Wednesday 30 June 2021





she bleeds from the eyes 
in the painting on the hotel wall 
a trickle of pigment stain 
smears her cheek and neck, 
through bleeding eyes she watches 
the sketch perfectly aligned 
on the opposite wall 
of the sleeping girl 
with blue butterfly hair, 
they watch each other 
across the hotel room 
where illicit lovers snatch 
moments of fleeting paradise, 
married one-time lovers 
now sleep back-to-back, 
lonely travellers jerk-off to 
internet porn, drunks throw up, 
junkies take pharmaceutical trips, 
suicides weep into the night and 
the sad Polish maid dreams of Kraków, 
she bleeds from the eyes 
in the painting on the hotel wall, 
watched by the sleeping girl 
with blue butterfly hair 

Featured online at: 
(13 November 2019)

Tuesday 29 June 2021

Rolling Stones Live At Roundhay Park, Leeds









The Rolling Stones, with The J Geils Band and 
The Joe Jackson Band play Leeds Roundhay Park. 
I was there to take its pulse, and check for life-signs

When the Sex Pistols finally bust wide open John Lydon (Rotten) pronounced the end of the ‘Rolling Stones of the Eighties’. He was wrong. The Rolling Stones are the Rolling Stones of the Eighties. The Stones are a phenomenon. Like an eclipse, an earthquake, or a tidal wave. Something that occurs naturally, has the potential to transfigure all within range, but the effects of which remain imprecise and defy encapsulation in words. Music comes into it only slightly. Their mythology, longevity, and importance is – in this sense, a phenomenon, but by no means necessarily a musical one. 

If their role in 1982 is talismanic, here in Leeds is where that history and myth must collide with now. 

SF writer Harry Harrison once guesstimated that if everyone alive on this planet were to stand heel-to-toe they’d cover an area equal to the island of Zanzibar. That might look rather like Roundhay Park looks now. I spend the entire George Thoroughgood set sat in a miles-long auto-tailback breathing lead-impregnated air caught up in this human avalanche converging on this place, and taking it all in – yes, it’s an impressive gathering – but oddly so. Like that version of some ‘Stand On Zanzibar’-future this is a mass of largely clean, polite, deodorised, civilised, so respectable people. The fashion-dummy weirdo count is low. A token sprinkling of Mohican ‘n’ leathers, a small percentage joints, long ratty hair ‘n’ granny-glasses, but the majority are passively non-denominational. Some nubiles and not-so-nubiles in very little clothes prompt sexist reactions very inappropriate to such a Family outing atmosphere.

I get inside the Press Cage patrolled by Security gorilla’s, rumour thereabouts is Jagger ain’t arrived, others say he’s backstage playing table-tennis with Jimmy Savile. Five ruthlessly efficient rent-a-thug pass-checks discourage me from finding out either way. The surrounding geography is natural amphitheatre with the Hill-Sixty embankment sloping down in perfect audience tiered elevation to enhance visibility. Children on a strict parental leash play in and around tree-shadows and bushy undergrowth. They’re largely unimpressed by the occasion. Or by the Police and Security men evicting (by a combination of cajoling and threat) a thin line of freebie squatters mounting the sloping grey-tiled roof of a nearby Summer House. It provides them with a far more interesting spectacle than the geriatrics posturing on the extravagant stage. I’m no schoolboy but I know what I like…

The sun pours down like buttermilk for Joe Jackson to largely win over the audience with his so-far unblooded, untried, new keyboard-based band. He goes back as far as his early “Sunday Papers” hit, then uses “It’s Different For Girls” as a tasty duet vehicle with Julie, a glockenspiel chiming behind them. ‘I didn’t think we’d pull this many people’ he quips guilelessly, shading his eyes to take it all in. Then they do some songs from the current ‘Night And Day’ (1982) album, including “Target” and “TV Age” with Joe on sax. He emphasises the lyrics ‘in the Stone-age, we all got Rocks in our head…’ 

Then there’s a long pause filled with bland American AOR. It’s already getting claustrophobic in the privileged confines of the royal Press Enclosure, so it’s walkabout time, comparisons storming. Thinking Bob Dylan’s Blackbushe Aerodrome Hippies Graveyard (July 1978) – surely an analogous cultural manifestation? that was all brown rice ‘n’ herb, all street theatre groups, psychedelic buses ‘n’ tepee’s, each stall unfurling its phantasmagoric ware of rare precious and beautiful bootlegs, CND and alternative-art texts, hand-carved jewellery and exotic drugs. Here, it’s all red-blood materialism – we got kebabs, curries, real meat hamburgers, pancakes, German sausages, Mexican chilli, pizzas, fruit, filled potatoes and soft drinks. And we got strictly licensed merchandising. Stones posters and flags, Stones programmes and sweat-shirts, Stones badges and patches. Altamont it ain’t. Today no-one gets stabbed, worst thing that happens is you get overcharged for a rather cruddy T-shirt. And over it all that endlessly boring digitally recorded L.A. soft-rock blands on – is this REALLY the company they choose to keep? Less Street-Fighting Men with Devilish Sympathies, more West Coast Under-Assistant Promo-Man…

The J Geils Band strive to confirm your direst suspicions, by contriving an hour-long wet fart of faddy ephemera, flim-flam and self-indulgence, a brashly athletic homogenised flavourless flatulence, an airborne detergent composed of the expected hits blended with easily digestible lumps of vintage sixties Soul pulped into good-timey inoffensive mush. They do the Showstopper’s “Nothin’ But A Houseparty”, Wilson Pickett’s “Lookin’ For A Love”, and the Supremes’ “Where Did Our Love Go?” which succeed only in freeze-framing their paucity of originality. Peter Wolf raps in largely incomprehensible jive rhyme, which he drops long enough to gush ‘We’d like to thank the Rolling Stones for inviting us so far,’ then they conjure a circus acrobat’s pyramid with Wolf, Magic Dick (mouth harp), and guitarist Geils himself as the lower tier. Seth Justman (keyboards) and Danny Klein (bass) above. Topped by drummer Stephen Bladd squatting at its apex raising his fists in bragging self-congratulation. Then they’re gone, leaving no taste at all. 

