THE DARK CARNIVAL Part 2: Sympathy for the Devil

August 3, 2022

Almost exactly 60 years after their first show at London’s Marquee Jazz Club on July 12, 1962 the Rolling Stones will once again be playing in Berlin tonight. Tonight’s gig not only marks the end of their current European tour, it will most likely be the last tour if not the last show they ever play.

Tickets are long sold out of course, with the cheapest seats going for somewhat over €280. Out of curiosity, I checked the promoter’s website today and they still show a ‘VIP Package’, which includes a place in the Diamond Pit (whatever that is…), standing room only. It could be had for a lousy €849. This ticket also allows early access. We’re once again looking at 34° C (93° F) in Berlin today, and the gig is supposed to start at 6:30 pm. No doubt grilling a couple extra hours in the sun will be a lot of fun.

Anyway, this is of course the perfect opportunity to present another lot from the DARK CARNIVAL exhibition, the original 1969 release US Special movie poster for Jean-Luc Godard’s SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL:

Rolling Stones Sympathy for the Devil US Special Poster
Rolling Stones Sympathy for the Devil Detail

Admittedly, I have never been too much of a Rolling Stone fan myself, but I always adored this poster.

This is a beautiful, slightly oversized silkscreen print for the original US release of the movie. Only about 100-120 copies of this poster were made. I had a local artist at the shop at some point, and she told me that a somewhat special silkscreen technique had been used here, with the result that every single poster looks slightly different.

Here’s what the IMDB has to say about the film:

Jean-Luc Godard‘s original director’s cut (titled “One Plus One”) runs approximately 110 minutes and consists largely of additional footage of the black power militants. The film’s producers were dissatisfied with this cut and deleted 11 minutes, changed the title to “Sympathy for the Devil” to underscore the Stones connection, and added the final version of the title song to the film’s soundtrack, over a freeze-frame of the last shot. These changes were all made without Godard’s knowledge; when he finally saw them at the film’s London Film Festival premiere, he allegedly went berserk and physically attacked one of the producers.

The film is essentially Godard’s take on the 1960s Western Counter Culture, and in Godard’s vision, the Rolling Stones only played one part in it. No surprise he hated the edited version.

The movie opened in December 1968 in the UK, in April 1969 in the US and in May the same year in France.

Fast forward to December 6, 1969: The Rolling Stones hire some local Hell’s Angels as security for the Free Altamont Open-Air Festival. The producers expected 80.000 people, when 300.000 show up, all hell breaks loose and the Hell’s Angels wreck havoc among the visitors. Their violence is not limited to the audience, musicians like Neil Young and Jefferson Airplane singer Marty Balin are attacked on stage as well.

While the Rolling Stones are playing ‘Under my Thumb’ and the cameras are rolling, a member of the Hell’s Angels stabs 18 year-old African-American Meredith Hunter in the back five times and he dies in front of the stage. The Hell’s Angel later claims that Hunter pointed a gun at him and is aquitted in a court of law. This day is widely considered ‘the end of the hippie era.’

I don’t know what the US distributor had in mind when he opted for this amazing, but somewhat disturbing image of the band inside a large skull with headphones.
According to the IMDB, SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL opened in the US in April 22, 1969, almost eight months before Altamont. With this in mind, the poster design, great as it is, gets a fairly creepy and also a very dark prophetic quality.

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