They say a picture if worth a thousand words and in the case of the latest Rolling Stones live DVD, Some Girls Live in Texas '78 truer words have never been spoken. The Rolling Stones legend intensified out of the break-up of the Beatles and even after four meticulous Jimmy Miller produced records between 1968 and 1972 that bordered on perfection, their legacy and image was largely solidified on the tours between 1972 and 1982. The band was raunchy, forever pushing boundaries and always testing the limits of the audience. Before there was Guns N' Roses there were the Rolling Stones. Show carried a sense of treacherous exploration. The band often didn't appear on stage until hours after they were supposed to but above all else, you never knew what would occur when they did hit the stage. Surprisingly the band only toured in the US in 1972, 1975 and 1978 during the 1970's. Over the years, bootlegs (video and audio) have surfaced which led many to believe that the 1978 tour of America was one of their weakest as the band often sounded (and felt sloppy) to many Stones fans. Plus it always felt to be overshadowed by their previous jaunts with Mick Taylor and their more extensive tours on 1981-82 and 1989-90. However, after watching the band's new DVD Rolling Stones: Some Girls Live In Texas '78 I am elated to report the band proves to be anything but shoddy and credit must be given to the visual feast we get to lay our eyes on for the first time.
The DVD/Blu-ray was recorded at the Will Rogers Memorial Center in Fort Worth, Texas, on July 18th, 1978. This was a mere six-weeks after the release of Some Girls but the band owned these songs. Unlike Ladies and Gentlemen: The Rolling Stones this Fort Worth 1978 concert never received a theatrical release and remained buried for over thirty years and there's a sense of ecstasy when watching this DVD because we're all witnessing it for the first time. It should also be mentioned that the Rolling Stones broke with tradition in 1979 when the opted to not tour Europe. Going back to 1969, the Rolling Stones always followed an American tour with one in Europe the following calendar year (and this remained true for every tour that followed this one). So not only are European fans seeing the film for the first time, they're witnessing this bare bones tour for the first time. There is also another level of intimacy here not found on later tours which were in stadiums. In fact, several cities only saw the '78 tour from a stadium, so this is an opportunity to show the band in a more personal setting. The footage was originally shot on 16mm film, the footage has been carefully restored and the sound remixed and remastered by Bob Clearmountain from the original multitrack tapes.
The 1978 touring version of the Rolling Stones wasn't as grounded as the 1972-73 tour with Taylor and didn't have the flash and pizzazz as the 1975-76 and 1981-82 tours, but what it did have was a group of musicians hell bent on performing their latest album skipping over dozens of fan favorites. Reducing the stage to the bare minimum, the focus was clearly on the music as the Stones strove to show the world that in the advent of punk, they will still dangerously relevant. I've always been a staunch believer in documenting your career, visually and sonically to jigger memories and often disprove myths and theories. It's true that the Stones in the early part of the 1970's were a untidy band onstage but watching the marvelous 1972 concert Ladies and Gentlemen: The Rolling Stones proved they were more unfastened than careless. The new DVD/Blu-ray of Some Girls Live in Texas '78 once again proves that there was more venom to the band than the bootlegs and hazy memories may have previously displayed.
Kicking off the spirited set is Chuck Berry's "Let It Rock". It's hard listening to a song on headphones and imagining the concert unfolds before your eyes, even if you witnessed the tour. However, with the glorious 16MM concert now remastered and released for the first time in all its glory, you can't help but feel that even with a shortened set they're still one of (if not the greatest) rock n' roll bands on the planet. At the time of the show taking place in 1978, the band was out to prove not so much their worth but that in the face of punk that they still had bite. Some Girls had been released a few months prior and it was received as a return to form for the band. I'm quick to say that I believe every single Rolling Stones record has something to offer and I'd even dare say that none of them are complete disasters. However, what Some Girls offered were ten perfectly performed, written and produced tracks that were reflections of their lives with one foot in the past and one clearly in the present. "Miss You" has been performed by the band so many times and has been heard on the radio so often; it's easy to forget how revitalizing this track was to the band. It may be the only cut in the history of pop music to live in a cocoon of nasty blues riffs and stolid rhythm calling to mind disco without being a complete sell-out. In concert, it took on an aura of funk with the harmonica melody being performed on guitars rather than having harmonica performed by someone offstage (as was the case in 1989-90). Onstage it wasn't the clear-cut hit that was blasting across radio dials that sticky summer but came off like an impromptu jam that owed more to fervent soul-style grooves than pop. On the DVD the track extends past the eight-minute mark. "Shattered" is overpowering but is blazing when you see drummer Charlie Watts and bassist Bill Wyman shift through tempos and textures as one of the greatest rhythm sections to ever grace a stage. "Far Away Eyes" is the most faultless country song they ever concocted, "Respectable" has a demonic kick and "Beast of Burden" and its distressing tale of dependence is every bit as charismatic on film and stage. None of the tracks were note-for-note reproductions and each showed the band flourishing and adding new dimensions to the songs live. While all great live performers do this, it's surprising to see the band so willing to fill out these songs a mere six weeks after they had been released.