I watch up-and-down the l-o-n-g stage as Roadies vacuum its panoramic length and the video screen is assembled above them on spiderworks of scaffolding. To their left there’s the phallic sausage-car and the sexy Eiffel Tower flying-‘V’ guitar, as on the live album sleeve. On the right there’s a big blue zig-zaggy sax and a constellation of Miro-esque liquorice discs. The two drapes connected by a shabby rainbow bridge of balloons. The sun goes in and a breeze gets up. The PA syncs at last – and barrages a spectrum of Yardbirds, Hendrix, “Anarchy In The UK”, Chuck Berry, Free, “London Calling”, Eddie Cochran – this might be the Stones museum phase, but THIS is the company they SHOULD be keeping. 

‘Each person an island within his own nostalgia’ wrote ‘Oz’ editor Richard Neville after the Stones’ Hyde Park free bash. Me, I’ve seen the Stones now in each of their evolutionary phases. I saw ‘em play to two-hundred at Bridlington Spa Theatre circa 1964 with Brian Jones, intense anarchic art-school R&B, elitist, purist, the anger of frustrated energy screwed down tight, raw and violent with a loutish sexuality and an amphetamine burn of painful amplification. I saw ‘em a decade back at Leeds University when Mick Taylor had already etched his vibrant block-chords onto their ‘Kings of the Underground’ albums, ‘Sticky Fingers’ (1971) and ‘Exile On Main Street’ (1972). Then they seem cynical, demonic, menacingly depraved, narcissistically narcotic, dangerously decadent. But even then they were facing the underswell of a newer less sardonically mocking glam generation. Preparing to accept their less ambitious ‘Only Rock and Roll But I Like It’ role for the seventies.

6pm sharp and the rainbow-bridge fragments, balloons cascade upwards everywhichway, and the Rolling Stones are on stage. “Under My Thumb”, “When The Whip Comes Down”, and “Let’s Spend The Night Together” before the sound gells and gets into step. “Shattered”, “Neighbours” and ‘an old Blues song’ “Black Limousine” before the pacing crystallises. Then “Just My Imagination” comes as near-perfect as the Stones will ever be live, and you simultaneously let it sluice all over you, and start to separate out its parts. Jagger is stage-centre, and that’s as should be. He’s the focus for the entire projection, red headband, technicolor pants, yellow knee-sox, leopard-skin jacket. He’s no longer remotely threatening, no menace or fin de siécle subversion, unless you count ‘I don’t wanna be anybody’s doormat, I don’t wanna be shit on, shoved about. I don’t want to be no-one’s Beast Of Burden ny-ther.’ And later on just the hint of sarcasm when he leers ‘I know there’s a bit of wind, blowing the sound down towards the centre a-town,’ delivered to cosy laughter. But more he’s the grotesque comic jester, his actions so mannered they’re absurd, like he’s deliberately sabotaging himself through a more exaggeratedly garish caricature than his most boorish TV parodist would ever dare, and he’s ridiculing the punters for buying it, and for gullibly taking in the whole outlandishly ludicrous premise on which it operates. Yet he’s also magnetic, mesmerising, trapping all eyes. It’s showbiz, it’s performance, but they don’t come more charismatic.

His vocals on Cochran’s fifties opus “Twenty-Flight Rock” are ragged. And once “Going To A Go-Go” and “Baby Please Let Me Go” have passed effortlessly he’s into ‘the chic part of the show’ – his first costume change. A blue jacket and red beanie hat to attempt the Stones’ first ever US Top Ten hit “Time Is On My Side”. By every objective criterion it’s a disaster, its slow churchy pacing hunting out every inadequacy in his range, bending the melody to accommodate those notes he can no longer reach. But it don’t really matter any more. He might not be the apoca-lips he once was, but it’s still clearly The Singer Not The Song. His clownish stagecraft is slyly exacting and no-one gets short-changed. 

Bill Wyman is stood immobile behind him in blue unzipped tracksuit. It’s easy for him to get eclipsed. And Charlie Watts stays near-invisible behind the gantry of amplification stacks. But it comes apparent that their combined primitive rhythmic strength is by no means slight. The Stones sound is unique, and a large part of it rests on the steady reliable organic interaction twixt bass and drums. If anything of the early Route 66 Chicago Blues (or even Croydon Blues) raunch remains it’s to be found here in their constantly thunderous gangling millstone grit. And it lays down the tight base for the essential looseness all around, making it possible, giving it shape and anchoring it to form. It allows the long improvisations to be spun out around Jagger’s callisthenics on “Beast Of Burden”, where he mounts a hydraulic lift and gets shunted out over the audience heads, then dances back along the catwalk scything a ritual bucketful of water in campy tease over the sea of collectively perspiring faces.

Then he goes into dilettantishly slow balletics as Ronnie Wood plays in “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” on a gleaming steel guitar. Ronnie don’t move around much, adds harmonies here and there as required, largely stands to stage left with Surf-white sleeveless jacket over blood-red shirt, as Jagger co-ordinates various sections of the mob in community singing. ‘Get yer lungs and yer hearts out and we’ll do this one together.’ 

Keith’s trademark lurches and shambles, are by contrast, hyperactive, healthy – even paunchy, and competing for frontman status by playing out rough-hewn guitar-lead along the full length of the elevated platform, then with radio mic to take it even further. He grates the vocals for “Little T And A” hunched in around his axe in denim-dark jacket with Stones logo-flash down his spine, and comes through every inch the ravaged hero even without Jagger’s sense of immaculate presence. No more the World’s Most Elegantly Wasted HumanTM, but something of that aura hangs on tenaciously, like burrs. He started out with three or four appropriated Chuck Berry runs, and two decades on he’s still determinedly advanced no further, still as crude, still fumbling the run-in to “Honky Tonk Women”. There’s ten local band guitarists in Leeds and twice that number in Sheffield technically 10,000 light years ahead of him, not that it matters. This is Keef. Bum notes figure large in his legend, operating on the Gerald Ford falling-over-gets-you-acceptance principle.

Jagger emotes ‘Angie – when will those clouds all disappear?’, and as the perfect punchline the sun breaks through like a red belisha spotlight on the vamping gesticulating sometime Lucifer, veins stood out like cables on his neck. He headstands and rolls down the ramp as gross theatrical interpretation to a churning “Tumbling Dice”. Then there’s “She’s So Cold”, “Hang Fire”, and Wyman’s finest bass-pumping on an excellent “Miss You”, Jagger joining on guitar. Behind him there’s Ian Stewart’s piano, and a tight American brass section, Jack Lavell from Macon on additional keyboards, Gene Bruge from Chicago on sax, and the brilliant Bobby Keys from Texas taking the gut-twisting solo on “Brown Sugar”. 

