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Ladies and Gentlemen: The Rolling Stones

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The Seymour-Frank behind-the-scenes material had problems — problems that precluded the use of this documentary material in Ladies and Gentlemen. On the Stones' tour, some members of the press, notably Truman Capote, noted that Frank's camera had caught people passing around plates of pills, and that there were shots of a member of the entourage locked in carnal tandem with a female high-school reporter on a less-than-private section of the Stones' private plane. Marshall Chess allowed as how "there were scenes of people on the crew fucking. Well, a crew member may have a wife. That came up. We're waiting for some releases. There hasn't been any resolution yet." The Seymour-Frank film is finished, Chess said, and one needs "technical work — re-mixing the music." He said it may be out within a year.

The rumors as to the raunchy nature of sections of the offstage film footage were heatedly denied by a close friend of Frank who says there is nothing scandalous about the film, that it is a loving portrait of the Stones, and that it is a work of art and not a commercial venture.

According to Chess, Danny Seymour bought a ketch and sailed off to the Caribbean after the film was shot. No one has heard from him, his boat turned up stolen, and he is missing, presumed dead. Frank retreated into the hinterlands of Nova Scotia, where he refuses to take phone calls.

Ladies and Gentlemen, composed entirely of Gebhardt-Fries performance footage, was originally edited by the filmmakers. Marshall Chess, apparently dissatisfied with the results, brought in Roland Binzer, who, with Gebhardt, re-edited the film. At this point, Chess said, Binzer and Gebhardt came up with the concert concept, and the Seymour-Frank material was excluded.

"Binzer was the major force," said Chess. "He figured out the rhythm that made it work." According to Gebhardt, "We re-did the whole film in an optical lab. We practically re-made the picture frame by frame. We spent a whole summer correcting almost every tenth frame and jockeying around with the 16mm print to make it look like it was shot 35mm for the wide screen."

There seems to have been some communication breakdown between Binzer and Gebhardt as to who was officially "director" of the film. In the final credits, Binzer, Chess, Fries and Gebhardt are all credited with being producers; Chess is called "executive producer"; Binzer, "director"; Fries,"director of sound production" and Gebhardt, "director of visual production and director of photography." Said Gebhardt: "We got into a coke- and grass-induced hard-nosed coin-flip to settle the credits . . . it was as good a way as any to resolve the irresolvables." Binzer confirmed the deciding coin-flip.

Bob Fries and Keith Richards worked on the sound for four months, first at Twickenham Studios in England and later at the Record Plant in Los Angeles. They used a process called "foxholing" which was developed by Twentieth Century Fox for The Robe in 1953, the first stereo movie. Instead of a few wide-sprocket holes and a single sound track for each image frame, there are numerous narrow holes and four separate sound tracks per image in a foxholed film. The method requires a special projector, but it gives a true quad sound, which Binzer and Gebhardt claim is a first in movies. "There's never been a better live sound track in a concert film," said Gebhardt.

At an advance screening of Ladies and Gentlemen two months before the Easter preview, the film ran about 90 minutes, and the Stones did 15 numbers in the exact sequence used in all the concerts on the American tour: "Brown Sugar," "Bitch," "Gimme Shelter," "Dead Flowers," "Happy," "Tumbling Dice," "Love In Vain," "Sweet Virginia," "You Can't Always Get What You Want," "All Down the Line," "Midnight Rambler," "Bye Bye Johnny," "Rip This Joint," "Jumpin' Jack Flash" and "Street Fighting Man."

At the beginning of the film, the screen is blank for 20 full minutes while the quad speakers pump out the sound of an audience filing into a concert hall. Then stage manager Chip Monck's voice comes on to say, "Ladies and Gentlemen, The Rolling Stones." The audience — it sounds like people in the theater, but actually it is the sound of the Fort Worth audience mixed with the Houston crowd — goes wild, and the show begins. The sound is both good and loud, the shots get so close that Mick Taylor's thumbs sometimes look like three-foot-high fence posts. The editing is fluid and non-obtrusive. It is the music that stars in the film. After the concert is over, Chip Monck's voice asks everyone to clear out and not hang around the concert hall, but if you stick around, you can hear a Spitfire airplane taking off in quad while the picture goes back to being blank, the way it started.

"We just wanted to slowly turn it on and slowly turn it off," said Gebhardt. "And rev it up all the way in the middle. Nobody really knows it yet, but this is the first really good rock-concert film. There's no message to it. It's just what it says it is: the Rolling Stones in concert. Period."

This is a story from the May 9, 1974 issue of Rolling Stone.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

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