John Lennon, Eric Clapton and Keith Richards combine as The Dirty Mac to perform The Beatles’ ‘Yer Blues’
If you were to pick three of the most prominent artists during the boom of music that emanated from London in the sixties then chances are your list would include at least one of The Beatles’ John Lennon, The Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards and the guitar genius Eric Clapton. In 1968 they all got together for a special show.
Alongside Jimi Hendrix’s Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell, the triumvirate of rock mentioned above came together to form one unfathomably star-studded supergroup and take to the stage for just one performance, singing the Lennon-penned Beatles song ‘Yer Blues’.
It’s hard to imagine these giants of rock and roll standing next to one another on stage, least of all because of the reported rivalry between Richards and Lennon and perhaps most of all because the footage of it happening remained buried for 30 years. But that’s what happened when Lennon was invited to gather together a supergroup to perform at The Rolling Stones’ big event for the year of 1968, ‘The Rock and Roll Circus’.
The ‘Rock and Roll Circus’ was a wild moment in the annals of musical history. The Rolling Stones were nearing the peak of their powers in 1968 and London was positively pulsating with musical talent. Three of the biggest heartbeats in that regard came together on one stage to perform the song ‘Yer Blues’ on Wednesday 11th December in front of a star-studded audience, littered with the icons of the era.
The evening saw the likes of Marianne Faithfull, Taj Mahal and Jethro Tull (appearing with Sabbath’sTony Iommi), plus The Who—who arguably stole the show. But even The Rolling Stones must’ve been a bit worried about including such a behemoth of a supergroup, steadily increasing the chance of being upstaged as they did. It may have been what led to the show being buried in the annals for nearly 30 years before it saw the light of day, or perhaps it was that the Stones were so poor that evening that they intentionally discarded the film.
Nevertheless, Lennon pulled together his group, took the band’s name from a play on the current Pete Green-led band tearing up the London blues circuit, Fleetwood Mac, and went about showing the Stones how it was done. After a brief, and frankly bizarre, exchange with Mick Jagger Lennon joined the band made up of Clapton, Richards on bass and Mitchell on drums to perform the song which had recently feature on The Beatles’ White Album.
The group also backed a venture from Lennon’s partner Yoko Ono as she and violinist virtuoso Ivry Gitlis improvised ‘Whole Lotta Yoko’ during the day’s filming. Afterwards, they put away their instruments and went back to their respective day jobs. It’s difficult when looking at the talent on stage and listening to the searing power with which they performed ‘Yer Blues’, to not dream of the kind of records this supergroup could have made.
After all, Clapton’s Blind Faith and Lennon’s Beatles would be over within 18 months of the supergroup taking the stage, with Lennon even once suggesting Clapton could take the place of George Harrison during a particular Beatles dispute. But the members of the group would never join together again leaving this performance of ‘Yer Blues’ as a reminder of what could have been.
Watch John Lennon, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards and Mitch Mitchell join together as The Dirty Mac to perform ‘Yer Blues’ back in 1968.