It’s close on two hours before they run up to climax with “Start It Up” and “Jumping Jack Flash”. Midway Jagger, now topless, Dachau-thin and androgynously hairless, produces a huge Union Jack to wear like a cape, hurtling up and down the canvas like some fake grounded Superman, casting it aside derisively as if there really is an anti-establishment content left to the whole spectacle – instead of the smugly patronising façade you keep suspecting. There’s an encore, the only number they could possibly do, a shabbily breathless “Satisfaction” with Jagger reappearing from a hole in the tapestry onto the hydraulic grab back down to the ground. Then the whole thing detonates with “Land Of Hope And Glory” roaring from the speakers, drowned out by a blindingly iridescent firework blitz. You kind-of hope it’s meant to be derisive, but keep getting sneaky suspicions there’s more – or less, to it than that. Flags and anthems are for spitting on, perhaps Their Satanic Majesties forget?

‘Relevance’ has a lot to do with the buzz in the air, a lot to do with the subjective perception of critics, a lot to do with saying the right thing at the right time to the right person. It is stance and often pose. It is the indefinable pulse of something elusive. It can’t be quantified with any degree of objectivity. But judged impartially ‘relevance’ must also have something to do with what is ‘relevant’ to people’s lives. Tonight’s community disintegrates across acres of garbage and pulverised flowerbeds, and in the Aftermath kids with black bin-liners collect returnable bottles in a spirit of Free Enterprise Jagger might smile on. But, twenty-five numbers they’ve done (count ‘em!), and I could list twenty-five more equally essential texts they missed. And it was, above and beyond all else, an EVENT. A victory, if a rather ragged, vaguely dog-eared one. Dinosaurian they might be, Out Of Time, talisman of dead decades, but Roundhay Park proves… confirms, that they are also relevant to the lives of more people now, and have been with greater intensity over a longer period and in more global areas than just about anyone else you could lay a tongue to. 

That means a lot… 

Published in: 
(1982 – Ireland)




(DVD, Eagle Vision) 

I was there, in the press enclosure at Leeds Roundhay Park, 25 July 1982. I taped this concert on cassette. Driving home afterwards my in-car tape machine chews it up and spits it to shreds. Now – at last, I’ve got the perfect digital-quality replacement. I wandered around the backstage cage but the rent-a-thugs kept it tight, the talk was that Jagger was playing table-tennis with Jimmy Savile who lived just across from Roundhay. They don’t brag about that now. There’s a rainbow-balloon arch over the stage, a red flying-v guitar stacked Eiffel Tower-wise, and a huge blue cartoon sax. From “Under My Thumb” – Jagger’s jester costume with yellow-stripe codpiece and ‘MICK’ on the back, as if we need telling. A bemused Wyman – yes, he’s still there, with minimalist black bass and white headband. Ian Stewart with plastic beer carton close to hand on his piano. Keef, chain-smoking and dangerously Punk. Ronnie’s whiplash grin like he still can’t believe his luck, closing with Keith for harmonies, playing off each other. It’s tuneless, rough, ragged, absurdly posturing, lyrics reduced to nonsense slogans, but uniquely shifted outside of every mainstream critique into a singularity of their own. Beyond comparison, because there’s literally no-one else. A force of nature, recharged by five tracks from ‘Tattoo You’ (August 1981), including Bobby Keys’ muscular sax on “Neighbours” and a brutal climaxing “Start Me Up”. It’s only Rock ‘n’ Roll after all, but I like it. 

And I look, but no, I can’t see myself. 

Published in: 
‘R2: ROCK ‘N’ REEL Vol.2 Issue 56’ 
(UK – March 2016)



‘LIVE IN ‘75’ DVD 

Review of: 
L.A. FORUM (LIVE IN 1975)’ 


Own up, the Stones have always been inconsistent. After a series of careers-best albums from ‘Beggars Banquet’ to ‘Exile On Main Street’, the 1970s saw an abrupt quality decline with ‘Goats Head Soup’ the first of a run of bummers – at least until ‘Some Girls’ (1978) resurrected their relevance. The onset of Glam wrong-footed them into a loss of confidence, Jagger in sequins and sailor suit was missing the point. And Mick Taylor was gone. The press lay odds about Jeff Beck, or even Eric Clapton replacing him, but they go for the safe pair of hands with Ronnie Wood. It’s he who coined the ‘It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll, But I Like It’ attitude which seems just a little close to surrender. This 1975 American tour was Ronnie’s try-out as a Stone. And as Richard Havers liner-notes point out, the Glimmer Twins had just tipped the dangerous thirty age barrier. A lot was a stake. The 44-date tour took in five nights at the L.A. Forum. This DVD – with two CD’s, in its lavish fold-out pack, documents the 12 July set.

Opening with the grandiose pomp of ‘Fanfare For The Common Man’, Jagger is pretty in pink, primped and preening. The cameras follow his preposterous bum-wriggling even when Keith is singing “Happy”. Keith – before Jack Sparrow took him, is night-black and crouched like a Z. Ronnie in all-over red, with wink-hat. Bill like a rhinestone cowboy. Billy Preston in huge Afro, slipping in sly keyboard quotes. Jagger’s voice is tunelessly shot, redeemed on new stuff such as the ‘young lady who went astray’ at the core of the euphemistically retitled “Star Star”. The Stones always were inconsistent, but they’ve still got the greatest back-catalogue in Rock to draw on. 

Published in: 
‘R2: ROCK ‘N’ REEL Vol.2 Issue 50’ 
(UK – March)

Monday 28 June 2021

Rolling Stones: Two DVDs




DVD Review of: 
(2006 – VDC Group, Fabulous Films/ Fremantle FHED1937/A)

No, not Jean-Luc Picard – Jean-Luc Godard, the French Nouvelle Vague director. That is, New Wave director. And just because this movie says ‘The Rolling Stones’ across the box, Jean-Luc saw no reason to regard this as anything less than a Godard picture. After all, he is the real creative intelligence here, surely? He is the star. And the Stones are equally aware of it. They never wanted a counterpart to the Beatles ‘Let It Be’ (1970) movie. They wanted Godard’s radical art-chic credentials to invest, adorn and burnish their own extreme persona. They both – the Stones and Godard, saw themselves as dangerous insurrectionists, largely through their carefully chosen – but safely distanced affiliations. The reflected association flatters them both. Their image. Their self-image. So this film celebrates the coming together of two vital divergent forces of radicalism, Godard’s cine intellectualism and the Stones dandified Chicago Blues. And although the resulting movie catches neither of them at their finest, it’s what it represents that it’s all about. 

