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The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus

In 1969 (heh heh 69) the Rolling Stones recorded a TV special that included them and other top British acts performing in a circus themed environment. It was called The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus. Due to unknown circumstances, but rumored to be because The Rolling Stones felt their performance was over shadowed by The Who, the TV special was never aired. Instead it was sealed in a vault until it was discovered in 1996 by an unpaid intern and released so Mick Jagger could afford to buy another solid gold humidor. This is The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus. This is what can be seen but never unseen. This is infinity.

To show that Rock and Roll Circus isn't a metaphor for the spectacle that is rock and roll the special takes place in a sound stage made up to look like a circus and begins with a circus parade with Mick Jagger as the ring leader and the other musicians present marching behind him pretending to know how to play brass instruments. There is also a nearly nude man doing flips. Now that is a spectacle.

The audience is dressed in some sort of poncho. Or wizard robe maybe. This could take place at Hogwarts. The would explain all the Ron Weasley bullshit that’s about to go down.

Mick Jagger tells us that there will be marvels and sounds and talks about Piccadilly circus and some other circus and I'm not listening because all I can think about is how he is talking like a person from Monty Python. Is that an actual accent in England? I know there's a new dialect every twenty miles in England but I can't imagine somebody talking like the spam lady all day.

You're all just going to watch Monty Python clips on YouTube now aren't you? I shouldn't link to things that are funnier than I am.

First band is Jethro Tull. Let me check my records regarding Jethro Tull. Ah yes, it would appear that Jethro Tull is wanted by the Rock Police for over a thousand accounts of rocking way too hard! Jethro Tull is bad ass and in this appearance Ian Anderson looks more like Aqua Lung than is healthy.

The Jethro Tull performance is filled with oddities. For some reason only Ian Anderson is playing live. The rest of the band is just miming their instruments while a recording is played. Apparently this was done to save time on practice. This is actually terrible because this is the only appearance of Tony Iommi during his brief tenure with Jethro Tull during which he learned from Ian Anderson what it takes to have a successful rock band. It requires waking the band up early in the morning and picking them up in a van to make sure they get to practice. That’s not a joke, that is what Tony Iommi did after rejoining Black Sabbath. Go check out Wikipedia, it's right there.

In conclusion, Jethro Tull not actually playing their instruments is a huge disappointment since they had one of the best rock guitarists ever with him and he just stood up there looking board and moving his hands when he thought the camera was pointing at him. Ian Anderson meanwhile, despite being the only person performing live still manages to sound like an engineer put an effect on his voice in post production. It is also the debut of his weird one legged playing stance.

Karonak and the sad clown enjoyed the performance it would seem.

Kieth Richards introduces The Who. He is wearing an all black ensemble with a hat and eye patch. I don't know why, but I'm also not on all the drugs in England.

The Who play A Quick One While He's Away and they bring down the house. I don't have much I can say. I suppose I can make fun of Roger Daltrey's outfit. He looks like Davey Crockett, but really, when you sound this good you can dress however you feel like.

Next up is the spectacular rock and roll duo, Old People in Hoops. Ow wait, that is not a musical group but rather a poorly performed circus act. The old man sits down on a hoop that's slighting above the stage and sort of swings around like its a tire swing. Maybe I am spoiled, when I've gone to the circus I saw people swinging from hoops 50 feet in the air at hundreds of miles per hour while The Final Countdown played. That might not be true because I was 8 but that’s how I remember it. Circus hoop performance has simply evolved so much that the old standards no longer impress.

Next up is the great cowboy band Taj Mahal. Despite being named after a landmark in India the only Indian in the band is a Native American. They aren't all that great. The song mostly consists of clapping. I think the only reason they are here is because The Rolling Stones wanted to look racially diverse but Jimi Hendrix wasn't available.

After Taj Mahal proves to be a bathroom break we get a ballad by some chick Mick Jagger was boning. The only line anybody will hear in this song is “Hey haven't you heard blue whiskey is the rage” because after hearing it you stop paying attention and just try to figure out what blue whiskey is because whiskey doesn't come in that color.

This lady isn't good but she could probably be okay. She sounds like she could do a Billy Jack song, but if you end up with this dvd you should fast forward because there are better things waiting for you.

Well not immediately waiting. First we have some weird voodoo thing where “the Lovely Luna”, who is wearing a see through mesh shirt by the way, hand a guy torches that he uses to burn himself to the tune of bongos.

Mick Jagger welcomes John Lennon to the show, although he calls him Winston because of drugs. John Lennon says it’s a pleasure to be there and calls him Michael. Then Mick Jagger goes on about how its been too long and he wishes they had had the chance to get together more often. I wasn’t aware they had hung out all that often but apparently they had. Mick brings up an old place they use to go to and John says“Those were the days, I want to hold you man.” Yeah, drugs.

