A lost documentary of the Rolling Stones’ short Irish tour in 1965 has been uncovered, says Joe McNamee, and it makes for astonishing viewing.
IT IS January 1965 and The Rolling Stones have arrived to tour Ireland for the first time. Over the next 12 months, the first US combat troops will arrive in Vietnam, the public incineration of draft cards will soon follow in the US.
The Martin Luther King-led American Civil Rights marches in the South will meet with a savage response from white supremacists; in New York City, Malcolm X will be assassinated. Fighting between India and Pakistan will require UN intervention. Cosmonaut Aleksei Leonov will become the first human to walk in space. The Beatles will release four albums in the one year, Bob Dylan will do a ‘Judas’ and go electric at the Newport Folk Festival.
The news from home over the coming 12 months will be that bit more mundane: the first carry ferry service, between Rosslare and Fishguard, will officially open but the GAA will decide the ban on foreign games must remain. The Riordans, a rural soap opera, and Bunny ‘stop the lights’ Carr’s Quicksilver, a quiz show, will make their TV debuts while Butch Moore will score fifth place in our first ever Eurovision with Walking in the Rain. One of the biggest political stories of the year will be Taoiseach Seán Lemass meeting his Northern Ireland counterpart, Terence O’Neill, mere days after the Stones arrive in Ireland.
Employing a rather skewed hindsight, it may appear a rather innocent little backwater but, in truth, Ireland in 1965 was probably one of the most emotionally repressed countries in Europe.
The terrible scars of the Civil War were still raw, barely below the surface, as the population chafed under the near totalitarian repression of the church and a compliant state struggling to shake off the economic inertia of the de Valera years. Emigration was just about the only salvation for all but a few. Not all that innocent, just very repressed and dare one say it, a case could even be made for this fleeting Irish tour and the response of Irish fans further hastening the end of the first chapter in the Stones’ history; the sayonara to any lingering innocence or naivety as they began fashioning their own little cocoon away from the real world, a pampered disconnection from the ordinary world.
Just four years on, after Hell’s Angels acting as security for the band at Altamont, savagely murder a young Rolling Stones fan, the band will be inextricably linked with the darkness at the heart of the 60s but in early 1965, there is still something gauche, something endearingly awkward about the young band. They returned again in September 1965, to play Dublin and Belfast, just weeks after after hitting No 1 in the US with (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction and much of this youthful charm is catalogued in an astonishing ‘lost’ film made over the course of the short Irish tour, Charlie is My Darling — Ireland 1965, soon to be released on DVD and some photographs uncovered in the archives of the Irish Lensmen Photographic Agency.
With Satisfaction then a world-wide smash hit, Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham hired a small film crew led by Peter Whitehead to capture, as the film’s trailer would have it, ‘the band … before they became the legend,’ film verité style, black and white, using handheld cameras, a combination of direct interview, fly-on-the-wall footage in hotel rooms or on the road and some stunning concert footage boosted by the discovery of the original audio concert recordings.
And if that’s not enough, how about the first ever live concert performance of Satisfaction. The recent New York premiere following extensive technical surgery and the addition of previously unseen footage already has Stones fans salivating and if the recorded performance of The Last Time is anything to go by, it is with good reason.
While the band’s youthful demeanour is accentuated by their button-down shirts and sports jackets, a sometimes playful, sometimes thoughtful Jagger is already displaying an intelligence then uncommon in the pop milieu.
He tells an interviewer: “In the last two or three years, young people have been — and this especially applies to America — instead of just carrying on the way their parents told them to, they’ve started a big thing, where they’re anti-war and they love everybody and their sexual lives have become freer. The kids are looking for something else, for some different moral values, because they know they’re gonna get all the things that were thought impossible 50 years ago.”
During their visits to Ireland, the Stones also played two shows in Cork’s Savoy theatre on Jan 8, with Jagger telling the Evening Echo he felt Irish showbands couldn’t cut the mustard in Britain because “they just haven’t anything original enough to offer”.
Cork solicitor Mick O’Connell was just 15 when he went with his sister to the evening show in the Savoy. On hearing of the Echo’s report that the support group ‘stole the show’, Mick says wryly, “anything but! They began playing Not Fade Away behind the curtain and when it finally came up the whole place was in bedlam, screaming, on their seats. Definitely, still one of the greatest concerts in my life.”
But the mania of the fans was evident: travelling by trains, they are besieged by teenagers and are filmed jumping across tracks to evade them. A show at Dublin’s Olympia comes to an end when young fans jump on stage, wrestling Brian Jones to the floor. Nothing malicious, just a youthful explosion of manic hero-worship, a seeming need for, as bassist Bill Wyman says, “contact, any sort of physical contact, just to say they touched you”. It was probably one of the last times fans would ever get that close to the Stones.
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