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It's a Hell of a Song
August 9, 2007 11:18 PM   Subscribe

In early 1968, Jean-Luc Godard filmed The Rolling Stones in the studio writing/recording "Sympathy for the Devil".
Mick Jagger recalled in a 1995 interview with Jann Wenner: "... [it was] very fortuitous, because Godard wanted to do a film of us in the studio. I mean, it would never happen now, to get someone as interesting as Godard. And stuffy. We just happened to be recording that song. We could have been recording "My Obsession." But it was "Sympathy for the Devil," and it became the track that we used."
Later that year, Godard released a film (in Europe) titled "One Plus One" which featured the "Sympathy for the Devil" studio footage. To increase the commercial value of the film, the U.S. release was re-titled after the Stones song and the end of the film's soundtrack was altered to include a full take of the song in its final form, much to the dismay of Godard.
posted by Poolio (35 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Contrary to popular belief, the Stones were not playing "Sympathy for the Devil" when Meredith Hunter was killed during the Altamont Music Festival. They were playing "Under My Thumb".
posted by Poolio at 11:18 PM on August 9, 2007


THANK YOU! I've been wanting to see this doc since I heard about it years ago.
posted by McLir at 11:37 PM on August 9, 2007


McLir - I couldn't find the whole film anywhere... just the Stones footage and the trailer.
posted by Poolio at 11:41 PM on August 9, 2007


Wow, fantastic. It's like Let It Be, only the band in question is not a dysfunctional family. In fact, the Stones were about at the height of their powers here. Thanks for the post!

BTW, a little voice tells me this is gonna get yanked. I think I'll download this post haste.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 12:09 AM on August 10, 2007


BTW, a little voice tells me this is gonna get yanked. I think I'll download this post haste.

Yanked from YouTube, you mean?
posted by Poolio at 12:13 AM on August 10, 2007




I'm fairly sure the video for the new Spoon single is an homage to the Stones and the Godard footage, the "finished" version of "SftD" in particular.
posted by bardic at 12:42 AM on August 10, 2007


Jefferson Airplane's 1968 NYC rooftop performance of 'House at Pooneil Corners' - shot by Godard, who is visible in the film (as is Rip Torn).
posted by Poolio at 12:48 AM on August 10, 2007


Yanked from YouTube, you mean?

That's what I mean! There's been so many good music-related videos that've been pulled, and I've kicked myself later for not having downloaded them sooner. Lotsa blues, rock and whatnot. Stuff gets pulled off YouTube all the time.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 1:00 AM on August 10, 2007


Stuff gets pulled off YouTube all the time.

Yup... the Rock & Roll Circus version of SftD I included has been pulled numerous times. I think this is like the 3rd or 4th copy I've favorited in the past year.
posted by Poolio at 1:03 AM on August 10, 2007


@bardic: You just introduced me to my next favorite band, I think.
posted by punkfloyd at 3:42 AM on August 10, 2007


You should be warned -- my favorite bands suck.
posted by bardic at 4:18 AM on August 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


I saw this on Nightflight on USA sometime around 1980, haven't thought about it since.
posted by octothorpe at 4:20 AM on August 10, 2007


I'm kind of surprised Wenner was able to conduct such a coherent interview with Jagger's dick permanently lodged in his mouth.
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:27 AM on August 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


You know, for the first minute and a half I kept wondering where Keith Richards was. Wow, as he's aged, he's come to look completely different.
posted by oddman at 4:49 AM on August 10, 2007


Oddman: That's because he has someone else's blood.
posted by FelliniBlank at 5:24 AM on August 10, 2007


...as he's aged, he's come to look completely different.

I think with ol' Keef needs a different qualifier: "aged" just doesn't seem... enough. Or it's just inadequate, somehow. I mean, that guy is just one big wrinkle, and there's gotta be a Richards-specific term for that. He's more than just aged he's... I dunno... "pickled"?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:28 AM on August 10, 2007


And otherwise, I'd just like to take this opportunity to say that I think Godard is one of the most overrated directors in history. I could never get what's supposed to be so great about his work. Maybe I just haven't seen the right ones...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:33 AM on August 10, 2007


I love Godard, and I love (this era of) the Stones, but holy cow, does the movie suck.
posted by ghastlyfop at 5:39 AM on August 10, 2007


Keyboards from the late great Nicky Hopkins.
posted by adamvasco at 7:24 AM on August 10, 2007


