The Rolling Stones’ ‘Rock and Roll Circus’ was a landmark event in rock history as the band called in favours from some of the biggest stars in music. The show, which saw the birth of one-time supergroup The Dirty Mac, teamed up John Lennon, Eric Clapton and Keith Richards to wonderous results. Amid that glory, another wild moment was the debut of Stones classic ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’.
The ‘Rock and Roll Circus’ is unquestionably one of the greatest moments in popular music. The Rolling Stones were nearing the peak of their powers in 1968 when the film was recorded and London was positively pulsating with talent that the band wanted to celebrate by cultivating together for a television special.
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, The Dirty Mac, which steadily increased the chance of being upstaged. However, they needn’t have worried as their performance of ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ shows the band in their full pomp and it is a shame that it took so long for it to see the light of day.
The event, initially conceived by Mick Jagger as an innovative way to promote the new record Beggars Banquet, allowed the band a space to explore unconventional methods and avoid the more formal press conference approach. Jagger got in touch with Michael Lindsay-Hogg, who had previously directed two videos for The Stones, and approached him to make a full-length TV show for them. The idea of Jagger’s was to combine rock music and a circus with the unusual setting coming to him immediately once he began to conjure up ideas.
The Stones performed a 30-minute set in the makeshift Big Top which was actually situated in a TV studio in Wycombe which, admittedly, isn’t as romantic as the film makes out. What was glorious, however, was Jagger and his band who were especially being on fine form, delivering a performance full of his trademark energy. They carried out a blistering six-song set which would see ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ get its first airing which has gone on to become one of their classics and has seen them perform it on a further 753 occasions since.
Another factor that this set was so poignant was that it also marked the last time that Brian Jones played with the band and he died just seven months later. You can also see right at the very end of the video, John Lennon and Yoko Ono are wearing bright capes and loving every moment of watching their contemporaries smashing it well and truly out of the park.
Watch the very special performance below which sadly marked the end of Brian Jones’ tenure with the band as he bowed out with The Stones firmly at the top of their game.