The Rolling Stones have always practised what they preached. While sold-out stadium tours may suggest Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Mick Taylor, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts are a band that champions commercial success over everything else, in reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth. The real nugget at the heart of the Stones is their love of music itself, and there have been moments when we can see the band even caught up in their own wonderful tunes.
We’re taking a look back at some pretty clinical proof of that fact, as we revisit the candid studio footage of Richards, Jagger, Watts and Mick Taylor listening back to the construction of their iconic song, ‘Wild Horses’. It’s a piece of film that shows, underneath all the rock ‘n’ roll bravado and machismo energy, The Rolling Stones were music lovers before anything else.
It’s a curious thing, studio footage, as the old adage goes: ‘Nobody wants to see how the sausage is made’. While that phrase is charmingly grotesque and normally right on the money, there’s something about watching musicians create their work that is utterly enthralling for us as fans. When it’s The Rolling Stones, it’s a whole new thing altogether and this piece of footage captures perhaps the band at their creative peak.
The Rolling Stones were the archetypal rock and roll group. Breaking out of the 1960s blues scene, the group made a name for themselves by paying homage to some of rock and roll’s founding fathers. The duo largely got together because of their mutual love of those very same artists, it was even the reason old school friends Keith Richards and Mick Jagger reconnected. Their fiery performances and sexually charged wit made them the perfect antithesis to the charming and sweet Beatles.
The Stones’ career would take them through unfathomable lows and unreal highs before reaching the present-day ubiquity of all things rock. The band now sell-out stadiums and a still-alarming rate. But if you ever thought that the band were in it just for the paycheque or the notoriety then you need to see the video below.
It’s a clip from Gimme Shelter, a documentary from Charlotte Zwerin, Albert and David Maysles about The Rolling Stones and the tragic events that occurred at the Altamont Free Concert in 1969. To this day it remains one of the best rock and roll documentaries ever made and captures the intensity of the Stones.
The footage sees the band sitting back and admiring their work as they take in the first workings of their epic ballad. Dated to roughly to the 2nd December 1969, it sees the band at the famous Muscle Shoals Sounds Studio in Alabama. The track would only be released on Sticky Fingers over a year later after legal issues with the band’s former label held back the track. You can tell from the video it certainly wasn’t the band holding the song back.
Instead, you see a band completely in sync with their vision. Another song that spoke of lonesome travelling saw the band living their truth. The candid moments of reflection of the song captured below are sincere and authentic. Mick Jagger smiles through camera lens scrutiny, Charlie Watts seems pleased with himself despite the lack of his usual swing on percussion and a young Mick Taylor looks seemingly content to be involved having only just joined the band and become part of the legacy a few weeks prior.
However, the real joy of this clip comes from the images of Keith Richards. The enigmatic guitarist, likely under some kind of influence, floats between worlds while he casually sings the track and taps his snakeskin boots. It’s an incredible image that typifies the man. Richards later said that the song is a quintessential Stones track: “Everyone always says this was written about Marianne but I don’t think it was; that was all well over by then. But I was definitely very inside this piece emotionally.”
Richards added: “If there is a classic way of Mick and me working together this is it. I had the riff and chorus line, Mick got stuck into the verses. Just like ‘Satisfaction’, ‘Wild Horses’ was about the usual thing of not wanting to be on the road, being a million miles from where you want to be.”
It is this longing and sadness that the band enjoy with a knowing smile in the footage below. So, if you’re ever faced with someone claiming The Rolling Stones are over-inflated sell-outs, then just point them back to this video.
It’ll show them how deeply The Rolling Stones loved making music and how grateful they were they could do it.