A documentary about the Rolling Stones’ groundbreaking tour of Ireland in 1965, "Charlie Is My Darling, Ireland 1965," won a Grammy Award last month for Best Historical Album. The brilliant and moving documentary film about the Stones' now legendary two day tour of Ireland kicks off with the band just two weeks after “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” – the band’s early mission statement – went to number one.
The year 1965 is a long time ago, especially in Ireland, where the landscape is almost unrecognizable now. Grim post-war buildings complement the obtrusively theocratic atmosphere. Into this grey world of cultural conformity comes the most exciting rock band in the world and the island – and in particular the young people of the island – are turned on their heads.
“There’s something of the atmosphere of an early Sex Pistols concert in evidence,” Mick Gochanour, the director of the film tells the Irish Voice.
He’s not kidding. When the band steps onto the stage in Dublin the venue erupts, with young women and men throwing themselves toward the stage. It gets crazy quickly.
Young people rush the stage, one young man takes charge of the microphone and sings and then half screams. It’s like their heads are exploding at the unexpected prospect of being listened to for the first time. The country had never seen anything like it.
But what’s most amazing about Gochanour’s film is that it exists at all.
For decades fans have known of the existence of a film of the 1965 Irish tour, shot in a cinema-verite style, but only pieces of the original remained.
Gochanour, who meticulously restored the original film to its former glory and added significant unseen footage shot in Dublin and Belfast, undertook the real task. By doing so he brings the band and the era alive with revelatory you-are-there power.
As they take the stage the band seems as astonished by the mayhem as the Irish police, who fail spectacularly to stop it in its tracks. As the film progresses you realize the Stones are just getting to grips with the idea they are becoming superstars.
But leader Mick Jagger, even at 22, knows that it’s all an act. Speaking directly to the camera, he says that his generation, thanks to rock and roll and the vagaries of history, has a once-in-a-lifetime chance to make something new of themselves, politically, socially, sexually, through the self-expression of rock and roll. It’s astounding that he happens to be making that statement in the Ireland of 1965.
It’s the music that contains the film’s real, revelatory power. It’s so good it makes you want to create a rock band of your own to set the world on fire.
Failing that, it makes you want to return to the Stones’ raw early catalogue that’s as filled with tributes to the bands they love as their own compositions.
Their most ardent fans will also be delighted to see Jagger and Keith Richards composing together, a thing not seen in any other Stones documentary apart from Jean Luc Goddard’s "Sympathy for the Devil."
This is a film that every Irish person who loves both rock and roll and their country’s own fraught social history should own.
It captures lightning in a bottle twice. First with some early incendiary Stones performances, and then with a moment in time when the youth of Ireland stepped out from under the authoritarian shadow that had trailed them all their lives and decided to express themselves on their own terms.
In other words it’s one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. It’s unforgettable and strangely moving because you can see a generation – the bands, and the youth of Ireland who take their cue from them – stepping into themselves. There’s more than a little satisfaction in the sight of that.
For more information on the film, and how to purchase it, visit www.charlieismydarling.com.
The history behind “When Irish Eyes are Smiling”