For Godard, this was his first film in English. But his anti-Hollywood – yet strangely Hollywood-fixated movies had already ripped up the script by inserting slogans, voice-overs, dislocations, speed, cynicism and the romance of existential terrorist. For him, famously, a movie should have a beginning, a middle, and an end, but not necessarily in that order. ‘Le Mėpris (Contempt)’ (1963) with Brigitte Bardot, and ‘Une Femme Est Une Femme’ (1961) with his wife and muse Anna Karina, were his most mainstream concoctions. ‘A Bout De Souffle (Breathless)’ (1959) his best-known. But ‘Alphaville’ (1965) had transfigured Paris into a futuristic noir megacity merely by artful selection and editing. And ‘Weekend’ (1967) destroys narrative in ways that Spanish surrealist Luis Bunuel would surely recognise, ending with the uncompromising statement ‘Fin du cinėma’. To critics, he’s perpetrating what they might call semiotics, deconstruction, scrambling of visual signals, creating a breeding ground for jargon and theory. Others might call it contrived and pretentious…? 

For the Stones, the album ‘Beggar’s Banquet’ (December 1968) represented a return to form after the critically divisive psychedelic excesses of ‘Their Satanic Majesties’ (December 1967). And as well as providing the movie’s central focus song – “Sympathy For The Devil”, its twelve inches of black vinyl also includes the urgent dissatisfaction of “Street-Fighting Man” which catches the tear-gas flavour of the time better than just about anything else (as if Pete Doherty had the gumption or nerve to celebrate the recent Paris riots), the desolate beauty of the slide-guitar-driven “No Expectations”, as well as the sluttish, lascivious (and possibly paedophile) prowl of “Stray Cat Blues”.

And lyrically “Sympathy For The Devil” is one of their most ambitious songs, as though they’re really trying. The Beatles might have been advocating ‘Love Love Love’, but the Stones ‘rode a tank, held a General’s rank/ when the blitzkrieg raged and the bodies stank…’, yet during its endless recording in the Barnes ‘Olympic Studio’ there’s long periods of aimless tedium and bored strumming. Keith slumps on the floor, immaculately dissolute. Mick perches on a high stool flexing his flexible lyric-book. Charlie is boxed-off in a drum-booth. Bill looks bored. Brian sits in striped pants strumming his guitar, so into himself his eyes are closed oblivious to everything around him, his head swaying to his own internal rhythms (‘…the guitar players look damaged/ they’ve been outcast all their lives…’). The movie charts the long slow process of the track’s evolution, from the first vague chords picked out on guitar, through percussive breaks, to Marianne and Anita sharing a mic to dub on the ooo-ooo’s, as Charlie stands aside disdainfully.

Then Godard adds the simultaneous dialogue overlaps that contradict and disrupt the narrative. With Sean Lynch’s pseudo-William Burroughs drone standing in for the Last Poets rap on Jagger’s movie ‘Performance’ (August 1970). Providing a voiced-over pulp novel of gangster sex, drugs and sci-fi which contributes sound-interference in the same way that the spray-can graffiti-slogans add politically enticing word-grid equations. Mao crossed with Art. Hilton crossed with Stalin (at a time when Soviet Premiers were trendier than tacky porn-heiresses). CineMarxism. SovietCong. And sequences with chapter headings such as ‘Outside Black Novel’ or ‘Inside Black Syntax’ where a black militant sits in a rusted wheelbarrow amid mounds of wrecked cars reading pseudo-profundities about ‘revolutionary warfare’, and ‘the taking of political power’ into a big reel-to-reel tape recorder. There’s off-screen gunfire as they execute white hostages.

Then there’s a jump-cut to another unconnected sequence, an ‘All About Eve’ pastoral idyll with a camera-crew stalking and interrogating a monosyllabic girl who gives yes/no responses to ‘marijuana does something to the sense of time, it accelerates it,’ ‘on LSD you begin to die,’ or ‘orgasm is the only moment when you can’t cheat life.’ ‘The only way to be an intellectual revolutionary’ he persists, ‘is to give up being an intellectual…’ Switching abruptly to a garish collage of ‘Men’s Action Magazines’ – ‘King’, ‘Nugget’, ‘Adam’, ‘Parade’ and ‘Duke’, their covers slashed with story-titles such as ‘Slaves Of Sin’, ‘I Gave My Body To Hitler’ or ‘The World’s Gooviest Groupie’. They’re all suspended in a tatty bookshop where the bookseller reads aloud from ‘Mein Kampf’ and purchasers give Nazi salutes… 

But does it all mean anything? other than a confused image-jumble sampling confused times. What critic Philip French calls ‘a deliberately incoherent work’ that ‘embraces the madness of the sixties’. And how does it relate to what the Stones were doing? It doesn’t, except that the Stones albums perform a similar function. They are counter-culture irritants. They know all about pose and intellectual games. Of course, the Stones were always sharp enough to realise that hipness equates with blackness, and they never deviated far from that principle. Clear through to their later video for “Waiting For A Friend”. Here it leads them into a flirtation with Black Power – the ‘black united front’, with guns and revolution. And within that, you can see the roots leading all the way from here to Altamont. But that’s another DVD…

‘Sympathy For The Devil: The Theatrical Release’
with ‘One + One: The Directors Cut’ Cupid Productions Ltd, 30 November 1968 (under its original title ‘One Plus One’. Directed by Jean-Luc Godard, photographed by Tony Richmond. With The Rolling Stones as themselves, Anne Wiazemski, Francoise Pascal, Joanna David, Monica Walters. 

