DVD Review: The Rolling Stones “Charlie is my Darling – Ireland 1965”

By Mike Finkelstein

As the Rolling Stones cruise into their 50th Anniversary annum, one can’t help but marvel at their longevity.   Rock ‘n roll has always been a business that chewed its members up just to spit them out.  From the very beginning, people have routinely died young in this line of work.   The Rolling Stones personified and glorified the rock star lifestyle on their path to becoming The Greatest Rock and Roll Band in the World.  Who knew they’d last this long?   Now, just in time for their golden anniversary, ABKCO has presented us with a masterfully reedited/remixed version of the vaunted behind the scenes film about the very young Stones, Charlie Is My Darling.   A better document of what it was like to be a pop star in the more nascent times of pop-stardom one may never find.

In 1965, spurred by Beatle-mania, the pop scene in England was swelling by the week and the Rolling Stones were rising stars in their own right (“Satisfaction” was #1 in the UK).  At the time, short jaunts through the Continent to places like Sweden, Belgium, Denmark, Germany and even Ireland were part of the circuit for British bands.   Charlie is My Darling is a beautifully conceived attempt by Stones’ manager Andrew Loog Oldham to relay what it looks, feels, and sounds like to be a touring pop star circa 1965.   It is a light glimpse, from the inside out, at the lads’ daily affairs during a short tour of Ireland for two gigs.   Filmed intimately with hand held cameras in timeless black and white, C.I.M.D. puts the audience right there in the room, on the stage, and running across the train tracks with the group.

The Rolling Stones

Charlie Is My Darling was originally directed by Peter Whitehead and has been released in several different forms over the years, having gained a legendary reputation as the real life/no fluff depiction of what “A Hard Day’s Night” was actually about.  Throughout this new ABKCO version of the film (directed by Mick Gochanour) we can feel the pace the group is on and it certainly does ebb and flow.    The filming and editing dovetail beautifully as the cameras pan the interiors of shaking train cars, grainy hotel rooms, cramped taxicabs, airport terminals, crushed concert audiences, and plain lunchrooms to juxtapose the group with the people whose lives they are passing through.  With nearly fifty years of rock and roll between then and now, one can’t help but notice what a comparatively streamlined, innocent, and stripped down world it was then. Wooden movers’ dollies were a necessary tool and concert sound and security were dicey at best.   The brick walls leading to the stage of the theatres were dark and dank.  But the music was classic, and the magical sound and feel of these gigs is what every band worth it’s salt has always tried to catch in a bottle.

Often the camera angles get us on ear and eye-level with the people in the room, to great effect.  Sometimes it is quaint.  As when Jagger exchanges kisses with some older ladies through a glass plate in the hotel luncheonette.   At other times it is frenzied.   The onstage footage of a concert-stopping near riot is classic.   We see the expressions on the faces of the Stones and of the knuckle-heads who get up onstage, dance awkwardly, nearly rip Brian Jones’ guitar away from him, and ultimately end the show early.   Microphones crash, guitars are fumbled with and we hear and see it all. The cameras even zoom in on audience members who will be interviewed later.

Though Charlie Is My Darling is a film that impresses with nonmusical details, the music is the real story.   The concert sound has been painstakingly improved by Robin Klein from the actual soundboard tapes and synched with live footage.   In the concert scenes the band cooks through original tunes like “Time is on My Side,” “Sastisfaction,” and “The Last Time.” As well as the covers that got them noticed in the first place such as “Round and Round,” and “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love.” The soundtrack is extensive and features interesting outtakes of songs like “Play With Fire,” among others.

Watching them move onstage, we get the sense of seeing the Rolling Stones develop into a larger entity.  Jagger’s moves are more understated and less exaggerated than we’ve come to know.  Keith Richards bops happily along powering the band on rhythm guitar.   Charlie Watts is his usual debonair self, keeping time and dressed impeccably.   Brian Jones stands out with his blonde hair and Gibson Firebird guitar but seems to be a peripheral presence for much of the time.

The Stones are so young here that they almost look disguised in their mod togs.  And the older this film becomes, the more arresting it will be to watch the lads so early on in their career. There are interviews with the band members and we are struck by how matter of fact they all are, with little to actually say.   Brian Jones seems conspicuously self-impressed as he listens to himself tell the camera, prophetically, that the life of a Rolling Stone is an uncertain one.   Mick is a bit numb but endearing when he opens his mouth.  Keith really doesn’t speak much in the film and Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman are happy to be holding down the job of rising pop stars (but Bill doesn’t really think of himself as a musician yet.)

The real jewels of this C.I.M.D. production were captured in an anonymous Irish hotel room.   In this footage of the creative process we get to see Mick and Keith goofing on the Beatles (“I’ve Just Seen A Face,” and “Please {Please Me}”).  But much more importantly we get to see them fleshing out the changes to “Sitting on a Fence,” played with a capo on Keith’s guitar and sounding similar but sublimely different from the eventual recorded version.  The session continues as they work on the chorus of “Tell Me.” Curiously, and perhaps revealingly, Charlie and Brian are present as spectators for all of this.  Many Stones fans have surely wondered what the germs of songs like these two gems may have sounded like and here is the payoff.

Similarly endearing are scenes of Mick, Keith, and Andrew Oldham passing some late night hours getting drunk around a hotel piano and aping Elvis songs.   Life on the road, even for a short while, makes musicians restless from the down time and so drinks are spilled, laughs are shared, and tensions are released.

Charlie Is My Darling is a magnificent time capsule to explore for anyone with even the mildest curiosity about the early days of the Rolling Stones.  It’s also a delightful bit of time travel through 1965.   Even the soda cans draw a double take.  The trip will be well worth it.

ABKCO Films presents The Rolling Stones – Charlie is my Darling – Ireland 1965 at a special midnight screening at Grauman’s Chinese Theater at midnight, Wednesday, October 24th.  Tickets are available to the general public for $10 and can ordered in advance through http://bit.ly/URpHmy

To read more reviews, posts and columns from Mike Finkelstein click HERE.

To read a recent iRoM review of two Rolling Stones LP reissues, click HERE.

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