It Only Took 33 Years For Dallas Filmmakers to Get Due Credit For "Lost" Stones Concert Film
Jagger and Richards in Some Girls Live shot in Fort Worth
A reminder: Tonight and tonight only is that big-screen screening of The Rolling Stones: Some Girls Live In Texas, shot during the band's Will Rogers Auditorium stopover on July 18, 1978, under the moniker the "London Green Shoed Cowboys." It will screen simultaneously on 300 screens nationwide before going international, then making its way to home-video release in conjunction with the re-release of a souped-up Some Girls in November.
But here's a little-known fact -- little known, because it's not mentioned once in publicity materials dispatched in advance of the nationwide one-off tonight: Some Girls Live was directed by Dallas documentarian Lynn Lenau and her all-local crew of shooters, among them Phillip Thomas, the man holding the hand-held that was in Mick Jagger's face for the entirety of the show. On top of that, none of them knew the film was finally being released till, oh, three weeks ago.
"Not even then, really," says Lenau. She tells Unfair Park today she first heard about the film's release when a reporter from a New Zealand newspaper called to find out if she's the Lynn Lenau who shot the movie in 1978. She said yes, of course she was. "But why do you want to know?" she wondered.
"Because there's a rumor it's being re-released," he told her.
"And I told him, 'It's never been released,'" she recalls now, laughing.
The question is: Why not? Well, actually, that's just one of the questions surrounding a movie whose makers had no idea it was being released till days ago. Another question: Are they getting paid for it all these years later?
That's the short answer given by Jack Calmes, who, in 1978, was Lenau's husband -- and the man who made the film happen in the first place.
In 1978, Calmes was president of Showco, the famed lighting and sound company that brought rock and roll into the arenas for the likes of Led Zeppelin, the Who, ZZ Top, Van Halen and the Stones. Showco designed the stage for the Some Girls tour -- very film-noir, says Calmes, "very Dashiell Hammett." He thought it would make for one hell of a movie. That, and "I thought Some Girls was far and away the band's best record."
Back then, Calmes and Mick Jagger were tight, so much so that when the band got into Dallas for its Fort Worth gig, Calmes met Jagger at the Fairmont. They had plans: Bobby "Blue" Bland at the Longhorn Ballroom.
"We were the only two white guys in there," Calmes says. "I introduced Mick to Bobby and Al 'TNT' Braggs. Then we went back to the Fairmont, and I pitched him on the film. In those days, no one let cameras in close positions. Bands didn't let them onstage. It was a rock-and-roll taboo. They were all afraid of stuff getting pirated. I said to Mick, 'But you know all of us, this is a safe environment, and I've got the best guys together to do this.' And we also owned a 24-track recorder, so it was in sync with all five cameramen. All pros."
Six hours before showtime, Jagger finally agreed to let Calmes's crew shoot the show at Will Rogers. Theirs was a handshake deal. No paperwork was ever signed.
"And this will go down as the best one they ever did," Calmes said. "The show was just so ... unpretentious." He laughs."Mick was so hungover and fucked up from having been up with me all night till the next day, when he finally said yes."
There were a few details to be worked out, chief among them getting Jagger to let Thomas shoot him center-stage, from mere feet away. Jagger hated the idea of a camera in his face. He scoffed. He moaned. He said no many times.
"Jack spent all night trying to talk Mick into letting me be there," says Thomas, who served as the film's director of photography. "Lynn says she did it. Jack says he did it. But nonetheless, part of the agreement came down to: If I was hand-held, then he'd let me be there. There was a little runway that came off the stage -- 20 to 30 feet long, six-feet wide. I was standing right on the first row, and he was four, five feet away from me. I'm looking straight up at him."
Lenau then spent the next few months editing footage. She and Calmes, who divorced long ago, screened the film in Dallas a few times. Then they took a cut featuring five songs to Los Angeles, where ads promoting the film began appearing in trade mags and on billboards.
"We had a screening in a sound stage in old Hollywood, which was the first time I even talked to Mick," Lenau says. "He was concerned. It was one show. It wasn't like where you shot five concerts and picked the best from each one. And I heard they thought they looked too old. But I told him we could clean some stuff up if they gave me more time."
Eventually, she and Calmes say separately, one of the Stones' reps told them: Hand over the film. It's going on the shelf. Forever.
"I just felt if they gave me a little more time ..." Lenau says. "Because it was good."
Decades passed. Calmes's Showco morphed into Syncrolite; he still works with the Stones, matter of fact, lighting all the band's tours. He and Lynn split; 15 years ago, she gave up filmmaking and editing and started her own landscaping business. Thomas continues to work in the film business. Everyone had given up on the film ever being released. They forgot all about it. Till, that is, a few weeks ago.
When Calmes got wind of it, he reached out to the Stones via email. He wanted to make sure his ex and her crew were properly credited. He also wanted to make sure they were all getting paid, because far as anyone recalls, maybe they made a collective $1,000 for their work in July 1978. (Calmes says the Stones also reimbursed him for renting the film equipment -- $10,000, if that.) Calmes says he's heard from Jagger that they'll get some kind of credit; money remains an entirely separate issue.
"It's called rock-star amnesia," Calmes says. "And I heard back from Mick: 'We'll give you some kind of credit.' But there's no excuse for them not remembering. This wasn't a situation where you'd forget, even if you're a rock star. I worked on him relentlessly for a long time to let us shoot this film."
Calmes isn't out to bad-mouth his old friend, but "I didn't do this for my health," he says. "I thought it would be a great piece of work, and really wanted to make something of it, but the deal was if he didn't want to do it, it was his call. I told Mick [via email], 'As I remember it, it was a handshake deal. If something happened in the future we'd discuss it.' And something happened -- 34 years later. And that's a long time. But you don't forget something this monumental."
Lenau and Thomas and others who worked on the film are planning on attending tonight's screening at the Cinemark West Plano off the Dallas North Tollway; so too is Calmes's former partner Angus Wynne and old friends who attended the small show. Thomas is excited to see it.
"They shelved it because they looked old," he says. "Now, of course, they actually look old, and they went back and saw how bitching and bad-ass and cool they were back then and said, 'Wow, we don't have baggy eyes, gray hair, and we're skinny as shit.'"
Lenau, though, she's a little more ... apprehensive. Because she doesn't even know what her movie looks like anymore. "I could go to parties while I was editing and had Mick Jagger down," she says. "People cheered. And I listened to all the music over and over again." But she hasn't seen it in decades. And she's not even sure whether the film that screens tonight bears any resemblance to her cut.
"I have heard my name is on it," she says. "I heard that from Jack. We have a friend who saw it in London. And this is fun. I'm glad it happened finally. It'll bring a bunch of people together at one time who haven't seen each other in a long time. All these people will be together tonight to see it, and that's what is important. And I have the other side of me that wants it to be good, that doesn't want it to be MTV-ish. I just want it to be like it was."
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Observer's biggest stories.
- Greg Abbott Does not Give a Damn What He Says on Twitter
Sun., Oct. 11, 3:25pm
Sun., Oct. 11, 3:25pm
Tue., Oct. 13, 7:30pm
Thu., Oct. 15, 6:30pm
- Don't Blame Texas for Textbook's Slavery Whitewash. For Once.
- The Untold Story of the Dallas Park Department's Crackdown on Rogue Soccer