On Website: 
(June 2006)




DVD Review of: 

There was tacit agreement during the sixties that the Rolling Stones could never be the world’s biggest band while the Beatles were still around. Hence all they had to do was outlast the Fab Four, then they’d assume the position by default. The strategy was seriously shaken by the loss of Brian Jones, although his death happened during their greatest ever run of albums – from ‘Beggars Banquet’ (December 1968) to ‘Exile On Main Street’ (May 1972). But, as the seventies took hold, with Mick Taylor gone and Ronnie Wood still finding his feet through some decidedly dodgy albums, there were newer and bigger bands around, like Led Zeppelin, then Guns ‘n’ Roses. Although Punk sent shockwaves through Rock it helped the Stones reconnect with their unwashed-bratty origins to result in a renewed run of fine albums from ‘Some Girls’ (June 1978) to ‘Undercover’ (November 1983). Although “Undercover Of The Night” was no more a political protest than “Brown Sugar” was anti-slavery. But meanwhile, there were other stadium-filling contenders, U2 and REM. 

‘Voodoo Lounge’ (July 1994), the Stones’ twentieth studio album in July 1994, was in many ways their final mainstream shot for relevance, while they still considered themselves contenders. It was their first since Bill Wyman stepped down, their first through a crafty Virgin-records hook-up, and with Don Was co-producing with the Glimmer Twins. The seedy-moody lead single, “Love Is Strong” was gifted with a powerful high-profile monochrome MTV-video directed by David Fincher, with a giant Keith Richards striding above New York City wielding his guitar. The ‘sadly romantic’ “Out Of Tears” is a keyboard-led Jagger-weepy at its best. While “New Faces”, with its harpsichord echo back to “Lady Jane”, seems a knowing recognition of the Stones longevity, as Jagger ruefully watches the ‘slip of a youth’ drawing the attention of his woman, with the ‘insolent stare’ that was once his own trademark. That the album was the first not to spin off a major hit single, despite healthy sales, proves another signifier of shifting times.

Yet here in the Miami heat – the Joe Robbie Stadium 25 November 1994, Whoopi Goldberg is in no doubt that the band she’s introducing is the world’s best. This DVD runs to the full 150-minute concert, plus twenty-four minutes of bonus tracks, with Whoopi there back on stage for the closing encore “Jumping Jack Flash”. But first, Jagger in red frockcoat opens with ‘I wanna tell you how it’s gonna be’ rewinding to the fused Buddy Holly-Bo Diddley beginnings of it all with “Not Fade Away”. I’ve seen the Stones tired, ragged and frayed, I’ve seen them loose and going through the motions. Here they’re tight and sharp, jolted with an EM-spike of visceral reanimated energies, on top form, athletic, embracing their history, but shoving it all forward. They do their first ‘ancient’ no.1 “It’s All Over Now” from Bobby Womack, who passed June 2014. ‘Ronnie’s done this with two bands’ comments Jagger, and yes, the Faces did it too. Ronnie winces, smokes a fag, closes his eyes and grimaces as he pulls licks from his guitar. 

‘We thought to do something untried, something completely different, something we’ve never done before’ jives Jagger, ‘then we thought….’ as Keith plays-in the “Satisfaction” riff. Sheryl Crow joins for “Live With Me” – ‘I forgot to give her the flowers’ simpers Jagger, ‘what’ll she think of me?’ Robert Cray comes on for Robert Johnson’s “Stop Breaking Down”, then the greatest of them all, a genuinely mesmerising Bo Diddley with his own “Who Do You Love?” ‘Our first tour of England in 1963 was with the Everly Brothers, Little Richard… and Bo’ rewinds Jagger. ‘Yeh, tell ya, I enjoyed that one. Now I’m really wiped out.’ There are moods, but the Stones have always honed in on their core cleaving towards black music, to low-rent sex and hard-core sleaze. As late as “Start Me Up” in 1981 – their last UK top ten hit, and no.2 in the States, they were getting away with sneaking ‘you make a dead man cum’ into the fade. And bonus track “I Can’t Get Next To You” is a Temptations song done in an Al Green style. With Charlie’s rhythms as the cohesion for it all.

They take the long walk down to the B-stage for a three-song acoustic set – “Angie”, impossibly reducing the stadium down to small-club intimacy, Jagger on guitar for ‘a country song’ called “Dead Flowers”, and harmonica for “Sweet Virginia”, taking their Americana into the heart of America. There’s a solid four-guitar line-up for “I Go Wild”, Jagger in full voodoo garb for “Sympathy For The Devil”, and a Chuck Berry intro to “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll”. 

The Honky-Tonk man Keith sings “Before They Make Me Run” and “The Worst” against Ronnie’s aching dobro. Keith wears Whoopi’s velvet coat ‘off her back’ and grins mischievously into the camera. Jagger stoops to pick a thrown red rose. ‘Yes, it’s a glamorous life’ he mocks as he cleans spill from the stage floor. As the huge studded tongue lolls across the screen above them, the global highest brand-recognition logo, locked into Cyberworld stage design inspired by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava with struts, arcs, scaffolding and bridges. Even though there are new faces. The set gets enriched by fat sax solos from ‘our old friend’ Bobby Keys, who passed December 2014, ‘another goodbye to another good friend’. Backing vocalist Lisa Fischer is delightful in white shorts and leopard-print knee-boots, with a Jagger #Metoo booty moment. Darryl Jones’ white bass defines the big production number “Miss You”. While Chuck Leavell does the keyboard fills once done by Ian Stewart, who passed December 1985. And South African back-up voice Blondie Chaplin, who was briefly a Beach Boy.

There are cult ‘Nuggets’ freak-beat garage-bands with high-priced cult-collectable singles of awesome power. But there’s so many throw-away Stones ‘B’-sides that we take for granted with greater snotty-energy, any one of them strong enough to embed a career. Beat-up, torn and frayed with more last hurrahs to come, they’re still a dirty slap in the face of the slickly-processed over-produced twenty-first century. Oddly, the Stones are finally the biggest Rock ‘n’ Roll band in the world at a time when it means very little, having outlasted every other major rival – unless you count people like Metallica who are festival-massive but mean little or nothing to the outside world. There may be no more global Rock heroes, but everyone knows the Rolling Stones. 

‘Give thanks’ says Keith, ‘I know I do.’

