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About the Circus

Filmed before a live audience in London, The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus was originally conceived as a BBC-TV special. Directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg, who had worked on videos for both the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, it centers on the original line up of The Rolling Stones - Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Brian Jones, Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman (with Nicky Hopkins and Rocky Dijon)- who serve as both the show’s hosts and featured attraction. For the first time in front of an audience, “The World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band” performs six Stones classics (“Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” “Parachute Woman,” “No Expectations,” “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” “Sympathy For The Devil” and “Salt of The Earth.”)


The program also includes extraordinary performances by The Who, Jethro Tull, Taj Mahal, Marianne Faithfull, Yoko Ono as well as The Dirty Mac, a ‘supergroup’ before the term had even been coined, the band was comprised of Eric Clapton (lead guitar), Keith Richards (bass), Mitch Mitchell of The Jimi Hendrix Experience (drums), and John Lennon on guitar and vocals. This performance marks the first musical context in which John Lennon performed before an audience outside the Beatles. A mirthful conversation between Jagger and Lennon captures these two at a pivotal creative point in time. The Circus is the only time Tony Iommi (Black Sabbath) performed with Jethro Tull, and the last time Brian Jones would perform with The Rolling Stones in front of an audience.


As David Dalton, who covered the event for Rolling Stone, so aptly put it, “...for a brief moment it seemed that rock ‘n’ roll would inherit the earth.”

the film

Little Known Facts

  1. This was Tony Iommi’s only performance with Jethro Tull.

  2. Two bands were up for “new band” slot- Jethro Tull and Led Zeppelin.

  3. Brigitte Bardot was approached for the ringmaster role.

  4. Stevie Winwood was supposed to lead the supergroup, then Paul McCartney was asked, and finally John Lennon.

  5. The Rock and Roll Circus is where Jessie Ed Davis first met John Lennon – they went on to do a lot of work together.

  6. Taj Mahal almost didn’t make it to the Circus because of work permits. They were told to not dress as musicians to fool customs. Just to be safe, Taj was shot the day before the Circus, on December 10th.  There was no audience present, which is why the camera coverage on Taj is so limited. Also, note the white tape on the microphone – the set wasn’t fully dressed yet.

  7. Other than The Rolling Stones, Taj Mahal was the only other band who performed more than one song.

  8. The Dirty Mac was one of the first supergroups of its kind, and it was the only time they played together.

  9. The Dirty Mac was the first time John Lennon played live without The Beatles.

  10. Other than to John, Yoko’s performance was a surprise to Ivry Gitlis, the other members of The Dirty Mac, the director and crew. Watch Ivry Gitlis’s face when he realizes her performance is not going to stop.

  11. All of the bands practiced, and songs were chosen at a ballroom on December 9th.

  12. The tickets were distributed through the New Musical Express and The Rolling Stones Fan Club.

  13. What was supposed to be a 12-hour shoot turned into a 24-hour shoot due to the breaking down of new format French cameras. This was exacerbated by the fact that the French cameramen didn’t speak English and the cinematographer Tony Richmond didn’t speak French.

  14. The long shoot meant that audience members came and went. Cinematographer Tony Richmond suggested the ponchos and hats to camouflage the ever-changing audience and to add a bit of color to the crowd.

  15. The Who had just come off of a tour in Australia and were super tight, versus The Stones, who hadn’t played live since March 1967.

  16. The Who took the stage at noon on December 11th. The Stones didn’t take the stage until 2AM on December 12th and went on until 6AM.

  17. Parents kept calling the studio because their children weren’t coming home from school- they were at the Circus.

  18. The Rock and Roll Circus was the last live performance of Brian Jones with The Rolling Stones.

  19. Rumor has it that The Stones thought The Who had outperformed them, which is why the film was not released at the time. Plans were made to reshoot The Stones at the Coliseum in Rome, but that fell through for numerous reasons, and then Brian passed away.

  20. The film disappeared in 1971 when The Stones moved to France for tax purposes and closed their offices.

  21. Some of the film was found in 1986 in the barn of Ian Stewart when he died.

  22. The rest of the film was found in The Who’s vault in 1992 by ABKCO’s Robin Klein and Mick Gochanour. The Who’s "A Quick One" had been recut and used in The Kids are Alright (1979), and along with other footage,  never returned.


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