“The Rolling Stones: Charlie Is My Darling” kicks off the 13th Annual deadCenter Film Festival at 9:30 p.m. Wednesday on the Great Lawn at Myriad Gardens. This is a free show.
In celebration of the Rolling Stones’ 50th anniversary, ABKCO Films unearthed the long lost ” Charlie is My Darling,” a 1965 documentary treasure chronicling the band’s brief tour of Ireland just after the release of its first bona fide worldwide megahit, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.”
Directed by British documentarian Peter Whitehead in what he called a “socio-realistic cinema verite” style, the black-and-white film captures the future bad boys of rock when they were very young and still relatively innocent, playing the biggest available venues at the time — movie theaters — and looking bewildered and even a little bit frightened when screaming girls and boys rush the unprotected stage and mob them in the middle of grinding out “It’s Alright.”
The band’s then 19-year-old manager Andrew Loog Oldham commissioned the film, in his words, as “sort of a trial run, get-your-celluloid legs together for any forthcoming feature film and an effort on my part to keep the Stones interested in the idea of film.”
Curiously, “Charlie is My Darling” — named affectionately for the aloof, no-nonsense Stones drummer Charlie Watts — was never publicly released until now.
“I’m just a drummer,” Watts tells an interviewer at one point. “I’m not a musician of (classical) caliber … maybe it’s just an inferiority complex. Maybe I’m great after all.”
Late-night motel room footage features Mick Jagger and Keith Richards casually jamming on “Sittin’ On a Fence” and “Tell Me,” then breaking out with two Beatles numbers — “Eight Days a Week” and “I’ve Just Seen a Face” — while Oldham looks on and Watts sits quietly in a corner looking very bored.
Another after-hours scene finds Jagger and a piano-playing Richards having a few drinks and trading their best Elvis Presley imitations on “Blueberry Hill,” “Are You Lonesome Tonight” and “A Teenager in Love.”
But concert footage reveals how tight the band was even early on, as it offers up note-perfect renditions of Naomi Neville’s bluesy “Pain in My Heart” and Chuck Berry’s rousing “Around and Around,” as well its own “Satisfaction.” One wonders if the screaming crowd could even hear how good they were.
“Onstage I suppose there’s a sexual thing between the audience and the group,” a baby-faced Jagger observes in one interview.
“Charlie is My Darling” shows the band on the brink of international stardom, struggling to figure out how it all came to be and how long it might last. And it’s a little haunting when Brian Jones confesses, “I’ve always been a little apprehensive about the future.”
As for Charlie, he sums it all up this way: “I’m happiest at home.”
For a full deadCenter schedule, go to www.deadcenterfilm.org.
— Gene Triplett