Published in: 
‘R’N’R: ROCK ‘N’ REEL Vol.2 no.73’ 
 (UK – January/February 2019) 
Featured online at: 
(6 April 2019) 

Rolling Stones DVD & Book




Review of:
(August 2007 – Liberation Entertainment LIB6112)

Can the Rolling Stones’ story be conveyed through image as much as music? Surely those who pay to see the antique relic’s ‘Bigger Bang’ tour only do so to glimpse ghosts of former glory? Whatever music is involved – perfunctory tribute-band umpteenth-regurgitations of “Satisfaction”, must be incidental rather than central to the experience. Andrew Loog Oldham’s vital contribution to the scam was to seize on the group’s surly visual power from the beginning, and to mould it into a durable rough-trade contra-Beatles brand, a highly-marketable identity refined and ultimately pared down into the ubiquitous protruding-tongue logo. But is that enough? This DVD, a smaller and more modest ‘bang’, succeeds in relating the full arc of ‘Their Satanic Majesties’ career devoid of a single note of original music. You want the hits and clips? go to the excellent 130-minute ‘25x5: The Continuing Adventures Of The Rolling Stones’ (originally CMV Ents, 1989) which has them all. 

By contrast, this is purely voice-over, enhanced by an assemblage of public-domain newsreel items and film of theatrefulls of screamage teens – and it was theatres then, not stadiums. Study the swaggering insolence without the distraction of block-chord riffs. Or hear Jagger’s educated articulate sneer out of the context of lyrics. This – after all, as much as the Gered Mankowitz portfolio of feral tour photo-studies, conjures the inflammatory alchemy the Stones contrived during their ascent, an iconography of images plundered and replicated by generations of bands since. Of course, it couldn’t possibly last. But it did. While the Beatles always had the edge when it came to cutesy girlie fan-mags, it was the Stones more confrontationally rebellious stance which became the default setting for US garage-Punk bands from the Chocolate Watch Band on. With Brian’s damaged stoned smile as an integral asset. Wherever the sixties were not Fab, they were Rolling Stoned. Then the New York Dolls were one Mick Jagger backed up by three Keith Richards. Aerosmith’s Steve Tyler sought to out-pout Jagger. The Stone Roses Ian Brown took and remodelled the pout, while Primal Scream attempted a total artful replication.

This DVD re-tells the familiar tale efficiently. Mick and Keith meeting on the platform of Dartford Rail station in October 1961. Brian Jones’ forming his Blues Band, and the group living ‘in squalor’ on Jagger’s student grant at Edith Grove SW10. Oldham moving Ian Stewart back-stage because his image was wrong. John and Paul gifting them “I Wanna Be Your Man”. Brian becoming marginalised within his own band as Mick & Keith’s writing partnership develops. The hits. The pissing against the garage wall. Now we shrug – yeah, Rock ‘n’ Roll life-style. But it wasn’t like that then. We forget how fast things were changing. As a positive example to the ‘kids’, Elvis never publicly drank or smoked. Cliff neither. The Beatles indulged in their ‘ciggies’. But the ‘b’-side of the Stones second single was titled “Stoned” – pretty risqué even considered as a pun on the group’s name. They followed it with teasing references to “Mother’s Little Helpers”. So when the ‘Redlands’ bust and Jagger-in-handcuffs photos hit the tabloids it was far more than just another tedious Peter Doherty escapade, it was seismically breaking new ground for Pop-culture. Seeing this newsreel stuff now captures something of that moral panic.

A ‘Pathe News’ cine-sequence illustrating their appearance at the Hull ABC cinema on a bill with the Mojos, and Ike & Tina Turner, a visit to my home city which I remember well. Another, ‘The Stones Roll In’, documenting the ‘frantic and disorderly’ arrival of the ‘shaggy-haired’ reprobates at Sydney airport for their 1965 Australian tour. There are no original to-camera Stones to narrate the tale as talking heads, but journalist Chris Welch was there at the time, writing for ‘Melody Maker’ through the Swinging London hits, and he adds knowing – if scarcely revelatory comments. Paul Gambaccini fills in during that amazing run of albums that go from ‘Beggar’s Banquet’ (December 1968) to ‘Exile On Main Street’ (May 1972) when the band were literally the finest most dangerous thing around. 

If Redlands was the establishment’s revenge, and Altamont was the counter-culture’s Faustian reckoning, both were feeding as much on the Stone’s image-threat as on their music. Grace Slick – who was there, told me Jagger was wearing a devil’s costume at Altamont. He wasn’t. But in the intensity of the event, that’s the way she saw it. That’s how powerful the demonic vibe was. There’s also spoken-word contributions from a youthful-looking David Hepworth of ‘The Word’ who talks about growing up the fifties, but surely must only have been there for the Ronnie Wood tax-exile career-low through to the brief resurgence of ‘Some Girls’ (June 1978), and even ‘Voodoo Lounge’ in 1994 . But if we don’t get to hear any of the music, it runs as a subliminal soundtrack in your brain, surely even those born twenty years after the hits know them all anyway. 

Among the generous selection of bonus cine-featurettes is a dayglo-colour ‘Pathe Pictorial’ exploration of those lost Swinging London days done in the manner of an Attenborough ‘Strange Planet’ wildlife doc. Explaining the phenomenon of ‘swinging youth’ – ‘this strange and disturbing generation’, these weird new creatures, mutant and exotic with their radiant garb and incomprehensible language. It’s essentially a shameless promo-piece for a magazine-launch ‘written by the kids for the kids’ with sequences regularly plundered ever since for every TV sixties retro-flashback you’ve ever seen – Carnaby Street trendies and proto-Flower Power poseurs, and it’s amusing to have the opportunity of viewing the full short movie, although I don’t remember actually noticing the magazine itself in the local newsagents. ‘Rave’? – yes, that was everywhere, but ‘Intro’? – sorry, no. 

Published (abbreviated form) in: 
‘ROCK ‘N’ REEL Vol.2 No.12’ 
(UK – November 2008)



Book Review of: 
ISBN 978-1-78952-017-0 Softcover. 144pp

I bought the Stones debut single – “C’Mon”, when it was gathered onto the September 1963 ‘Thank Your Lucky Stars Vol.2’ spin-off compilation from the TV Pop-show, alongside tracks by Jet Harris & Tony Meehan, Karl Denver and the Marauders. It was the first time they appeared in twelve-inch format, and I played it to death. Steve Pilkington is dismissive of their “The Rolling Stones” EP, although it reached no.15 on the NME singles chart (22 February 1964) with a moody beach film-clip, providing early indication that the fivesome were more than just another Beat-Boom fad. But he’s good at teasing out track-by-track details of their early US albums, rejigged and padded out by the London label to include B-sides, EP tracks and some rarities including “Blue Turns To Grey” on ‘December’s Children (And Everybody’s)’ (December 1965) which provided an unlikely hit single for Cliff Richard, struggling to retain some kind of relevance in the tsunami of the new weird. The Stones first US hits – “Time Is On My Side” and “Heart Of Stone” weren’t even singles here. The value of this book, and others in the SonicBond series, is that it concentrates purely on the recorded vinyl evidence, with none of the distracting gossip-stuff, and effectively tells the story via fax ‘n’ info through to ‘Emotional Rescue’ (June 1980) with all the gritty studio detail you could reasonably expect to get. 

