SIR MICK JAGGER AND RONNIE WOOD – SHINE A LIGHT.
The raw energy and power of the world’s greatest rock ‘n roll band, The Rolling Stones, is captured by master filmmaker Martin Scorsese in Shine A Light. “It’s a very energetic film,” laughs Sir Mick Jagger. “I was even tired out watching it.”
Scorsese filmed the Stones over two nights at the Beacon Theatre in New York in the autumn of 2006 as the band played their Bigger Bang Tour. And when two creative worlds collide – music and filmmaking – the sparks fly.
The director includes footage where he frets about the fact that with show time fast approaching, he still hasn’t had a set list of the numbers that the Stones will play.
“Well the way it’s edited its exaggerated to some extent but the trouble with filmmakers is that they are very used to being in charge of absolutely everything,” says Jagger with a smile. “I’ve known Marty for years and years and years but you know every filmmaker has to understand that there are certain constraints and we were in a very, very tight space at this theatre.”
It all came together on the night with spectacular results. Scorsese recruited a sublimely skilled team to help him capture every guitar lick from Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood, every drum beat from Charlie Watts and every nuance as the world’s most famous singer struts his stuff on his natural domain, the stage.
Scorsese employed 18 cameras and a vastly experienced crew, including Oscar winning cinematographer Robert Richardson, Academy Award winning directors of photography John Toll and Andrew Lesnie and some of the best camera operators in Hollywood to film the shows. Later, he would make the final cut along with editor David Tedeschi who also worked with him on No Direction Home: Bob Dylan.
“It’s a tribute to Marty really, because the film is technically wonderful. It flows and is edited beautifully. If you’re going to do a concert film – and this is essentially a concert film – then who better to work with than Marty? The guy is a genius.”
Jagger and Scorsese have known each other ‘for years’ and the director is, obviously, a huge fan of the band and first discovered their music in the 1960s. He has used Stones tracks on several of his films, including Gimmie Shelter that appears on Goodfellas, Casino and The Departed, a film that won him, finally, an Oscar for Best Picture
“I think this is the only time Gimmie Shelter isn’t used on a Scorsese film,” jokes Jagger, who didn’t include the song on the play list for the Beacon.
The concert does feature many Stones’ classics – including Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Start Me Up, Brown Sugar – and an array of dazzling guest appearances with a riveting Loving Cup with Jack White, a rollicking, sexy, Live With Me with Christine Aguilera and a show stopping performance of Champagne and Reefer with a mesmerising guitar break from Buddy Guy. So good was the latter that Keith promptly handed him his guitar to keep after the song ended.
This interview with Sir Mick Jagger and Ronnie Wood took place at the Berlin Film Festival where Shine A Light was the opening film.
Q: Shine A Light shows just how energetic you are on stage. It’s a very youthful performance…
MJ: Oh that’s very kind of you. There’s no secret really. I was born like that really. You have to do a bit of work when you get over 30. When you get over 30 then you have to go to the gym. Before 30 you don’t have to worry so I don’t know if you have to worry or not.
RN: Certainly a lot of energy was generated in that film.
MJ: it is very energetic the film isn’t it? I was even tired out watching.
RN: Me too. I couldn’t believe Charlie sat there and watched the whole thing as well as the rest of us but Charlie’s usually like ‘oh I don’t want to watch myself’ but he was actually getting into it.
Q: Martin Scorsese looks like your father….
MJ: (interrupts) He looks like my father? I wish my father was alive to listen to that. Yeah, he’s smaller than my father.
Q: Marty’s more or less the same age as you isn’t he?
MJ: Yeah more or less.
Q: Did you at any point consider the camera going backstage with you guys?
RW: We did do that but never used it. Well, we left it to Marty.
MJ: The thing was, the boring part was, in that theatre there was almost no backstage. It was so tiny and it was taken up with camera equipment and cables and there really wasn’t anywhere much to do anything backstage. We tried to create a room in there because normally we have a lot (going on) backstage so we tried to create a room where we could hang out in there and …
RW: Yeah but it was about the size of this table.
MJ: Yeah. I think Marty felt and I felt, too, that it was a bit of a cliché doing the backstage thing and getting ready and all this business. We’ve done it. Everyone’s done that forever.
RW: Especially in such cramped circumstances.
Q: Aren’t you guys afraid of the day when you’re not able to jump and flash on stage any longer?
MJ: I’m sure it’ll happen but it hasn’t happened for the moment so we don’t look at the clouds of tomorrow through the sunshine of today.
Q: What do you like to do when you’re not performing on stage?
MJ: Well you have to do other kind of work as well.
RN: You get pretty lost really if you don’t.
MJ: Ronnie does a lot of painting and I do a lot of other things. My next thing I’m doing is song writing, that’s my thing. I’ve had a lot of administration stuff, too lately, office work, things like that.
Q: How does it work when you decide to get back on the road? Who calls whom? Do you instigate it Mick?
RW: Mick and Charlie kind of send out a wave.
MJ: I have to figure out when it’s a good time to go out and if it’s going to be the right thing to do at that moment. There’s a lot of consideration - both artistic and commercial. So then you’ve got to decide then you’ve got to pick a moment and it’s about the moment because you have to get your timing right for that and sometimes the moment isn’t good because there’s like a 100 other bands out there. So you go, ‘well I’d like to go on tour now but the market place is completely stuffed’ so you can’t go. So it’s like the movie business when you can’t release a movie at certain times so then you have to pick a moment.
RN: And then when we do get a window of a certain month, say we’re going to get together in March or something, then you start remoulding your whole life towards it. ‘OK, cancel everything from then on!’ It’s total commitment
MJ: We mustn’t forget to plug the audio CD of the movie that has just come out.
