ABKCO has released the incredible live performance of The Rolling Stones‘ “Sympathy For The Devil,” as captured on December 12, 1968. The song is a highlight of the band’s now legendary film The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus and was the first public performance of the song. The original recording appears on the Beggars Banquet album that had been released only six days earlier. The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus is a living document of the very last appearance by the band’s original line-up of Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Bill Wyman, Charlie Watts and Brian Jones before a live audience.
“Sympathy For The Devil” was sourced from ABKCO’s 2018 The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus Dolby Vision® and Dolby Atmos® 4K restoration of the concert film. It is available in a Deluxe Edition multi-format package including Blu-Ray, DVD, and a 2CD soundtrack. Rock and Roll Circus features iconic performances of artists in the glory of their careers: The Who, Jethro Tull, Taj Mahal, Marianne Faithfull, impromptu supergroup The Dirty Mac (John Lennon, Keith Richards, Mitch Mitchell, Eric Clapton) and Yoko Ono as well as the Rolling Stones who serve as hosts.
Keith Richards recalled Rock and Roll Circus: “It was an incredible shoot, I think, 36 hours or something. I remember not remembering everything towards the end… but it was fun… we went through two audiences… wore one out… it was great!”
The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus and the “Sympathy For the Devil” excerpt was directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg (Let It Be, Ready Steady Go!), with Tony Richmond (Sympathy For The Devil / ONE PLUS ONE, Let It Be) serving as cinematographer.
Rock and Roll Circus was shot in a North London television studio before a live audience consisting of fan club members, contest winners and friends but, because of delays, the Rolling Stones went on last after the audience had departed. “Sympathy For the Devil” was the very last song they performed on center stage, before closing the late evening out with “Salt of the Earth.”
Michael Lindsay-Hogg recalls capturing that defining performance, painting the scene as if “There was no audience. There was just Mick playing to the camera and the band playing. But here he had to pull out of himself, especially on the last song, ‘Sympathy For The Devil,’ at five-thirty in the morning, the last shred of the great performer that he is. The camera was right there in front of him to use as he wanted. It wasn’t observing him from a distance; it was two feet away from him and he and the cameras were molded to each other almost because he used it so wonderfully.”
The show was initially envisioned as a BBC TV special to promote Beggars Banquet. Those plans were abandoned in the wake of Brian Jones’ departure from the band and subsequent death; considered the holy grail of rock films in the years since, the film did not have an official release until 28 years later.
The iconic TV performance is the last from founder/original leader Brian Jones. Watch below.
*Images courtesy of Bob Merlis