The Stones Filmed Live in 2016 and 1972

To avoid disappointment and save yourself literally hundreds of dollars, it's a fine rule of thumb to remember that seeing solo acts, rock bands or even aging jazz stars that you might have loved in the 1960s, '70s, or '80s (can the '90s be far behind?) is almost always an exercise in frustration. That's the beauty of recordings. If they contained inspired music and were well-recorded, they age well. Musicians that were once young and vital . . . not so much.

And then there's the Rolling Stones.

If you can put aside the fact that what was once a rock 'n' roll band has now grown into a merciless money machine, and a somewhat creaky repetitive live act that hasn't made a great record since 1978, they still do deserve a nod for never saying die. To borrow a famous line from Midnight Cowboy, those boys are gonna die on the stage. And yes, we will certainly miss them when they're gone!

In Ole' Ole' Ole', the new film released on DVD and Blu-ray by Eagle Rock Entertainment, these pampered rock stars, who make silly, gratuitous efforts during tour stops to hear local music, are shown cruising through a 2016 tour of South America. Unlike more jaded Anglo-American crowds, the fans there who shout "Ole' Ole' Ole' Richard" at many stops, are still fairly rabid. On the tour's last stop in Havana, the band's first visit, and ostensibly the reason for the film, the first timers dance, sing, cry and give the band what it obviously still needs: tidal waves of applause.

At the end of the film they all audibly ponder off camera why they go on as a band. Ron Wood reckons it's the shared memories that are "the wobbly stuff that keeps us together." But as this film makes clear, it's really the adulation, the applause and oh yes, the money that keeps Keith, Mick, Woody and Charlie on the road in their 70s.

To be fair, the film does have a few telling scenes between these wizened rock owls that bring a smile and are worth viewing. The fanatical Stones fans, more like aging street kids, in Argentina, the "Rolingas," are fun to watch. And Keith and Mick, always a fascinating, turbulent alchemy of human interaction, spend a scene backstage in Brazil talking about writing and playing "Honky Tonk Women" that shows there's still some genuine human emotion between them. Keith, always the warmest-blooded being in the band, has always had a talent for humanizing the cooler, more self-involved Jagger.

"There's no rational thing about human chemistry, especially two blokes coming straight out of Dartford," Richards says "We can irritate each other immensely because we are quite different but at the same time we also know that we've been given this amazing gift between us."

Charlie (who is closing in on 80 years old) and Woody are ghosts in the film, only allowed to speak on-camera for a few brief moments. The band's manager and production chief get more screen time. And the rest of the band—hired guns and excellent musicians like bassist Daryl Jones, keyboard player Chuck Leavell, saxophonist Karl Densonetc—say nothing and appear only in flashes.

While the Stones ca 2017 may play well in South America, it's the Stones when they were young, when they were still cutting edge, like say during the post-Exile years that I and most long-time fans still want to hear. For that, Eagle Rock has also recently released in the US, Ladies and Gentlemen, a CD of the soundtrack to the concert film of the same name.

Although a Blu-ray/DVD videocentric media company, Eagle Rock has also done music CDs and has been releasing a steady stream of important Stones live sets. Releases like the 2012 DVD/CD/double 180 gram LP release of Some Girls (Live In Texas ‘78) or the 2015 DVD/CD/single 180 gram LP release of The Marquee Club (Live in 1971), have better sound than an extent bootlegs of the same shows and are in the history of the band, among their strongest recorded live sets.

Supposedly, a live album taken from the Exile tour was always planned, and even got as far as cover artwork, but was never released. Hard not to wonder where those tapes are today? Conversely, two films Ladies and Gentlemen and Cocksucker Blues were shot during the 1972 tour. The latter effort, Robert Frank's sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll cinéma vérite chronicle of the '72 tour remains out of official circulation, but has been available via bootlegs for many years.

Ladies and Gentlemen has a typically involved Stonesian history. Shot during four Texas shows in 16mm and recorded on 32 tracks, it was sold to investors as an investment property by the band, blown up to 35mm and was shown in the US in Quadrasound. This early attempt at surround sound required a system that had to be transported to each theater and required an on-site mixing engineer to manipulate. Digitally remastered in digital HD in 2010, the film was reacquired by the band and released to theaters and on DVD and Blu-ray. An LP of the soundtrack was released in Europe at the same time. Of all the Stones concert films, this is best, capturing the band at the very peak of its powers. The opening four songs are "Brown Sugar," "Bitch," "Gimme Shelter," and "Dead Flowers." Later on are killer versions of "You Can't Always Get What You Want," "Rip This Joint," and "Sweet Virginia." Guitarist Mick Taylor, the secret weapon of the band during that era, plays amazingly throughout.

