In 1978 the rise of punk and popularity of disco were about to kick the Rolling Stones out of poignancy. They had been one of the most successful bands in the world for the previous decade plus, but their rock and roll was growing old even as they held the title of last relics of the British Invasion after the Beatles broke up a few years prior. Meanwhile, Keith Richards’s heroin arrest the year before had put the foundation of the band in jeopardy. It not only caused internal tension, but the simple act of maintaining work visas to tour in the United States became much more difficult. At some point everything has to come to an end, and the release of and impending tour for Some Girls came with pressure. Apparently, it’s pressure that helped the Stones thrive.
Some Girls flew to the top of the American charts, and the Stones short US tour is widely hailed as one of their most musically impressive. Ronnie Wood had replaced Mick Taylor on guitar a couple of years earlier, and his style rejuvenated the band in just about every way. Every aspect of their release from turmoil is present in the filmed performance of Some Girls: Live From Texas—a full-length feature film that shows the concert in its entirety, preceded by a recent interview with Mick Jagger. A one-night-only showing of the film played in movie theaters around the country on October 18.
The tour included performances in venues of all sizes from small theaters like the one captured for this film in Fort Worth, to larger arenas and stadiums. As Jagger pointed out during the interview, the differences in venues kept things fresh for the band—they had to change their style of crowd interaction each night, and the songs that worked well in small rooms didn’t transfer well to the large open air stadiums. Every performance was something was new for them.
This night in Fort Worth was indeed something special. The band played every tune to its ultimate potential. Jagger was unstoppable, leading the Stones through every bar, every verse, every section. He paraded on stage like it was the last time he’d ever get to do it, obviously unaware that those very moves would be the inspiration for an embarrassing top ten hit 25 years later (have you heard “Moves Like Jagger”? It’s quite possibly the worst song of the still-young decade). He danced and jumped from note one till the end. He answered the crowd’s cheers, and he deferred to emotion. Front and center alongside him were Wood and Richards—each note-perfect throughout. Trading rhythm and lead parts sometimes mid-solo, if you closed your eyes it would have been hard to tell who was playing which part. Richards could hardly stand still—with each throw of his guitar he jumped practically from one side of the stage to the other. And though Bill Wyman hardly moved from his spot in front of the speaker, his bass was turned up perfectly in the mix to truly show any audience member just how important a solid bassline is to a Stones song.
Versions of “Honky Tonk Woman” and “Tumbling Dice” sent shivers through my spine as I sat in the dark theater and watched the performance on screen. I had thought “Beast of Burden” was a great song on record—I was wrong. Live it takes on a new meaning altogether. But the best was “Miss You”. Obviously a tune close to Jagger’s heart, as he looked out towards the crowd and sang the second verse, “I’ve been walking in Central Park / Singing in the dark / People think I’m crazy,” he made you think he had actually gone crazy, and he was proud of it. The four-on-the-floor drumbeat, which Jagger references in the interview before the concert footage, keeps the jam going for a while after the close of the song, and nobody wants it to end. Even Jagger, who is left stumbling around the stage, crawling towards the crowd, starts running in place, flailing his arms and legs wildly to the beat until he somehow finds his microphone and starts crooning along with the melody. Of the five or ten people in theater that night with me (yes, only five or ten), we all looked at our neighbor and just said, “Wow”.
Jagger’s interaction with his band mates provided some of the more entertaining moments of the film. He grabbed Wood inappropriately, but then brushed it off like it was nothing. He once leaned in close puckering his lips, to which Wood turned away gently. At another point, he sauntered over and picked a cigarette out of Wood’s hand, only to throw it to the ground and stomp it out. While the two guitarists Richards and Wood played together like old friends, Jagger and Richards hardly made eye contact. Wood was the glue that bound them.
As the night grew nearer to a close, the mayhem only got better. Jagger started the evening in a loose sports coat, t-shirt, black leather pants and cap, but by the end had stripped down to only his pants. He used his shirt—a white tee emblazoned with “DESTROY” above a swastika—to fan and then whip Wood as he soloed. It’s most likely that all his other clothes ended up in the hands of a fan, or ripped to shreds somewhere in the crowd.
To close out the show, in a moment of kindness and/or madness, Jagger decided to throw buckets of water out at the crowd. Of course, the already riled up audience drank it up (no pun intended), and howled along with him. For me, the only disappointment was that I was not alongside them, but instead in a movie theater, in Denver years afterwards, left to walk around the cold, quiet city on a Tuesday evening.
Thankfully, the film will always be there.