Friday, March 29, 2013
LADIES & GENTLEMEN: THE ROLLING STONES
(January 1974, U.S.)
LADIES & GENTLEMEN: THE ROLLING STONES marks a new introduction to a particular genre of film in my collection; the rock and roll concert film. Mind you, I'm not talking about concerts released on VHS tapes, DVDs and Blue-Ray discs. I'm talking about theatrical motion pictures that depicted specific rock bands at a particular moment in their musical careers, relased during a time before videotapes and discs, when the only way you could experience your favorite rock band if you missed the concert tour was on film. As for the legendary band the Rolling Stones, if you look it up, you'll find they've been documented on film numerous times by some very high profile directors that include Jean-Luc Godard, Hal Ashby and Martin Scorsese.
The film is taken from two prime Rolling Stones concerts during their 1972 North American tour in support of their "Exile On Main Street" album, featuring Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ron Wood (the last of the four Stones today), Bill Wyman, Mick Taylor and backup musicians on the horns. Until the lights come up near the end, we see the Stones against a black background during the entire show. The camera stays mostly on Mick, though Keith is on screen for his duets with Mick and for some of his awesome guitar work on the final two songs of the set. For the Stones fan, it's great hard rock and blues music from start to finish. It's raw music without much of the huge production backdrops and backup singers (though not entirely unappreciated in concert) that would accompany the later Stones concerts of the last two decades. Keith, in particular, hits very detailed chords without the sloppiness that would develop later in his career.
Perhaps I should be clear that as a lover of the Rolling Stones, this film is NOT what I'd recommend as the best way to view the band on film in concert. For that, I highly recommend the 1998 DVD of the "Bridges to Babylon" tour (my personal favorite!). What this concert film does (as does many others) is take the viewer back to a time when rock and roll was raw, edgy, dangerous and it simply ruled the fucking world! I've often told people that I wish I'd been born ten years earlier than I was so I could have experienced rock and roll of the 1970s when it was new and fresh, and not decades later when it was played on classic rock radio and when the bands were touring well into their middle-age and senior years (perhaps then, I would've discovered the great music of the Stones before 1981!). The film also takes viewer back to a time when the release of a concert film was often heavily promoted through the use of innovative and realistic theatrical sound products and inventions. In its initial U.S. theatrical run, the film was released in something called "Quadrasound" which was a variation of the four-track magnetic sound format. Instead of the usual right, center, left and single surround tracks, Quadrasound fed right and left screen speakers and right and left (split surround) speakers, the objective being to transform the seats of the motion picture theater auditorium into the auditory phenomenon of something like a 10,000 seat rock and roll arena. That may be a difficult thing to visualize to the modern entertainment buff who owns all sorts of high-tech television bullshit in their own living room, but in 1974 it would have been considered a real big deal!
Watching the Rolling Stones on film, or in any concert, not only reaffirms my love for this legendary band of fifty years plus, but also increases my outright pity for today's youth that are being raised on musicians like Lady GaGa, Justin Timberlake and the huge assortment of pubescent kiddie singers and dancers spawning from the Disney Channel! These poor kids may never know the true experience of popular music when great albums like "Sticky Fingers", "Exile on Main Street" and "Some Girls" were being released. Kids, if you're reading this, take my advice and give your parent's record (that's right, I said RECORD) collection a chance! It's much better than the shit you're listening to now!
Favorite songs performed (and two of my favorite Rolling Stones songs in general): "Bitch" and "Happy".