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"Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus" director recalls origin of show's title and of supergroup The Dirty Mac

"Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus" director recalls origin of show's title and of supergroup The Dirty Mac

ABKCO Films/Screenvision Media

A restored version of the star-studded 1968 concert special Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus is being screened this week in select U.S. theaters.

In celebration of the presentations, a special screening and Q&A event featuring the special’s director, Michael Lindsay-Hogg, and cinematographer Tony Richmond was held Monday in New York City.

Lindsay-Hogg revealed that the program’s title came to him while he doodled circles on a sketchpad.

“The god of titles landed in my head and said seven words to me,” Michael recalled. “And then I called Mick Jagger up and I said, ‘I’m gonna say seven words to you. Let me know what you think’…And I said, ‘The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus.’ And that was it.”

Lindsay-Hogg says the title inspired the direction of the show, which featured The Rolling Stones as ringmasters of a surreal circus that included performances by The Who, Jethro Tull, Taj Mahal, Marianne Faithfull and the supergroup The Dirty Mac, featuring John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, and Jimi Hendrix drummer Mitch Mitchell.

According to Lindsay-Hogg, The Dirty Mac came together after Steve Winwood, who was supposed to put together his own supergroup, dropped out of the show a few days before filming. At first, they considered Paul McCartney as a replacement, but reached out to Lennon instead, who agreed to perform and suggested Clapton, Richards and Mitchell.

Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus was originally intended to air on British TV shortly after it was filmed, but was shelved until 1996. Richmond confirmed the often-told reason why: The Rolling Stones weren’t happy with their performance, and felt The Who played better than they had.

To buy tickets to upcoming screenings, visit

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