RW: Which Mick is mixing.
MJ: Just finished mixing it.
RW: Entirely different mix to the film.
Q: In the beginning of the film you seemed a bit irritated with all the cameras. What was going on?
MJ: Well the way it’s edited its exaggerated to some extent but the trouble with filmmakers is that filmmakers are very used to being in charge of absolutely everything. I’ve known Marty for years and years and years but you know every filmmaker has to understand that there are certain constraints and we were in a very, very tight space at this theatre. We talked about backstage but there was such a small backstage and there was nowhere to put anything. There was nowhere to put us and there was nowhere to put the equipment.
Of course we had trucks of stuff but Marty kept increasing his camera ask which is totally understandable. I completely understand it, but after a while there were too many cranes. And if you have too many cranes in too small a space it gets very dangerous and also cause you bump into them so if you have a crane operator that you work with every night, he knows exactly where you’re going to go in a big huge stadium and you don’t bang your head on the crane or Keith doesn’t bang his head on the crane which I don’t want to happen either.
So you have to be very wary of cranes and Marty wanted two huge cranes behind and Marty and I had a lot of discussion about whether we should have the cranes behind or not because the cranes took up a third or more of the stage because they’re actually really big. They’re not like little DV cranes.
RW: And the amount of cinematographers that Marty recruited was unbelievable.
MJ: Yeah so there was hardly any room for the audience or anything else so I said we have to really discuss the room because 35mm cameras take up a lot of room and so that’s all. So that was a tiny bit of a well natured discussion that Marty and I had about the camera placement.
Q: One of the cinematographers was Albert Maysles who directed Gimmie Shelter in 1970. How was it to work with him again?
RW: Well it was a trip for me because admired that film before I was in the band.
MJ: But you weren’t there were you?
RW: Yeah but the great thing was that he treated me like I was there.
MJ: Sweet guy. He’s a very nice guy.
Q: One of the funniest moments in the film is the old footage about the drugs. What do you feel now about the subject?
MJ: Oh the thing when we were busted. Yes it was very funny but at the time it wasn’t very funny. At the time it wasn’t very good because it completely took over our lives creatively and we couldn’t do this and couldn’t do that. You had to spend all your time trying to deal with all the police and you didn’t have time to do anything else.
Q: At the time The Beatles felt they and certain other people like you were being targeted? Did you feel that?
MJ: Yeah we were definitely being targeted and quite common thing really.
RW: I think he nailed it when he put the kaftans on and met the Archbishop.
MJ: So funny with those guys.
RW: It was risky at the time but good, a statement.
Q: Were the drugs the problem or just the hassle with the police that was the problem?
RW: They use to plant you in those days.
MJ: They did actually, they used to plant you. They still do I should think. The problem is that it’s very time consuming. The whole police thing and the lawyer thing was incredibly time consuming and then of course you couldn’t go to the States. It’s the same thing now. The same thing happened to Amy Winehouse today. I don’t’ know if you saw the story, but you know she can’t go to the United States to do the Grammys. So that’s the same problem we were having.
Q: Were the drugs for your creativity?
MJ: Well I don’t really think so. I mean that’s a whole long conversation and I don’t think we’ll have that conversation but I think it’s perhaps overrated as a creative help.
Q: There is that clip when you say that you don’t expect you guys to stay together for more than year….
MJ: I don’t actually say that. I said we don’t have any work. My thing was would we actually get any work because you didn’t expect the work to go on and keep coming because you just think you’d do it for a year or two and people would perhaps come. It wasn’t like we were going to break up or anything.
Q: Why did the work keep coming?
MJ: Because we were successful.
So you only stayed together because of the success?
MJ: I don’t think we stayed together only for the success but I think if we hadn’t had the success I don’t think we would have stayed together. Why would you stay together if you weren’t successful?
RW: Just the belief in the music that you just liked to play regardless.
MJ: You need those two things - you need the love of doing it and you need the love of other people wanting you to do it. It’s a two way street.
RW: And they never gave up.
Q: How does this film compare to other documentaries on you?
MJ: Well first of all, to define it as a documentary is very misleading. When people say to me ‘documentary’ I imagine always it’s someone following you around and all these things. But actually for a concert film we haven’t made a concert film since 1981 (Let’s Spend The Night Together). We’ve actually only made one other concert film. This is only the second concert film we’ve ever made so yeah we made lots of DVD of shows but they weren’t really expressly done, they weren’t filmed, they were DVD.
RW: That was like a filmed concert but this you know you’ve got the insight of Marty Scorsese, which is so interesting after you see things like the Bob Dylan documentary he did. I only saw bits of it but you know it’s going to grip you.
MJ: Because the editing is so painstaking and clever it makes the thing float really.
Q: How do you expect people to react to this documentary?
MJ: I don’t really know because I don’t know what they’re going to expect. And I hope they enjoy it as a concert film really and the other things to me are kind of a bonus.
RW: And the difference in the set list, I think Mick took a lot of time to design to make it slightly different to a normal show and going back down memory lane and pulling things out of the bag.
MJ: And getting the guests together. Getting the right guests together.
RW: Old and new you know. Buddy Guy the first influence on me and Keith as a guitarist and his voice for Mick and then you get Christina (Aguilera) and Jack (White) a nice cross section.
Q: You have achieved things that nobody else has achieved. Are there still things in life you want to do?
MJ: Many things.
RW: Getting into the Royal Academy, that’s what I’m in. isn’t that cool?
MJ: Ronnie’s already been invited to the Royal Academy which is great.