Excerpt from Diary of a Teddy boy
by Mim Scala 2001

Sympathy for the Devil - the movie

"By this time the agency had begun to representing some big stars, such as Christopher Plummer, Richard Harris, Jim Brown, and a stable of young actors and actresses that were up and coming, amongst whom was my good friend Harry Beard, six foot four, black, charming, and fit. I had put Harry in a film that was directed by Melvin Van Peebles in Paris. Barbara Steele was also working in Paris, so I flew over to see them and check out their progress. We had a great weekend French cinema was at the height of its influence. Rock and Roll had not crossed the channel and there was a marked difference on the streets between London and Paris. There was no psychedelia on the Rue St. Michelle. Paris was a good year behind London.

I took Barbara and Harry to Castells, the "in" Nightclub; the place was packed to the roof with the Parisian glitterati. I found myself in a deep conversation with one of my heros, the film director Jean Luc Godard, he had just made Alphaville with Julie Christie, and Pierrot LeFou with Jean Paul Bellmondo. Both of these films I loved. As we drank Crystale Champagne and talked over the music of Traffic and Otis Reading I realised that Jean Luc had never worked in England. I told him of the revolution we were experiencing in London and about the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, I was amazed that such an influential film director was not aware of what was happening, I promised to send him some music. I hoped that I had convinced him that London was the new centre of creativity and that I would be pleased to offer my services if he ever wanted to check it out.


On my return to London I sent him a few records and then basically forgot about him. Until I received a call some months later from a woman called Elaine Collard, she told me that she was Goddard's producer "Is there be a possibility that Jean Luc could make a film with the Beatles or the Stones?" I asked her to have Jean Luc send me a script of his idea and that I would get it to Mick Jagger and or John Lennon. I received a letter from Jean Luc a week later, it said "My film will have a beginning a middle and end but not necessarily in that order." I loved it. He was getting psychedelic. I rang Sandy Lieberson a fellow agent at CMA, I knew that he represented the stones for Films. I also called John Lennon at Apple asking if the Beatles would consider making a film with the director of Alphaville, Jean Luc Godard. I sent both bands a copy of the Godard Letter. I received a yes in principle from both of bands the following day. In the meantime Michael Pearson had set up a film company called Cupid with another of my clients, Ian Quarrier. I took the Godard letter to Cupid I asked Michael if he would back the film. To his credit, Michael agreed to finance the film without even seeing a script, just the one page letter from Godard. Buzzing, I returned to my office. In just a few days I had put together the basic package of what I believed to be a major movie, with the choice of the Stones or the Beatles. I called Godard and told him the news. "I have the finance, when do you want to start, and who do you want to use?" he asked me what I thought - which I found odd, so I told him that personally I believed the Stones should be his choice. Dick Lester had already cinematically exposed the Beatles but the Rolling Stones as a band were still film virgins. He said that he would listen to the music and think about it. I sent him a demo tape of Sympathy for the Devil that I hustled from Jimmy Miller.

I received a series of calls from Apple and John Lennon demanding an answer. "Whose doing this fucking Godard film - The Stones or us?" The word was out. Michael and Ian had a meeting with Paul McCartney and George Harrison, at which it became apparent that the Beatles were far too busy. I had a call from Jean Luc two days later. "The film will star my wife, Michael X the black activist and the Rolling Stones. Ian Quarrier and I went to Sandy Lieberson's office and hammered out a deal. This done I called John at Apple and told him about Goddard's decision, he took it on the chin, besides, the Beatles had so much going on with the Apple, It was spiralling out of control. I guess he was relived that this was one more project that the Beatles did not have to worry about. The Stones were working with Jimmy Miller at this time. In preparation for recording Sympathy for the Devil for the album, Beggars Banquet. Sandy agreed to let us have the Stones for a total of six days, for what was then a lot of money, peanuts now. The small offices of Cupid Films in New Bond Street became a hive of activity as the Godard crew was assembled. Michael Pearson and Ian Quarrier were to be executive producers and my job was done. I slipped into the background. This aspect of the agents work I hated. Just as things became creatively exciting I would have to go off on another deal, leaving the actual making of the film to the producers. I would get daily reports of the progress, and the occasionally call to deal with a drama, or panic.


The chaotic method of film making that Godard applied to this particular production soon became apparent. The first problem arose when Godard declared that he would shoot the film in eight millimetres. A nice arty idea but this would render the film almost unreleasable. Cupid had to persuade the master director to at least shoot it in sixteen. This done, it was then discovered that Godard was having personal problems with his wife who was playing the female lead. Secondly the one page script left a lot to be desired. The production started each day with the playing out of a new mystery. Thirdly Michael X and his black panther colleagues who were majorly involved in the plot, were totally unprofessional and treated the whole film as a personal spin on their political philosophy. This plus the fact that the Stones were busy recording their album, and dealing with the internal hustles of the Brian conflict. This made scheduling very touch and go. The film rolled along until one morning I went to the Hilton where the Godard camp were installed. It was the film's first day in Olympic Studios with the Stones, a big day. I went to reception and asked for Jean Luc. "I am sorry sir he and his party have checked out they left for Paris this morning." It was now eight a.m. I was stunned as I was supposed to take the crew to Olympic to introduce them to Jimmy Miller and the Stones in preparation for that evening's night shoot.

