Rant ‘N’ Roll: My Kinda Stones

We were all in rock ‘n’ roll bands. We all sang the blues. We all loved the Stones. In my case, we aspired, in The Rock Garden, to play a place called Dodd’s in East Orange. That’s where all the top Jersey cover bands played when the drinking age was 18 and the music scene rivaled anywhere in the world. At least that’s what we thought at the time. Funny thing is, we never even thought about writing our own songs. Then Artie, our organ player, packed up his Farfisa and went to college. So did our drummer Farley. We were done. But we always wondered how the bands we loved put up with the same crap we did: playing until 2 a.m. before having to lug our amps up two flights of stairs back to our rehearsal room.

The most fascinating thing about the never-before-released Rolling Stones documentary Charlie Is My Darling: Ireland 1965 is the scene where they’re all just chilling. Keith’s playing guitar and he starts singing some Beatle songs. Mick joins in. The camera rolls. They jam in true happy stoned-out style on some Dion and Dylan. Manager Andrew Loog Oldham, just another kid, joins in and the viewer is treated to the kind of inside access beyond rare: totally impossible unless you’re in the room with them. And you are.

Oldham marketed his friends as the anti-Beatles, the type of boys you definitely don’t want your daughter to bring home. And the Stones themselves played that role to the hilt. Filmed on a short tour of Ireland right after “Satisfaction” went number one, this diary of a movie, beautifully shot and surprisingly profound, puts you in the wings with them before they go on stage. Then you’re on stage with them during uncut performances. Then you’re running off stage with them back to the dressing room where you’re lighting up fags (Brit slang for cigarettes) and laughing at the absurdity of it all. Brian Jones is thrillingly vital and alive. Mick drips with sex on stage yet is endearingly embarrassed and self-conscious during the off-moments when he knows the camera is on. Charlie is so stoned all the time. Keith is the consummate musician, always strumming guitar backstage or playing some piano and calling out blues numbers to jam on. Bill is Bill. You almost forget he’s there. Director Peter Whitehead captures not so much rock star excess—that came later—but five regular blokes reacting to surrealistic and sudden notorious fame. The fame happens TO them and they’re just thrilled at it all. Who wouldn’t be? Anyone who’s ever been in a band has wondered about such an event in their own lives. Here you get to see maybe what it would be like…for you and me.

Mick plays with the press with ultra cool. While the Beatles joked and became darlings for their cheeky humor, these boys, probably coached by Oldham, were pseudo-philosophical about it all, reveling in their own words and attitude. In one great scene, Mick is pontificating about something or other, not making much sense, but doing it with such flair that it doesn’t matter.

They were still a blues band copying their heroes…but, in so doing, did it as well, and, in some cases, better, than the originals. They knew they had to start writing their songs…they had a manager to tell them that. So they wrote “Tell Me,” the only original on their debut album. There’s a scene where they’re actually writing “Sittin’ On A Fence.” Keith is plunking out some chords and Mick is explaining the motivation behind his lyric (indecision). It’s a brilliant scene because it’s real…as is every other scene herein. Sure, they knew cameras were rolling, but after a while it had to have become second nature to them and they act naturally.

Then there’s the power of the rock. Boys go crazy. Storm the stage. Wreck the equipment. Wrestle the musicians to the ground. The Stones barely escape injury. This same scene, and others, are appropriated for the newer documentary Crossfire Hurricane. I wondered where they got all those unbelievable scenes of real-life Stones skullduggery. Now I know. Right here, baby. This one’s a gem.