The trouble here is that the sound of the CD is flat, compressed and one-dimensional. The balances are bizarre at best and there is weird distortion everywhere, which may be the result of the Quadrasound. Significantly, there are no engineering, mastering or production credits for this release listed in the booklet or the CD tray card.

The ubiquitous Dave Grohl notwithstanding, it's clear that rock music has, for the moment at least, said what it has to say. There currently are no really big rock bands or rock records out there. There was a time however, often referred to in ancient chronicles as the '70s, when rock was king and no one stood higher in the rock pantheon of that sodden decade as The Stones. If you possess the ear-brain skill necessary to blot out bad bootleg sound in favor of performances, then perhaps this is worth having. But this CD, clearly a cheapie afterthought, is a very disappointing document from the band's most memorable tour. See the film. Love Jagger's bejeweled eyes. And Bobby Keys' sax.

dalethorn's picture

My first awareness of the Rolling Stones was via a single by Bobby Jameson ca. 1964, who was backed by members of the group on a one-time gig put together by Andrew Loog Oldham. I came to realize that they were a great white blues band, getting closer to the real thing on tracks like I Can't be Satisfied and Confessin' the Blues, as compared to the Beatles who were more a pop band. Satisfaction, their big breakthrough, was such a huge hit in part because it had strong appeal in Black communities, a fact I discovered in 1967.

But the Stones drifted through a period of pap while the Beatles were doing better, particularly hitting a low point with Satanic Majesties (original title: Her Satanic Majesty Requests). Then things really picked up with blues-oriented tunes like Paint it Black, Jumpin Jack Flash, Honky Tonk Women, Sympathy For The Devil, Midnight Rambler, etc.

Finally as the 60's intensified with the Vietnam War and the Chicago Convention, the Stones were moving inexorably toward the grand climax - the 1969 tour and its finalé at Altamont. The fact that one man with a gun threatening to shoot someone was stabbed by Hells Angels security, wasn't a big deal in terms of criminal play or terror death by bomb or trampling, but it was enormously sensational because of the band and its music. Not only Sympathy For The Devil and its lyrics, but the very dark and threatening tone of Midnight Rambler ("I'll put a fist through your steel-plate door", or "I'll stick my knife right down your throat, baby, and it hurts").

I got out of the military in November, returned to my full-time doper community and communes, got a copy of Live'r Than You'll Ever Be, got up to date on many things in music like Pink Floyd's Ummagumma, and cruised from there to Kent State where I was a participant in May 1970. But the Rolling Stones and their blues were at the core of my music life, right down to the darkest aspects of what they suggested ("I don't care if you're 15 years old - I don't want your ID").

The Stones had some good moments in the 1970's with a few decent blues tunes, and even a great rock-n-roll track called She's So Cold in 1980. But nearly all of their live performances I've heard in recordings were terrible, with bad singing on Jagger's part, with one notable exception - the 1969 live album from their tour, and the Live'r bootleg as well. Mick retained his energy and a certain athleticism well past 50, even 60 possibly, but it never translated to good live vocal performances. Compare him to Roger Daltry or Adam Ant, who were excellent performers beyond 50 years old.

BKinTheBK's picture

Pearl Jam
Foo Fighters
Alabama Shakes
Jack White
Black Keys
Arctic Monkeys
My Morning Jacket
Queens of the Stone Age
Kings of Leon
Sleater Kinney
Soundgarden (until recently)
Drive By Truckers
Flaming Lips
Green Day

Glotz's picture

about a white blues band pap with some good moments or no great records since '78... Utter bullshit.

I am done with Robert's views on music... or record shelving stories. LOL... SUCK PIECE.

Hey, when are you two coming out with new albums? Pfft.

Allen Fant's picture

Nice piece- RB.

1969 was a very good year, indeed, for The Rolling Stones.
Clearly, set them up for the 70's.

PeterG's picture

Agreed with you on the Stones--no true lead guitar without Mick Taylor, no bass player--C'mon, man!

But I've had great success seeing older bands over the past few years. Steely Dan, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Elton John have all been great. For each of these guys, the only age question is "How do they still do it?".