Would you like to see the Rolling Stones on Shindig in 1965 watching a performance by their hero Howlin’ Wolf? A version of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” from the unreleased 1968 feature film Rock & Roll Circus? Or something from their first performance with Mick Taylor: “Honky Tonk Women” – before it was issued?
Soon you will be able to. Some of the rarest and most stunning footage of the Stones will be available on home video when CMV releases 25 x 5: The Continuing Adventures of the Rolling Stones, $29.95, on February 13th. The 130-minute program diligently covers the history of the Stones via interviews with the band, plus vintage color footage so vibrant it borders on the hallucinogenic.
Made at the Stones’ request by Lorne Michaels, producer of Saturday Night Live, and Andrew Solt, producer of This Is Elvis and Imagine, the program was scheduled to run on NBC as the Steel Wheels tour began. The band, however, decided to release 25 x 5 exclusively as a home video – fortuitously, according to Michaels. “If we interviewed the band when we were originally supposed to, it would have been much more stressful,” he says, noting that the band was then in rehearsals. “But we ended up doing them in Baltimore some twenty-five days after the tour started, so they were more relaxed and expansive.”
Most of these interviews stick to nuts and bolts – mythologizing is held to a minimum – and the Stones take pains to downplay their bad-boy image as pure PR. “That was amazing to me,” says Michaels, “because at the time I was one of those who were manipulated by it.” One revelation: Keith Richards describes how the Stones and the Beatles coordinated their record-release dates to foster sales. “We always thought the Beatles were competitive with the Stones,” says Solt. “But Keith calls it a ‘meticulous piece of workmanship’ going on between them.”
Frustratingly, not one of the performances is complete. “Unfortunately,” says Solt, “if it’s not going to be a six-hour program, you have to make certain tightening decisions.” Yet many near-full performances did make the cut. Best are classic appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show, including a terrific “Paint It Black” from September 1966 – Brian Jones plays sitar – and the infamous “Let’s Spend the Night Together” from January 1967, when Mick Jagger was forced to sing, “Let’s spend some time together,” rolling his eyes all the while.
As exciting as the performances are, the sheer brilliance of the color sometimes seems to threaten the program. As Solt explains, the Sullivan footage actually looks better today than when it first aired. “Even if you had a color TV set back then,” he says, “it usually didn’t come across as well, because the monitors weren’t as good.” The effect is almost eerily immediate. “It’s odd,” says Solt, “but when you see this footage of the Stones now, not only does it look newer, it even looks more real.”
This story is from the February 8, 1990 issue of Rolling Stone.