
Whole Lotta Yoko - Yoko Ono & Ivry Gitlis, and The Dirty Mac
Jumpin' Jack Flash - The Rolling Stones
Parachute Woman - The Rolling Stones
No Expectations - The Rolling Stones
You Can't Always Get What You Want – The Rolling Stones
Sympathy for the Devil - The Rolling Stones
Salt Of The Earth - The Rolling Stones

EXTRAS

Widescreen Feature Time: 65min., Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Pete Townshend Interview Time: 18min., Aspect Ratio: 4x3

The Dirty Mac
‘Yer Blues’ Tk2 Quad Split Time: 5min. 48sec, Aspect Ratio: 4x3

Taj Mahal
-Checkin’ Up On My Baby Time: 5min. 37sec., Aspect Ratio: 4x3
-Leaving Trunk             Time: 6min. 20sec., Aspect Ratio: 4x3
-Corinna Time: 3min. 49sec., Aspect Ratio: 4x3

Julius Katchen
-de Falla: Ritual Fire Dance Time: 6 minutes 30 secs Aspect Ratio: 4x3
-Mozart: Sonata In C Major-1st Movement  Time: 2min. 27sec., Aspect Ratio: 4x3

Mick & The Tiger/ Luna & The Tiger  Time: 1min. 35sec., Aspect Ratio: 4x3

Bill Wyman & The Clowns Time: 2min., Aspect Ratio: 4x3

Lennon, Jagger, & Yoko backstage Time: 45sec., Aspect Ratio: 4x3

FILM COMMENTARY TRACKS:

Life Under The Big Top (Artists) Time: 65 minutes
Featuring: Mick Jagger, Ian Anderson, Taj Mahal, Yoko Ono, Bill Wyman, Keith Richards

Framing The Show (Director & Cinematographer) Time: 65 minutes
Featuring: Michael Lindsay Hogg, Tony Richmond

Musings (artist, writer, fan who was there) Time: 50 minutes
Featuring: Marianne Faithfull, David Dalton, David Stark

The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus Expanded Audio Edition
1. Mick Jagger's Introduction Of Rock And Roll Circus - Mick Jagger
2. Entry Of The Gladiators - Circus Band
3. Mick Jagger's Introduction Of Jethro Tull - Mick Jagger
4. Song For Jeffrey - Jethro Tull
5. Keith Richards' Introduction Of The Who - Keith Richards
6. A Quick One While He's Away - The Who
7. Over The Waves - Circus Band
8. Ain't That A Lot Of Love - Taj Mahal
9. Charlie Watts' Introduction Of Marianne Faithfull - Charlie Watts
10. Something Better - Marianne Faithfull
11. Mick Jagger's and John Lennon's Introduction Of The Dirty Mac
12. Yer Blues - The Dirty Mac
13. Whole Lotta Yoko - Yoko Ono & Ivry Gitlis with The Dirty Mac
14. John Lennon's Introduction Of The Rolling Stones + Jumpin' Jack Flash - The Rolling Stones
15. Parachute Woman - The Rolling Stones
16. No Expectations - The Rolling Stones
17. You Can't Always Get What You Want - The Rolling Stones
18. Sympathy For The Devil - The Rolling Stones
19. Salt Of The Earth - The Rolling Stones

BONUS TRACKS
20. Checkin' Up On My Baby - Taj Mahal
21. Leaving Trunk - Taj Mahal
22. Corinna - Taj Mahal
23. Revolution (rehearsal) - The Dirty Mac
24. Warmup Jam - The Dirty Mac
25. Yer Blues (take 2) - The Dirty Mac
26. Brian Jones' Introduction of Julius Katchen - Brian Jones
27. de Falla: Ritual Fire Dance - Julius Katchen
28. Mozart: Sonata In C Major-1st Movement - Julius Katchen

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