Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus on PBS

Last night I happened to catch a showing of the Rolling Stones Rock & Roll Circus on PBS. This combination of artists arranged by the Rolling Stones into one massive live show was recorded in 1968 but not released until 2004 due to the quality. The show as apparently plagued by technical problems and personal problems but it definitely has some memorable performances worth checking out if you have the time.

The artists who played included Jethro Tull, The Who, John Lennon with Dirty Mac, Yoko Ono, Taj Mahal, Marianne Faithfull and Eric Clapton.

Most acts played only a single song or so with the Rolling Stones closing the show with a short set. Themed like a circus primarily, it also has a distinctly 60s psychedelic and performance art type of quality that falls short and ends up becoming more confusing than anything else.

Highlights include an early performance by Jethro Tull that I think is pretty cool seeing the small amount of footage I've seen of the band is always from later in their career, and a young Taj Mahal singing with the same soul and intensity you'd expect from him. Plus there is a performance of the Beatles "Yer Blues" with John Lennon, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards and Mitch Mitchell, collectively called Dirty Mac. It is not only a unique lineup, but is the only time I've seen "Yer Blues" performed live. It's not the tightest performance musically, but Clapton on guitar is a nice addition to this song.

I'd actually seen this part before I caught the entire show tonight. Here's the video courtesy of YouTube and gsmaior:

Definitely the best act of the show is the Who playing "A Quick One While He's Away." This medley was the precursor of bigger things to come (like Tommy) and this performance is a good example of why at their height, no one to this day can match the Who for power and intensity. It could be louder, but then again in my opinion, the Who can never be too loud.

Here's the video again courtesy of YouTube and lasymanski (unfortunately this second video is no longer available:

I could do without Yoko Ono's performance of primal caterwauling and the songs by the Stones are definitely not the sharpest I've seen or of this show. It is one of the last public shows with Brian Jones though and to see a performance with the original members of the Stones is interesting even if it isn't their best. Plus as someone who's main experience with the Rolling Stones live involves the Super Bowl and massive stadium shows, it is nice to see them without huge video screens and pyrotechnics.

Overall, it is an interesting show even if it doesn't have the best sound. Personally, I think that the two videos I've included are the main highlights, but there are more videos around on the Internet of this show and if I could find the clip of Jethro Tull, I probably would have included that too.

It is available on DVD so you might check out Amazon or some other places on the Internet for that if you're interested.

Some biographical information courtesy of and Wikipedia.


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