I went to the coffee shop for some breakfast and to ponder the situation before telling Cupid the news. I glanced at a newspaper the headlines sprung out of the page. "STUDENT RIOT ON THE STREETS OF PARIS" I made a few calls and caught the first available flight to Paris. I had no idea of what to expect. Upon arrival Elaine Collard told me that Jean Luc was on the street filming the students, "what has this got to do with our film" I asked. "Nothing", she replied, "Jean Luc cares passionately about the political situation here" Well, I cared passionately about the very few days that we had left to shoot the Rolling Stones. Their six days started today and if we didn't use them we would have to pay penalties and we could even miss the recording of the song, Sympathy for the Devil. Godard was persuaded eventually, to fly back to London Fortunately the Stones had decided to record late so all was well, except for Brian Jones. He had been in a drug-induced depression for some weeks now. He was also due to be tried by jury for a recent drug bust. His answer to the problem of being ostracised from the band, and watching things being done without him, was to go for the drugs and booze. He would sleep wherever he would find himself. Which was more often than not in the back of his Bentley, usually guarded by the Stones driver Tom Kylock. I noticed that Brian's fingers and hands were blotchy and swollen a lot of the time. It was so sad to see this brilliant musician struggling to do things that he had been master of only months before.


Events unfolded over the next few days in that wonderful chaotic way that so epitomised the sixties, there must be a leader out there somewhere! Brian had taken to coming back to my office, where he would sleep for hours on end on my Thea Porta cushions, his diet seemed to consisted solely of drugs and pork pies which his faithful driver would dutifully deliver with the obligatory bottle of HP sauce. The film was running over budget, and time was running out. The last day of shooting dawned on the 4th of June 1968. The combined crews of the film and the recording session, plus the Rolling Stones assembled at Olympic Studios to record and film a version of Sympathy for the Devil. A serpentine, figure of eight dolly track had been laid on the floor of studio one, the main studio. The Ariflex camera had been fitted with a special giant spool big enough to hold film to shoot the whole track in one take. Jean Luc had been planning this for days. Charlie Watts had laid out all his ethnic drums on a Persian carpet, in the middle of the studio. I arrived with Brian who had been sleeping in my office, he was not in good shape and he had had a row with Mick and Keith. Marianne Faithful, Anita Pallenburg, Michael Cooper the photographer, Ian Quarrier, Jimmy Miller, all the stones and sundry other characters had assembled. Jean Luc and his French film crew were setting up their equipment. Marianne, Anita, Ian and Michael Cooper were commandeered to sing backing on the wooo wooo's and were busy rehearsing in a booth. Jimmy Miller producing with Glyn Johns at the recording desk, I believe a young Chris Kimsey was assisting. It was awful witnessing the decline of Brian, I really felt for him. He was on his own. It was time for action. The filming of what is arguably the greatest rock and roll track ever recorded got under way. This atmospheric song bounced off the walls of studio one. From the first note to the last Godard's camera never stopped turning as it was pushed on its tracks around and around the studio, picking up Keith here, Jagger there, Charlie and his drums slid by the lens. Up past the booth "whoo whoo" went Marianne and Anita. Brian's guitar solo screeched into the track, while Keith's riffs crashed "Allow me to introduce myself" sang Mick, and around and around roved the camera, to the thump of Charlie's samba backbeat. Marianne and Anita crooned their woo woo's in a dark corner. It went on like some manic anthem and then it was all over. "Coupez" cried Jean Luc.


I reckon Jean Luc must have had his mind blown, to be made to work in the middle of a loud, live rendition of that song was some serious initiation into the world of Rock and Roll. There was a feeling of exhaustion and exhilaration in the studio but, before anyone could relax, one of the celluloid filters in a ceiling light spontaneously combusted setting fire to the studio ceiling. A dozen fire engines wailed through the streets of Barnes with their soldiers dressed to do battle with the flames. Suddenly a firefight was in full progress. Brian was not happy he felt that he had not contributed to the track, it is possible that Brian’s guitar was not even on the track "Get me out of here Mim." Brian asked. I took him outside. We watched the firefighter's for a while, then walked together over Hammersmith Bridge with Brian's faithful chauffeur following a discrete distance behind. Eventually we jumped into the Bentley".

Excerpt from Diary of a Teddy boy by Mim Scala, 2001

Mim in County Carlow. Pic James Burke

Mim in County Carlow, Ireland. pic James Burke


LINKS:

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