Published in: 
‘R’N’R’ Vol.2 Issue 78’ 
(November/ December 2019)


Sunday 27 June 2021

Cult DVD: Mick Jagger in 'Performance'



DVD Review of: 
(Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc, 2007)


‘This is a weird movie, friends…Use Only As Directed’ 
                 (review in ‘Rolling Stone’ 3 September 1970) 

As she straddles him, Pherber holds a mirror to Chas’ chest, so the reflection of her naked breast is transplanted there, in a disturbing montage of erotic displacement. Then she frames the reflection of his face inside her hair in another flash-image of gender ambiguity. Fact, Rock stars seldom, if ever, make convincing movie stars. Count them. So is it just coincidence that the only decent movie David Bowie ever made, and Mick Jagger’s greatest – and only convincing celluloid moment came through the directorial skills of the same cinematic alchemist? And that in both cases they were essentially playing magnified versions of their own personas? Through the weirdly hypnotic, compulsively watchable ‘The Man Who Fell To Earth’ (1976), Bowie no more than play-acts his near-translucent coked-out Ziggy Alien role, tenuously attached to reality by the slenderest of DNA. While Jagger is caught at the nexus of his aristocratic rough-trade, debauched Byronic malevolence. Mick Jagger, and Mick Jagger. James Fox, and James Fox, as the ad-teaser suggests.

Made across an eleven-week schedule in 1968, over-running by one week more, and eventually premiered on 1August 1970, ‘Performance’ is a film of deliriously warping fantasy. And reality. A film, as the trailer proclaims, ‘about madness. About vice. And versa’. In ‘The Observer’ (11 March 2007) Philip French writes that director ‘Nicolas Roeg is a rare case of a cinematographer becoming a major director, and this is one of the key movies of its time.’ A psychedelic British thriller that fades-in with a long-shot of a black Rolls-Royce, tracked by a fluctuating dysfunctional electro-soundtrack, intercut with stroboscopic speed-cut images of violent sex. Roeg’s revolutionary editing technique still triggers shocks. A Teasmade flashes into life. East End Gangsters grumble about violence on TV. The disjointed narrative soon fixes on sleazy cockney gang-boss Harry Flowers’ protection and extortion rackets (‘you was merged, old son’). James Fox is his errant enforcer with a talent for ultra-violence, ‘putting the frighteners on flash little twerps,’ his flamboyant style of intimidation earning him the underworld title ‘performer’.

‘Chas’ sets out to terrorise a legal-counsel by brutally torturing his chauffeur in a scene of dark throw-away humour that echoes ‘Clockwork Orange’ (1971) – and will be re-echoed by ‘Reservoir Dogs’ (1992) ‘hair today, gone tomorrow’ as they shave his head with a cut-throat razor. But unleashing Chas is ‘like telling a mad dog who to bite’. He exceeds his remit, and takes a sadistic disciplinary beating from Joey (Anthony Valentine), spliced with a psychological give-away b/w footage of school bullying, but Chas turns the tables and kills his punisher instead. Locations are real – ‘Portland Car Services’, Wandsworth Bridge road, run-down bohemian Notting Hill – in the same way that the 1971 ‘Get Carter’s Tyneside is real. Prefiguring the heightened reality of Soho in ‘Mona Lisa’ (1986), and beyond. 

Now a fugitive from his own bosses, Chas hennas his hair with ochre-red house-paint. On the point of escape, in the rail-station he overhears a random conversation, a Hendrix-alike guitarist – Noel, talks to his Mum, dropping an address. So instead, following it up he bluffs his way in, reinventing himself as a juggler – ‘a performer of natural magic’, to find an untraceable refuge in the cavernous Notting Hill home of reclusive drug-fuelled androgynous Rock star Turner (Jagger, unforgettably playing himself), and his ménage a trios of strange young women (Anita Pallenberg as ‘Pherber’, Michele Breton as ‘Lucy’), who share his bed, and his bath. Turner’s home becomes a claustrophobic hideout, corrupt and phantasmagorical.

Chas warily refuses Pherber’s offered joint, but unwittingly eats her magic mushroom – ‘two-thirds of the big one’. The interplay of light on the table-top intensifies. The green flame fluctuates. There are zoom-in micro-sections into fungi, ‘the blood of this vegetable (which) is boring a hole’ into his head, just as the lethal bullet will later plumb cortex and brain-matter. The intended refuge spirals into an eerie breakdown of barriers and roles. What was hard, strong and masculine on the outside, is meaningless here. Time and identity fracture, bringing out different strengths, hallucination merges with reality, characters become interchangeable. Rooms are shadowed, everything is cluttered, every frame crammed with detail, with a visual intensity of cultural references and artefacts. ‘Nova’ magazine, neon striplight tubes, a James Dean cut-out on the wall, an Otis Redding vinyl LP, desert landscapes glimpsed through a 3D-viewer. Her nipple as the pyramid. 

Jagger strums the skeletal chords of Robert Johnson’s “Hello Satan” on his bed. They lounge in the shaped bath with Brigit Riley tiles where bank-notes float, carelessly adhered to bare bodies. Slide guitars whine. The Last Poets’ proto-rap “Wake Up Niggers”, beat-boxing to an empty room. ‘There’s nothing wrong with me’ protests Chas, ‘I’m normal’. But nothing is normal here, beneath a teasingly deceitful surface reality, worlds are colliding, exotic and explosive. Only the precocious kids know what’s real. Pallenberg licks Jagger’s nostrils. Films him as he sleeps. Tweaks Michele Breton’s nipple erect in a bed with long billowing ectoplasmic drapes. She shoots-up into her bare bottom. This movie’s erotic strangeness, disquieting narcotics and explicit scenes of stomach-churning ultra-violence are still graphic, even to viewers inured to the visceral by Tarrantino.

