Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Ladies & Gentlemen: The Rolling Stones DVD, Life by Keith Richards

  (As told to: Gary Pig Gold)

So I wake up and it’s, what, 1972 already? I mean, really. You could’ve flown me higher than First Class from Ocho Rios all the way to a secret Swiss clinic in the middle of the night, baby, and it still wouldn’t have prepared me for this.

Think about it:  I escape Merry Very Olde by the skin of what’s left of my teeth and end up making records in some Nazi-forsaken French basement. There’s Mick Taylor (sometimes), there’s that other Mick (rarely), and of course there’s Charlie and even Gram Parsons whenever my five strings need a chorus. The old lady’s got the kid asleep upstairs, I’m assuming, and downstairs it’s as hot as an ungrounded amp in Sacramento. Nevertheless, the Stones manage to crank out a double album’s worth of material in record time, pun possibly intended, and then it’s time to return to America – the land of nothing’s for free – and mount The Tour To Top All Goddamn Tours. Or so we thought.

“Ladies and gentlemen, The Rolling Stones!” went the announcement for the next two months, seven weeks, and sixteen songs in thirty-one cities over fifty-one shows. Not to mention, while we’re doing numbers here, one hundred and thirty-one arrests – including my own on of all places Rhode Island, perhaps not entirely coincidentally – and probably a hundred Altamont’s worth of injuries and OD’s to top it all.

Nevertheless, that tour’s been called everything from “part of rock and roll legend" to “one of the benchmarks of an era," in the words of noted rock scribe Dave Marsh. Well, I do beg to differ, dear Dave. Unless you consider Dick Cavett cornering Bill Wyman for a televised toke in the bowels of Madison Square Garden something of a benchmark. Or Truman Capote sucking all the celebrity willy he could. On our bill. Or Jagger’s bill, to be truthful.

Now I must regretfully admit to missing many of no-longer-little Stevie Wonder’s opening sets during this excursion, as the plane we rented from Bobby Sherman really was the only way to see the USA that summer. From 30,000 feet, that is. And with all the “tea” and sympathy one could inhumanely hold. But after the whole damn thing was over, we didn’t even get a lousy album out of it, thank you very much again Mr. Allen Klein. Oh, there were lots of books and magazine articles of course, and Jann Wenner’s been going out to dinner on our fabulous exploits that year ever since. But save for that piece of shit Robert Frank’s “unauthorized” lump of underexposed tripe Cocksucker Blues, it didn’t look like we were going to be able to squeeze even a movie from the entire four-ring circus.

Never underestimate the money-hustling instincts of one Michael Phillip Jagger, however. When push came to financial shove – meaning after our next album Goats Head Soup sold about as hotly as Bibles outside the Chicken Ranch – he managed to get the ’72 tour footage finally assembled and into theatres. But, being Mick, not just any Saturday afternoon matinee, no sir. Ladies & Gentlemen: The Rolling Stones, as he titled this cinematic spectacular, was blown up from 16-mil and mixed into then-fashionable (for about a week or two) four-channel surround quadraphonic sound. To be exclusively shown only in theatres that could handle it all, mind you.

Of course, in the mid-Seventies few could, so we were forced to “four-wall,” as in rent at our own expense that is, movie houses into which we had to import specially designed concert-size sound systems (and audio engineers who knew how to operate the stuff) in order to screen the bugger …and schlep the bloody gear and crew all ‘round the States on 14-footer flatbed trucks to boot. Jesus. We should’ve just gone back out on the road ourselves. Would have been a lot easier. And we would have actually seen some coin from it.

“It’s the next best thing to seeing The World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band in Concert!” screamed the ads. “Get this fucking movie out of here,” screamed the various promoters brave, or should I say foolish enough to mount this entire charade.

Dear, dear Mick. He’s still trying to make movies. But at least whenever he tries to make Rolling Stones movies, we now insist on real equipment, adequate staging and, most importantly, real directors. Marty Scorsese did our last concert film, Shine a Light. I even got to give Bill Clinton’s mother-in-law a smack on the great behind in that one. Or was it his wife? Same difference, chum.

So. Cut to 2011. And Ladies & Gentlemen lives again, in all of its Quadra-Sound – or 5.1 as it’s called nowadays – glory on DVD and Blu-ray …and probably even vinyl if they can figure out a way. There’s Mick Taylor playing an extremely mean lean “Love In Vain.” There’s Charlie, being as good as it always gets. And there’s Mick Jagger jumping from white jumpsuits into purple (continuity, anyone?!) while jumping all over stages which in 1972 seemed enormous, but today would scarcely even hold the man’s traveling wardrobe bunker.

And there’s not Bill Wyman! Ruthlessly cropped clean out of all the front cover packaging, justice duly, if belatedly served. We airbrush him out of album covers nowadays. So why not DVD covers?

Plus, there’s yours quite truly, friends. Belting out “Happy” as if I actually were, and giving ol’ Brenda a run for his Binaca – or should I say Bianca – as we extremely-close duet to scrape the Bakersfield right off of Sweet Virginia. Classic, karmic entertainment for all of you who, this century, prefer to get your kicks in front of the flat screen as opposed to the L.A. Forum.

This disc’s even got some pretty fascinating bonus footage as well. Like three tour rehearsal clips which appear to have been filmed in, or at least for, Germany. I can’t really recall …and you’ll see why when you see how I appear in these frames. And naturally Your Majesty fills the past and present interview segments as well, prattling on about that pathetic Chuck Berry wannabe Marc Bolan in a 1972 Old Grey Whistle Test chin wag, then giving his meal ticket some back-handed props during a chat from earlier this very year, I do believe:

Says he’s now “quite impressed” with the film, and with the ’72-model Stones in general, it seems. We were “very lackadaisical, very sloppy on stage” back then, he dares to claim on camera today. Oh, really? Speak for yourself, darling.

Or better still, see for yourselves, everyone else out there, and buy Ladies & Gentlemen: The Rolling Stones for your very own.

We played it. We lived it. Now maybe we can make some money off it.

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