50 Years of Rolling Stones

Today, I’m as old as rock & roll itself

DVDs – more dead tech. Online or in the (get off my) cloud, film and music won’t even be sold some day, just utilized for a fee. One fossilized DVD that didn’t make deadline in this week’s issue (yes, that’s me buying a Laser Disc at Half Price Books last month...) was a new Blu-ray by the Rolling Stones, From the Vault: Hyde Park Live 1969, out on Eagle Vision.

Long a readily available TV special from the Sixties death knell, the free July 5, 1969, concert for 400,000 hippies in London (figures conflict) preserves a typical Stones performance: mortal until the moment it’s matchless, sole picture in the dictionary under “rock & roll.” Interviews and behind-the-scenes footage cuts the original set from 14 songs to eight, and they’re not complete. Muted, muddy Seventies film stock flashes back to the film Woodstock.

“The band’s first full live performance [in] two years, their first to feature Mick Taylor on guitar, and [it] came just two days after the tragic early death of their former guitarist Brian Jones,” trumpets the back of the funny little (blue) Blu-ray box.

That should be founding guitarist.

At 56 minutes – with no frills, no extras, no commercial value, maybe, except as another official entry in a vast accounting that’ll doubtlessly continue as long as mankind’s still above water – it’s dynamite still. The revelation that English Hell’s Angels worked security at Hyde Park presages their infamous deployment at Altamont five months later – Dec. 6, 1969, official D.O.A. date of the decade. Look, there’s Stones cleaner Sam Cutler from the Maysles brothers’ landmark documentary of the NorCal natural disaster, Gimme Shelter.

“I hope nobody gets hurt,” says Keith Richards about Hyde Park crowd control.

Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull riding to the concert together yields a candid moment when the frontman admits, “I’m really quite nervous. I’m never nervous.” His eulogy for Brian Jones, a famously awkward reading of Shelley, precedes the Stones launching into a nasty, slide-driven cover of Texan Johnny Winter’s “I’m Yours & I’m Hers,” the sole instance of the band performing it. That’s Keith Richards saluting Buddy Holly in 2006 at Zilker Park by performing one-time-only deep cut “Learning the Game.”

(Find the show in its entirety on The Biggest Bang DVD set from the following year.)

The band skinning Delta blues specter Robert Johnson’s “Love in Vain” precedes extended closer “Sympathy for the Devil,” exorcised by African drummers. Paul McCartney exits over the credits afterward, though not before Jagger admits that the group’s forte is playing live, not recording, which history forgets because their sound was so blazingly elemental across decades of discs.

And yet, that same half-century marks the Rolling Stones as the biggest, baddest road dogs that ever came, saw, and laid your town to waste – onstage and off. Forty-four years to the day, R&R’s original bad boys returned to the scene of their ’69 reboot. Sweet Summer Sun/Hyde Park Live from 2013 even includes the original Hyde Park gig, plus two CDs (aluminum discs with music digitally encoded) and obviously their return on DVD to the site, now dressed as King Kong’s tree house.

Jagger whips out the frock he wore in ’69, Richards polishes up that year’s “You Got the Silver,” and Lubbock raunch hand Bobby Keys blows a platinum sax solo on “Miss You.” Mick Taylor and his liquid Les Paul guest on “Midnight Rambler.” Bonus tracks from a second show include a merciless “Paint It Black” and disco rarity “Emotional Rescue.”

“A gig’s a gig. You’re just going to go out there, it’s another gig. Don’t care if it’s a small one, a big one, indoors, outdoors. You’re going to go out there and try and murder them.”

Keith Richards laughs up a bit of lung in that intro to Sweet Summer Sun/Hyde Park Live. My hero, the only one I ever had in music geekdom until Bob Marley and Duke Ellington in ’89-’91. At 50 years old – today – I spent three-quarters of my existence chasing his gang until the day they rolled into the city I made my bed in: Austin.

June’s Sticky Fingers reissue finally unearthed Eric Clapton’s saber-tooth slide on a live studio lashing of “Brown Sugar,” while the band’s raw live reenactment of the entire album from earlier this year resides on iTunes. From the Vault: The Marquee – Live in 1971, reviewed in this issue, stacks more booty related to one of the Stones’ Mount Rushmore recordings. A Dallas sundering the same month finally brought the band’s 50th anniversary to bear here in the Republic.

Saints preserve Keith Richards. And Mick, and Charlie Watts, Ron Wood. The Rolling Stones’ half-century of live and recorded global homicide forever jolted this rock.

Keith Richards, 71, onstage in Dallas with the Rolling Stones, 6.6.15. (Photo by Gary Miller)

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Rolling Stones, Keith Richards, Brian Jones, Charlie Watts, Mick Jagger, Ron Wood, Mick Taylor, Paul McCartney, Sam Culter, Albert & David Maysles, Johnny Winter, Buddy Holly, Bobby Keys, Robert Johnson, Duke Ellington, Bob Marley, Bruce Dickinson

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