So many myths have accumulated around this film that it’s something of an urban legend. People seek out 81 Powis Square, Notting Hill Gate, to see where it happened. Like they seek out Abbey Road, or Joe Meek’s studio at 304 Holloway Road, Islington. Tales circulate of Keith Richards running a prurient eye over Jagger squirming out weird sex scenes with Pallenberg – the guitarist’s then-girlfriend, of offended development technicians refusing to process the prints, and of pre-screening viewers projectile-vomiting. Participants were also fractured. Fox’s involvement in the movie precipitated a life-crisis that drove him to desert cinema (in which he’d excelled in ‘The Servant’ (1963) and ‘A Passage To India’ in 1984) for more than a decade, devoting himself instead to the activities of the evangelical Navigator sect. 

For Jagger it represents his most credible work outside of the Stones. Begun in September 1968, within weeks of completing the ‘Beggars Banquet’ album, it was released only after a time-delay that enveloped Brian Jones’ death, “Honky Tonk Women” and ‘Let It Bleed’ (December 1969), the highest – and lowest, points of their Satanic Majesties’ dark arc. And – as if to emphasise that nothing he’d do on celluloid would ever be as good again, it eventually premiered within a month of his dire movie sequel, ‘Ned Kelly’ (1970). Meanwhile, added here as a bonus music-video style featurette, the compelling “Memo From Turner” sequence – made with Ry Cooder’s creative intervention, was Jagger’s first – and finest, solo music-project. Yet it surprisingly propelled the spin-off single no higher than no.32 on 21 November 1970 (Decca F 13067).

‘I think maybe we ought to call Dr Burroughs’ says Pallenberg surveying Chas’ wounds, and there’s a lyric name-check to William Burroughs’ ‘Soft Machine’ (1961) in the song too. To ‘Empire’ magazine this is a film ‘full of the fashions, music and faces of ‘68… still as fresh and disturbing now as it ever was, (with) moments that remain unmatchably astonishing.’ ‘Performance’ owes this distinct visual style and cult status to the successful collaboration between two film-makers. It marks what Philip French calls the ‘joint directorial debut’ of Roeg (who had earlier contributed to the 1966 ‘Fahrenheit 451’) ‘with upper-middle-class maverick and celebrated portrait-painter Donald Cammell’ who co-directs and also wrote the experimental screenplay – citing Nietzsche, the distorted paintings of Francis Bacon and the magical fictions of Jorge Luis Borges as inspirational influences. Cammell (his family owned Cammell Laird shipbuilding) subsequently split to Hollywood where he directed three failed movies (which have now also assumed cult status, ‘Demon Seed’ (1977) – about Julie Christie impregnated by a computer, ‘White Of The Eye’ (1987) – a mystic serial killer-thriller set in the Arizona desert, and direct-to-cable ‘Wild Side’ with Christopher Walken in 1995). He co-wrote an oriental action-picture with Marlon Brando, which was never made, then took his own life in 1996, aged sixty-two. 

While Roeg followed ‘Performance’ by crafting more pictures that confirm his gifts as a cinematic visionary and visual stylist. Enjoying a long and critically acclaimed career, the best examples from which have recently been – or soon will be, available on DVD. The disturbing occult thriller ‘Don’t Look Now’ (1973, Optimum), David Bowie’s SF fable ‘The Man Who Fell To Earth’ (1976, Optimum) adapted from Paul Mayersberg’s existential 1963 novel, Art Garfunkel’s psychological drama ‘Bad Timing’ (1980, Newton), and the political comedy ‘Insignificance’ (1985, Network). If there was a falling off in his work from the mid-1980s on – this full, uncut ‘Performance’ remains a film of deliberate excess and unique provocation. Mutilated by drastic cuts and re-edits imposed by Warner Brothers, loathed by its Hollywood financiers, it was critically mauled on its initial appearance. Yet as an exhilarating commentary on Swinging London’s dying days it shares the dark luminosity of ‘Blow-Up’ (1966). Only more so.

‘Comical little geezer’ snipes Chas to Turner, ‘you’ll look funny when you’re fifty.’ Jagger’s way past that fifty mark now, but anticipates his own retaliation in “Memo From Turner” when he slurs ‘you’ll still be in the circus while I’m laughing, laughing in my grave.’ But if Chas is trapped, so is Turner. He’s also ‘retired’. He caught a glimpse of his ‘daemon’ in the mirror, and it abandoned him. Early superimpositions of Chas/Turner, in a series of narcotic blinks, hint at the fluidity that’s to come. Even the name ‘Turner’ is a clue – one who turns others. And Turner siphons off the cockney thug’s predatory persona like a vampire inhaling life-giving plasma. Chas’ sense of reality erodes in precarious role-swapping. He’s immersed in a ‘sick, degenerate, perverted’ hedonism of polymorphous identity games. Submerged in the seductive art and corrupt synergy between Rock music and crime. 

As Turner embarks on his own experimental re-discovery. ‘I know a thing or two about performing, my boy, I can tell you’ Jagger leers, ‘the only performance that makes it, that really makes it, that makes it all the way, is the one that achieves madness, right?’ Impacting into a shocking final performance of his own. The climatic shape-shifting switch-confrontation with Harry Flowers’ gun-sharks. One I had to watch repeatedly to decipher what exactly the bizarre mutation means. This is an incandescent, unsettling, endlessly fascinating, disturbingly brilliant movie. If there’s a better one made, I’ve yet to view it. Fashion designer Ossie Clarke published his own gossipy diaries in 1990, recording that on 10 January 1974 he ‘moved into Powis Terrace. Dinner with Mick and Bianca…’ The rest is silence.


A ‘Goodtimes Enterprises Production’. Directed by Nicolas Roeg & Donald Cammell Featuring James Fox (as Chas Devlin), Mick Jagger (as Turner), Anita Pallenberg (as Pherber), Michele Breton (as Lucy). Written by Donald Cammell. Warner Bros. 5 March 2007 DVD Retail, Cert 18, 105 mins Original Aspect Ratio – 1.77 Widescreen [16:9 Transfer], English: Mono 1.0. The soundtrack features music from The Rolling Stones, Ry Cooder, Randy Newman, The Last Poets, Jack Nitzsche, Merry Clayton, Lowell George, Gene Parsons, and more. Special DVD Extras: Featurette ‘Influence and Controversy’ (25 mins approx), “Memo from Turner” 1970 music-clip (5-mins approx), + Theatre Trailer

 Featured on: 
‘VIDEOVISTA’ website 
(UK – April 2007)