Easily the greatest lost rock film of the 60s, Rock & Roll Circus is a freewheeling, psychedelic carnival of acrobats, clowns, fire-breathers, and pure rock & roll, featuring The Rolling Stones, The Who, John Lennon & Yoko Ono, Eric Clapton, Taj Mahal, Marianne Faithfull and Jethro Tull.
The film features the Stones (with Brian Jones, in his last on-camera appearance) ripping through Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Sympathy For The Devil, You Can’t Always Get What You Want and others, while Lennon, Yoko, and Clapton deliver a stunning Yer Blues.
Filmed on 11 December 1968, Rock & Roll Circus was originally intended for British television and filming took place in a mock-up of a big-top circus tent at Wembley Studios.
The original plan was for Brigitte Bardot to act as the ringmaster but, in the end, it was Mick Jagger, in top hat and tails, who cracked the whip.
The Rolling Stones were due to headline but, as filming dragged on, they didn’t make their entrance until after 2 am when the long day had taken its toll.
It wasn’t their most impressive performance and when the footage was viewed back the decision was taken not to release the film – perhaps because The Who, match-fit from their recent US tour, far outplayed the Stones.
The film remained unseen for 28 years until it premiered at the New York Film Festival in 1996. It was then broadcast for the first time on BBC2 on New Year’s Eve that year.
The Rolling Stones