Talk moves to Lennon’s new group the Dirty Mac. It includes Winston Legthigh played by John Lennon, Mitch Mitchel (Jimi Hendrix Experience) Eric Clapton (Cream, Yardbirds) Keith Richards (The Rolling Stones) and Yoko Ono (Ruining music across the globe) Before leaving John hands Mick the noodles he was eating. Then Mick repeats “Yer Blues John” over and over. Because of drugs.

If the Rolling Stones where to be intimidated by any band it should have been The Dirty Mack because their rendition of Yer Blues is fucking sexy. Seriously, this is the highlight of the special. I have no jokes.

For the next song the Mac are joined by a famous violinist whose name isn’t important because he is a violinist and Yoko Ono. The song is a great jam until Yoko joins in by yodeling into the mike. Then it isn’t as good. I don’t hate her for breaking up the Beatles because I don’t by into that theory but seriously, girl can’t sing worth. She ruins a good song here, and everywhere else.

The performance is followed by John Lennon saying “And now” and then moving his lips without speaking while pretending to sign something. Like I said, drugs. Everybody involved in this are on many drugs. Or maybe he thought something was going to be dubbed in later.

It is time for the Rolling Stones to take stage.

The Rolling Stones, despite their fears of not sounding up to snuff do put on a good show. Sure they aren't as good as The Who, or The Dirty Mac, but that's part of the problem with booking a show with bands that are better than you are. They start their set off with Jumping Jack Flash. I can't ever listen to this song without thinking about Whoopi Goldberg, which really destroys it for me.

Joining the Stones for this song is a guy on maracas who appears to be from a calypso band.

The next song is a bluesy tune that starts with the line “Parachute woman land on me tonight.” With deep lines like that I can see why The Rolling Stones are argued to be better then The Beatles. I'm guessing this song isn't one that ends up on a lot of best of compilations. I tried fast forwarding through it but that option on my media player only fast forwarded the video, not the audio. Which doesn't really work if you want the video and audio to synch up when you are done fast forwarding.

The performance is really good. If you are a fans of the Rolling Stones then you will definitely enjoy this part. They brought their A game and with the exception of the retarded Parachute Woman they had a great selection.

Just look at how nuts the wizards are reacting.

It all comes to a head with a rocking extended version of Sympathy For the Devil that tears down the house. The perfect way to end the show.

But there is one more song.

It usually makes sense to end a show with a song that is definitely a show stopper, but The Rolling Stones tend to know what makes a good rock and roll moment, and are always trying to create these moments. Take Altamont for example. They knew that footage of them performing as the sun went down would be incredibly memorable, so they decided to wait several hours to take the stage at the right time to create the moment, the while time ignoring that the crowd was so board and restless that they decide it would be a good idea to get into fights with the Hells Angels. The Hells Angels, also being board decided to try to murder the audience. And that’s why Altamont was slightly less successful then expected.

But getting back to the show at hand, The Rolling Stones must have thought “What would demonstrate the love, beauty, and companionship of music better then a major band being willing to play a song dedicated to the working class while sitting with them in the audience.” It isn't a bad idea either, its just kind of jarring to go from shirtless Mick Jagger flailing about in a high energy performance to cutting to the band dressed differently sitting in the audience. It doesn't feel authentic.

Especially with that guy who looks like he is on a bad trip sitting right there. They have to keep showing him because he is right in front of The Rolling Stones and he never looks like he knows where he is or what is going on.

Another problem is that the other musicians, ones who don't care about the moment and are incredibly inebriated are there. Prior to the song starting John Lennon was ignoring Mick Jaggers words of love and playing with a ball of yarn. It had his complete attention. Then during the final jam Ian Anderson, looking like he is the drunkest man ever, nearly bowls everybody over while trying to dance. I guess it does show a connection with the audience since most rock fans in the late 60s were either high or drunk, but it takes away from the moment.


Coming in at an hour The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus is a mixed bag. It breaks down to the acts that people care about, The Stones, Dirty Mac and The Who deliver. Jethro Tull doesn't really perform but provide a historic curiosity. The circus acts, Tah Mahal, and random lady Mick Jagger was banging are stupid and boring, but I guess you need snack breaks. It would have been nice if the good bands just played more but how are they suppose to know whose going to be known 40 years later. As far as the booker knew Tah Mahal could have become the biggest band in the world, rather then just a footnote. Plus John Lennon charges by the song and he ain't cheap.

DVD Extras

Additional circus acts, about 20 additional songs by Tah Mahal, and a some random guy playing piano. There is nothing here you would want to watch.