Saturday, August 13, 2016


(February 1983, U.S.)

Once again, the fine aroma of coincidence inhabits my blog; two concert motion pictures in a row, Roger Waters and now The Rolling Stones...

But before I begin, let me just offer a brief history of Eric F. and The Rolling Stones...

- Summer 1978 - Eric hears his first Rolling Stones song ever, "Miss You" from the SOME GIRLS album, but has no idea that the song is by The Rolling Stones. He assumes it's by a disco group, as that is the popular music of the era.
- Spring 1980 - Eric hears and learns of more songs by The Rolling Stones largely due to a repeated television commercial advertising for a Rolling Stones greatest hits double album package not available in stores but only through this "special TV offer".
- November 1981 - The Rolling Stones North American Tour is scheduled to come to NYC's Madison Square Garden and New Jersey's Meadowlands Arena. The 1981 tour is the hot musical topic with kids at his high school, particularly due to their new album TATOO YOU and the hit song "Start Me Up". Eric, just a freshman at the time and still not very familiar with much of The Rolling Stones' material, asks his parents if he can go to the concert. He is (very unfairly!) denied access, their (bullshit!) reason being that he is still considered too young to go to a rock concert.
- February 1983 - Eric is practically dragged by his friends to see The Rolling Stones concert film LET'S SPEND THE NIGHT TOGETHER at a second-run neighborhood movie theater in Little Neck, New York.
- October 1989 - Eric finally sees The Rolling Stones live for the first time at Shea Stadium during their 1989-1990 STEEL WHEELS tour.
- January 2006 - Eric sees The Rolling Stones for the second time at Madison Square Garden during their A BIGGER BANG tour. It is the last concert he sees before becoming a father just one month later.

I find this little bit of personal history with the "greatest rock and roll of all time" somewhat necessary because in all honesty, Hal Ashby's LET'S SPEND THE NIGHT TOGETHER is not particularly the best or the most quintessential way to experience The Rolling Stones on film. The band has been captured on the big screen more effectively by Rollin Binzer in LADIES AND GENTLEMEN: THE ROLLING STONES (1974) and Martin Scorsese in SHINE A LIGHT (2008). It's also not the best film to highlight Hal Ashby's film making career, but the man was known to be a die hard Stones fan and this film, if nothing else, shows the beginning of his creative decline after his Peter Sellers masterpiece BEING THERE (1979). My reasons for the small appreciation I have for this film is purely personal and the brief history I outline above gives a pretty good idea of my memories and feelings.

Not to say that LET'S SPEND THE NIGHT TOGETHER is a bad or unwatchable film (really, how can you truly go wrong with any motion picture that depicts The Rolling Stones in concert?), it just suffers from flaws when compared to other similar material in which a rock and roll band is captured on the big screen. To begin with, with the exception of watching all four DVD discs of the legendary Live Aid concert of 1985, I believe something is grossly lost visually when you film a band performing live during daylight hours, which is how the film begins at the outdoor stadium in Tempe, Arizona with the band opening with "Under My Thumb". Remember, this is from the point of view of the film viewer, which would differ greatly from someone who was actually there at the show itself. The Stones, just five members, look like lost and confused insects on such a huge outdoor stage with little-to-no props, background imagery or stage effects on such a clear, sunny day filmed in such a wide angle format. Hal Ashby uses multiple cameras to seemingly capture the band as up close and personal as possible, which at the time, was probably considered a great effect in film making. Today, compared to so many other Stones concerts captured on film and disc, it may not hold up as well.

By the time Mick Jagger is singing "Going to a Go-Go", however, the film has switched gears to feature live performances at the Meadowlands Arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Now the show is indoors and it's dark, the way a true rock concert should be, in my opinion. The band itself, keeps their sound and performance, raw and edgy, and with a certain degree of speed (twenty-five songs performed in just a 94 minute film) that almost seems to reflect the punk rock sound that was made very popular back in 1981 (and at that time in music history, in general) with bands like The Ramones, The Clash and The Dead Kennedy's (I never got into punk, actually). One can't help but wonder if this was how the Stones were deliberately trying to sound like live in order to keep up with the "here and now" musical tastes of the time. Was this the version of the Rolling Stones that longtime fan Ashby was seeking to capture? Well, it was 1981 and this was the time and tour the director chose to document. Had he lived long enough (Hal Ashby died in 1988), would he have been more pleased and fascinated with the high-tech, spectacular stage production (complete with backup vocalists and gigantic inflatable "Honkey Tonk Women") of their STEEL WHEELS tour that began with the decade of the 1990s? I fear we'll never know.

So, as you previously read above, I was denied my right to a ticket to see the Stones when they toured in 1981. My only compensation was this 1983 film, which in all honestly, I had little interest in seeing when it was given a limited theatrical release. Sure, I was still curious to see The Rolling Stones perform live, but I suppose the art of celluloid just couldn't compare to actually being there. Still, sometimes you're encouraged (if not pressured) to join your friends when they're all going to the movies, even if the movie choice is not what you would choose yourself. As it turned out, actually, LET'S SPEND THE NIGHT TOGETHER would be the first concert motion picture I would ever see on the big screen at the age of fifteen. I would see a lot more years later when I went away to college and lived across the street from a movie theater that featured midnight madness movies. And for the record, this, in my humble blogging opinion, is the best DVD concert that captures The Rolling Stones live in concert by my own personal history and memories...

This one from 1998 kicks ass, too...

Scorsese's SHINE A LIGHT is worth your time, as well, but for myself, you reach a point where you simply have enough concert films and videos that satisfy your interests and hungers to see a band you love performing live on your TV screen. For this reason, I do not own SHINE A LIGHT in my film collection and will not be posting a blog on it at this time. Your opinions may differ from mine, if you wish. It's only rock and roll.

Favorite songs performed:

"You Can't Always Get What You Want" and "She's So Cold".

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