I've seen this a couple of times and it's a great document of the times. I didn't know that it had found it's way onto youtube though...
posted by ob at 7:34 AM on August 10, 2007


Great, great post. I love it how in such short piece you are able to get a sense of the evolution of the song. They go through three different versions and you can see how it slowly becomes the one we've all heard a million times. Nice one, Poolio.
posted by micayetoca at 7:45 AM on August 10, 2007


"Keefed"?
posted by aiq at 8:13 AM on August 10, 2007


Flapjax, As far as Godard's oeuvre (that's French - see how I did that?) goes, this is my least favorite of what I've seen. You should probably just watch ALL of his 60s movies as he takes on basically every film convention and redoes them his own way. They're far from perfect (maybe with the exception of Contempt) and can be digressive and plotless, but the ideas in them are brilliant and poetic. Contempt is the movie that addicted me. I think a lot of people's problem with Godard is that he really is attacking YOU as an audience member much more than most people have the balls or mind to do. (Whenever you're saying, man I hate this fucking movie - that may be the point - which is admittedly a strange feeling).
posted by mike_bling at 9:20 AM on August 10, 2007


Without the polish of studio production, I now see how Dylanesque Jagger's vocals are. Fantastic post, cheers.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:59 AM on August 10, 2007


The whole version of this is deeply weird, and more than a little off-putting. I've always regretted that the organ heavy version of the song that shows up about halfway through was not the version that got pressed.
posted by OmieWise at 12:00 PM on August 10, 2007


If you don't like the sea... and don't care for the mountains... and don't like the big city either... go fuck yourself!
posted by Divine_Wino at 12:05 PM on August 10, 2007


Always wanted to see this, even if it isn't the whole film. Thanks.

Seems like the other celluloid bookend of this period in the Stones' career is Cocksucker Blues, which I recently/finally viewed via BitTorrent. The scope of the decadence captured in that movie is pretty devastating, and certainly not in a good way. Amazing any of those guys are still walking around.
posted by mosk at 2:35 PM on August 10, 2007


Terrific post. Listening to part 1, when Mick is teaching the song to his band, it's hard to believe the song will become a classic. Mick keeps screwing up the timing and words here and there on the lyrics. The drummer isn't very interesting at first until the switch is made to congas and then to the last mini-tympani set of drums.(don't know what they are called.) The organ heavy keyboards are good but seem outdone by the grand piano.

My respect for Mick multiplied by 100 after watching these videos and by not a small amount for the rest of the band. What a fascinating process.

Any one know of other videos of bands showing the song creation process?
posted by notmtwain at 6:05 PM on August 10, 2007


Any one know of other videos of bands showing the song creation process?

Miscellaneous Beatles studio footage

John Lennon studio footage and home videos (1st video [How Do You Sleep] includes George Harrison)

Paul McCartney & Wings studio footage
posted by Poolio at 7:43 PM on August 10, 2007


other videos of bands showing the song creation process?

And of course, the Beatles in Let It Be, and when you watch that and see what a messy, ramshackle sort of process that was, it's doubly amazing that they came up with the album that they did. Most of the rehearsal footage from Let It Be shows four musicians who barely want to play with each other, and more often than not can't play with each other for much longer than a few bars! But, damn, then they went up to the roof and pulled off a pretty good little show! (Flubbed lyrics and the occasional bum not notwithstanding...)

Must've been kind of weird for Billy Preston, too, who took part in those sessions with a band of superstars that was clearly well on the way to implosion.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:49 PM on August 10, 2007


Let It Be used to be available on YouTube, but it got pulled a while ago, and I haven't seen a new copy pop up.

Here's the Apple rooftop concert footage, which makes up the last 22 minutes of the film.
posted by Poolio at 7:54 PM on August 10, 2007


BTW, among the "Miscellaneous Beatles studio footage" I posted is several clips from the "Get Back" sessions.
posted by Poolio at 7:55 PM on August 10, 2007


Just to bring things back to the Stones, here's my favorite version of "Gimme Shelter".
posted by Poolio at 8:07 PM on August 10, 2007


I'm fairly sure the video for the new Spoon single is an homage to the Stones and the Godard footage, the "finished" version of "SftD" in particular.

I think you're probably right. What's interesting is that the Spoon video starts out showing the sound engineers, who are never seen in the Godard footage.
posted by Poolio at 9:23 PM on August 10, 2007


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