Each of the Rolling Stones recent live DVD releases has had pinch-yourself-moments. Last year's Ladies and Gentlemen: The Rolling Stones was the validation that Mick Taylor was indeed every bit as good as his legend. While he wasn't one to attack the concert stage, his intense and pensive blues riffs permeated throughout the show giving the 1972/73 tour a aesthetic feel no other Stones tour had before or since. Rolling Stones: Some Girls Live In Texas '78 is eye opening for the dynamic partnership of Jagger and Richards. It's easy to forget but Keith Richards was busted for drugs in Toronto in 1977 and was facing the possibility of jail when most of Some Girls was written and recorded. He received an incredibly light sentence and the 1978 tour featured an invigorated Keith Richards who wasn't taking anything for granted. His liveliness on the stage prove this was a man who a new lease on life. As far as Mick Jagger goes, he often gets torn down but watching him then and now, I'm always amazed. I think one of the criticisms of this era is the lack of sentiment within Jagger's voice. He truly appears to be invigorated on the stage and delivers each song with his full body in motion. The exuberance that emanates from Jagger can't be heard listening to bootlegs and this is yet another reason for this document to exist. The band storms the crowd with seven, count them seven, songs in a row from Some Girls mid set. With a mere seventeen songs in the set, it's staggering to see an act like the Stones perform so many from their latest album, unless they believed in the material with every bone in their body. While other tours would find the band tearing through their latest record (notably 1981's Tattoo You) this was probably the last time the band were as boisterous with the new songs. The band knew they had killer set of tunes and delivered each one with a brisk and biting oomph.
There are meaty bonus features on the DVD/Blu-ray as well. Many bands offer much grander and detailed extras on DVD's but often, they're so overwhelming I get the sense most people don't watch them. Each and every bonus feature here is A-grade and worth exploring. First up is a present day interview with Mick Jagger discussing the band, Some Girls and the tour in support of it. Jagger may be a businessman of the highest order but he's also engaging, witty and someone whose insights I enjoy thoroughly. The disc also has a five-minute news feature on the band from 1978 that is a trip to watch and the heftiest of the bonus items is their stop on Saturday Night Live in October 1978 which features a comedy segment based on the Tom Snyder show Tomorrow with Mick Jagger (Dan Aykroyd is Snyder). The most important footage is of the band tearing through three Some Girls numbers. I'm not 100% sure if these performances are from the show or the rehearsal show (which is done earlier in the evening). There was some controversy at the time of its airing that the rehearsal footage was far superior to the actual performance and re-runs over the years featured the rehearsal take for at least one of the songs. I can't say if that is the case here but it's beside the point because Some Girls Live in Texas '78 is a faultless document of one of the most significant years in the band's history.
It's not been confirmed if the Rolling Stones will ever tour again. Even if they never take the stage again, they're proving the world over of their legacy, their talent and their continued influence of music with these archive releases which are shaping up to be among the best released in all of music with only U2 and Elvis Costello coming close. From the bonus tracks on classic records, documentaries (Stones in Exile) and now a pair of flat out devastating and essential DVD releases, the Rolling Stones are not just reminding us of their legacy but challenging the heir apparent to raise their games as well.
Anthony Kuzminski is a Chicago based writer and Special Features Editor for the antiMusic Network. His daily writings can be read at The Screen Door. He can be contacted at thescreendoor AT gmail DOT com and can be followed on Twitter