In December of 1968, The Rolling Stones filmed a televised concert special for the BBC, featuring themselves, the Who, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Eric Clapton, Taj Mahal, and others.”The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus” was shot in front of a live audience on a set decorated as a big top, and featured acrobats, clowns and other circus performers appearing between the star musical acts.
It took two days to record the event. Then, it took almost 28 years for the entire film to see the light of day.
Why? Because – the legend goes – the Who’s performance of a single song was so much better than the Stones’ performance of six of their own songs that Mick, Keith et al. were too embarrassed to let the footage see the light of day. The film lived on in legend only for many years (although the Who’s performance was first seen in the 1979 documentary “The Kids Are Alright”) until it was finally released theatrically in the ’90s. A really great DVD version came out a couple of years ago and is worth seeking out.
So did the Who whomiliate the Stones? Judge for yourself. First, here’s the Who doing “A Quick One While He’s Away”, Pete Townshend’s first attempt at a mini-rock-opera, released several years before “Tommy”:
Next, here’s the Stones’ opening number, the then-just-released Jumpin’ Jack Flash. They were introduced… kinda… by John Lennon and their performance in the film was the group’s last featuring Brian Jones, shortly before he was kicked out of the band, and later found dead:
Just for good measure, here’s Lennon, Yoko writhing in a bag by his feet, fronting an amazing ad-hoc supergroup dubbed “The Dirty Mac” – Clapton, Keith Richards and drummer Mitch Mitchell from the Jimi Hendrix Experience – and performing “Yer Blues”, another then-just-released track off the Beatles’ White Album: