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Watch John Lennon freak out at The Rolling Stones’ first live performance of Sympathy For The Devil

Stones
(Image credit: Mark and Colleen Hayward/Redferns)

The Rolling Stones’ December 11, 1968 Rock And Roll Circus event was memorable for a number of reasons. It featured Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi moonlighting (and miming) with Jethro Tull, it saw a one-night-only performance from barely-rehearsed supergroup The Dirty Mac – John Lennon, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards and Mitch Mitchell – and it would prove to be guitarist Brian Jones’ last ever gig with the Stones.

And in a previously unreleased cut from the concert film which has now surfaced online, you can now spot John Lennon getting his groove on as the Stones give Sympathy For The Devil its live debut.

Watch Lennon get his ya-yas out at the 4:54 mark.

 

“The first time I performed without The Beatles for years was the Rock And Roll Circus, and it was great to be on stage with Eric and Keith Richards and a different noise coming out behind me, even though I was still singing and playing the same style,” Lennon later commented. “I thought: ‘Wow! It’s fun with other people’.” 

The Rock And Roll Circus film was initially conceived as a BBC special, but was delayed for release until 1996. In addition to The Rolling Stones, Jethro Tull and The Dirty Mac performances, there were also sets from The Who, Yoko One, Marianne Faithfull and Taj Mahal.

“I got the feeling Mick [Jagger] was the driving force, but the others thought it was all a bit embarrassing for the Stones to be presented in that kind of environment, dressed up as circus clowns,” recalled Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson. “It was Jagger’s energy that got it going. It was impressive to watch how he dragged the rest of the band with him.” 

“It was an incredible shoot, I think, 36 hours or something,” Keith Richards later remembered. “I remember not remembering everything towards the end… but it was fun… we went through two audiences… wore one out… it was great!”

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The Rolling Stones Rock And Roll Circus: £65, now £47 (opens in new tab)
The Stones’ album Rock And Roll Circus was originally recorded in 1968 and features guest appearances from artists including Pete Townshend, Ian Anderson, Taj Mahal, Yoko Ono and more. This 3-disc pressing boasts 28 tracks which were all freshly mixed in 2019.

Paul Brannigan
Paul Brannigan

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.