It is early morning Wednesday, December 11, 1968. Paul Lovell has catched the first train from Birmingham into London. Today he was supposed to have an exam at school, but now it is more important business to take care of.
Last month, he had received the monthly fan club letter, telling about a special concert to be held by the Rolling Stones on Dec. 11. Being fan club member number 10,435 since Oct. 1964, and knowing the fan club had grown to probably 20,000 by now, he realized he didnt have much chance of getting tickets to the special event. Much to his surprice, the tickets arrived, red print on a yellow card. He even got an extra ticket for Barbara!
About 300 people has queued up outside the Intertel Studios, Wembley, in the morning. There seems to be one entrance only for the place. While queuing up each of the performing artists is arriving. John Lennon arrives in a Rolls with Yoko Ono, being one of the first times they show up publicly together. The Stones and all the others walk by the fans queuing up. This is really developing to something very special...
When entering the studio, which is a TV recording building, he has to turn in his ticket, signing on it, stating his appearance on any film taken is not his property. All fans are given special red, orange and yellow ponchos, and large, strage hats. Inside the studio, the Stones have arranged for a Circus being built, like a half circle part of the circus, so that there is space for the cameras and crew. The fans are free to find a seat in the half circle around the center canvas, and Paul is selecting a central spot a couple of rows fromthe front.
The show is soon starting up. Mick Jagger is saying welcome, dressed up as a ringmaster. and the first band is on.
Jethro Tull is a new group. They do their song "Song For Jeffrey". Then The Who is on with their set. This is not a normal concert. The songs are done several times, and film shooting is not done all the time. There are plenty of breaks. During the breaks, the fans are free to walk wherever they like. Paul is finding himself standing next to Mick, then some time later next to Keith. Being a veteran Stones fan by now, since his first concert in 1964, he does not want to bother any of the Stones, asking for autographs. But when he bumps into John Lennon, he simply ask for his autograph. After all, John is a big star, but not in the same league as the Stones, at least not to Paul...
Taj Mahal is next. Then the important appearance by Marianne Faithfull. This is the apperance when Mick wants everything to be right. Marianne is to be a major star, and Mick has been working hard on the set. Marianne is beautifully located in the center of the circus ring. She performs Something Better, and the camera is rotating 180 degrees around the circus ring, making a perfect panning.
This is really a strange event. There are circus artists performing in-between the sets. Nobody have planned this in detail. Things seems to take much longer time than originally planned for. People are getting tired and hungry. There is a break in the evening for food. Then there are more rehearsals and camera takes. During one of the breaks, Paul find himself next to Brian Jones on the mens room. Again, privacy first, no autographs...
Its about midnight, and still the Stones have not been on. this will probably take till tomorrow! John Lennon is showing up, leading a supergroup of himself, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards and Mitch Mitchell. Then Yoko Ono is joining. Its now about 2 oclock in the morning, and finally, its time for the Rolling Stones! Mick has changed into causal wear, and they jump into their set of songs taken from Beggars Baquet, being released just before the week-end.
Jumping Jack Flash is on. The Stones are great! Then Parachute Woman and No Expectations. Brian is great; great slide. They do several takes. Some people in the crowd is now really sleepy! You Cant Always Get What You Want. More takes. The Stones doesnt seem to be satisfied with what they are doing.
Then Sympathy For The Devil, which they have been rehearsing a while back for the One Plus One film. At 5 am in the morning Sympathy is perfect - may be not to the Stones - but its perfect!
Then they all move into the crowd, all wearing ponchos, the chords of Salt Of The Earth is sounding, Keith and Mick is singing the closing song. Then its over. Not a usual concert, but a memory for life time.The fans are saying goodbye. The Stones have rranged for transportation. Paul and Barbara is hanging around in London for the first train back to Birmingham. Well, doesnt bother about the exam, the concert, the rehearsals and the happening is still strong in the mind...
As a faithful reader of IORR, you may know that Paul Lovell still follows The Rolling Stones whenever he can. With the 1995 tour, he has seen more than 100 concerts by the Stones in total. While he respected the intimacy and privacy of the Stones in 1968 at the Circus, not asking for autographs, he now do ask for autographs occationally. One of his highlights is running from the back to the front of the (huge) Hotel DAngleterre in Copenhagen, June 11, 1995, in about one second (may be two...), when the Stones vans moved around. Thanks, Paul, for sharing your memories with us, and for being a great fan of the greatest rockn roll band in the world!
Rock and Roll Circus! This is 1996, and finally, after 28 years, we have it, at least an hour or so of what Paul Lovell and a few hundred other fans experienced from the day and night of Dec. 11/12, 1968. Many reasons prevented the release back in 1968/9. First, the Stones didnt think their own performance was perfect. Then time went by, the band changed, Brian was lost, and by the end of 1969 it was too late, trouble with Decca, a new decade coming up, major tours in America and Europe, plenty of good reasons for putting the entire Circus to sleep.
There have been talks of releasing the Rock and Roll Circus for a long time. legal formalities, differences between The Rolling Stones and ABKCO, who ownes the pre-70 catalog of Stones material, the right timing etc. If you check out the CD and the video, you will see is copyrighted in 1995, butb it took most of 1996 until we got it.
The material on the CD and the video is the same. The CD was out in October in most parts of the world, and the video was launched on Oct. 12 and 13 at the New York Film Festival, with posters, pop corn cups having circus logos etc. Europe had to wait until Nov. 12 to get the video.
The CD and the video is manufactured by ABKCO/Polygram in USA. The CD has got a nice and small booklet, with notes from David Dalton, originally published in the early 70s. There is a poster made to promote the release, a nice one with the group shot, as shown on he front of the CD release.
First I got the CD, and I thought it was kinda history, having seen the Stones live so many times. Then I got the video, and it brought me literally back to 1968. Marianne Faithfull! Brian! Salt Of The Earth! Its great! What do you think?
It's Only Rock'n Roll no. 27 Nov. 1996 - © The Rolling Stones Fan Club Of Europe