In September 1965, weeks after “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” hit the charts, the Rolling Stones landed in Dublin to play four manic gigs in two days. The band’s manager, Andrew Loog Oldham, commissioned filmmaker Peter Whitehead to capture every moment. “Everybody had done a movie, even Gerry and the Pacemakers,” says Oldham. “I wanted to get the Stones in the mood for dealing with the film business.”
Now that remarkable footage – which rivals the intimate portrait of Bob Dylan in Don’t Look Back – is finally being released as a movie. Charlie Is My Darling: Ireland 1965 (out November 6th) is packed with unseen footage of early Stones mayhem: boozy hotel-room jams, rabid stage-rushing fans and electric live performances of “Time Is on My Side,” “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love” and “Satisfaction.” “They sound like the Pistols in ’77,” says director Mick Gochanour. “It’s raw. You don’t get that sense from Hullabaloo and Shindig!”
Gochanour visited the Stones vault in London, where he found hours of the 1965 footage – including one mesmerizing scene of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards composing the folky Flowers cut “Sittin’ on a Fence.” “I almost had a heart attack when I saw it,” says Gochanour. “The collaboration they used to have, which Keith talks about in his book, is right there.”
Jagger comes off as remarkably astute and forward-thinking for a 22-year-old. “Young people have started a big thing where they’re anti-war, they love everybody and their sexual lives have become freer,” he says in the film. “A whole sort of basis for society . . . but it’s up to them to carry on those ideals instead of falling into the same old routine their parents have fallen into.”
Rolling Stone spoke with Andrew Loog Oldham about the film, his memories of the Stones in the Sixties and his take on new music. “All of our stuff and what followed is on top of the mountain,” he says. “And the newcomers are struggling to get up the hill.”
Why did it feel like the right time to release Charlie Is My Darling?
Without doubt, it is the end of a certain part of the Sixties as we knew it. We managed to put it off for so long, it was still amazing that this dream we dared to pursue still had legs and remained the foundation behind most new music. Age and the Internet were two hits to the body. We do not have a recorded music business in any way similar to that we grew up with; all of our stuff and what followed is on top of the mountain and the newcomers are struggling to get up the hill. So it’s an ideal time for the movie, a representation of what life was like for both the musician and the music fan at the end of the first part of the Sixties. A few years ago, it might not have been as interesting – the end of certain parts of the game were a long way off.
In your book 2Stoned, director Peter Whitehead says that while you had the idea for the film, you gave him complete freedom. What was your vision for the film originally? Why did you commission it?
Vision was not part the game, getting from moment to moment was. Everybody had done a movie – even Gerry & the Pacemakers. I succumbed to that pressure, which was a mistake because it involved following, not leading. Perhaps it was because I was infatuated by film. I just wanted to get the Stones in the mood for dealing with the film business and deciding what we would or would not do. I figured if they’d been filmed for a few days they’d be up for the crap that was to come. It was also a great opportunity to see which of the Stones the camera fancied, and it turned out to be Charlie Watts, hence the title of the movie.
Much has been written about why Charlie Is My Darling was shelved. From your perspective, though, why wasn‘t it released?
We were busy. We had to find a follow-up to “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” and that was “Get Off of My Cloud,” then we had to have a follow-up to that. The world was very different then. You did not have all these systems that needed product. I think the BBC might have paid 500 quid for it, but they really were not interested. The Stones in the U.K. were still the unwashed and unwanted, in spite of the hits, and in the U.S. you did Ed Sullivan and Dean Martin. Anyway, I didn’t want it out. I think Peter took the film to the Berlin Film Festival and some noted film geezer said that out of all the entries, Charlie is My Darling would be the only one that would hold up in 50 years time. Quite an astute dude. I think Peter was suggested to us by Sean Kenny, the set designer. Sean had seen his Allen Ginsberg film. Peter was perfect.
What was your idea for a later feature film on the Stones [after Charlie Is My Darling]? In your mind, why didn‘t that work out?
Once we could not get A Clockwork Orange, I lost interest. I paid lip service to the idea of Only Lovers Left Alive; great title, average tale. Anyway, the Stones were not really that interested. They knew what fit and what didn’t. We didn’t have to discuss it. Our world was changing at a tremendous rate. Vietnam, civil and racial unrest, Kent State, the second half of the 69’s, drugs as a way of life. Charlie Is My Darling looked like “the Bowery boys go to Belfast” compared to what was going on.
Would you say there‘s a theme to the film?
The camera is rolling – do something.
What do you think about the newly-cut version of the film? How does it compare to the original?
It’s a good time to see all of the footage, it would not have been then. I would not have wanted anyone to see Mick and Keith composing after a show in a hotel room. Now, well, Mick’s late night rendition of “Tell Me ” is something I wish he’d done in the White House. It’s a great document to a time that would be done with by the end of ’65; ’66 was a completely different animal.
Interesting that you would never have wanted Mick and Keith composing in a hotel room in a film. Why?
Composing in a hotel room onscreen was not part of the process of the time. Only the result was required. Today, of course, is different and the process requires you put as much as you can on the table.
What memories does watching the film bring back?
Well, I saw the tailor who cut Keith and my tweed jackets quite recently. He was still on Berwick Street in Soho. I don’t do memories, I do dreams.
During the brief 1965 tour, what was it like to be at the center of the Stones as “Satisfaction“ was hitting the charts?
Hectic. I’m not being flippant – dreams had come true. The Stones were less “made it in America” as “made by America.” America was wonderful to us. I mean, we recorded on Sunset and Ivar, at RCA, and at Chess Studios on South Michigan in Chicago. Nice going for three years.
What was it like?
Wonderful, once Keith and Mick came up with “Get off of my Cloud,” meaning that there was no time to sit back and bask in the light of “Satisfaction.” We needed another single released in a dozen weeks; that was the way the world worked. I know it works the same way today if you are Katy Perry, but in a reverse process: release first, singles later. I was amazed that when I first heard “Get Off of My Cloud,” there was no absolutely no acknowledgement or nod to “Satisfaction ” whatsoever. The band just drove right over it and said, “Here we are again!”