Song Writing

The Dirty Mac: The Greatest Supergroup You've Never Heard Of

by Jeff Suwak

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The whole thing sounds like one of those crazy, hypothetical scenarios cooked up by stoners on lazy Saturday nights as they stare into the smoky ether and let their minds run wild into delusional ecstasy. "What if, like, John Lennon, Keith Richards, and Eric Clapton all jammed together, dude? What if, like, it was under a big-top circus tent or something, and everyone in the audience was wearing yellow ponchos and floppy hats?"

Yes, truly a mad stoner fantasy - except that it actually happened, and it actually happened exactly like that.
The supergroup called themselves The Dirty Mac. John Lennon, always fond of wordplay, came up with the moniker. It was a play on Fleetwood Mac's name, though the exact intent or meaning of the twist is unclear. Mitch Mitchell rounded out the lineup as drummer. He never achieved the godlike status of the other three members (hence his exclusion from the stoned musing described above), but he was a highly respected drummer best known for playing in the Jimi Hendrix Experience.

The circus The Dirty Mac played in, as well as those aforementioned fans in yellow ponchos and floppy hats, were all part of 1968's The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus television special. In addition to The Dirty Mac, the special featured The Rolling Stones, The Who, Jethro Tull, Taj Mahal, and Marianne Faithfull.

The special was a production nightmare full of malfunctioning equipment, so it ran far longer than originally planned. The Stones didn't take the stage until 5 o'clock in the morning, 15 hours after it began. They were exhausted, as were the production crew and the audience, and so did not perform up to their lofty standards. Thus, Jagger did not allow the special to be aired or released in any way to the public until 1996, nearly 30 years later. So it was that The Dirty Mac, made up entirely of pop music royalty, went unheard by the general listening public.

In the special, Lennon presents himself as "Winston Leg-Thigh." The Dirty Mac plays "Yer Blues," one of the songs from The White Album. Afterwards, they perform on a song titled "Whole Lotta Yoko" with Yoko Ono and Ivry Gitlis, an Israeli violinist. "Whole Lotta Yoko" basically consists of The Dirty Mac's honkytonk-wild jamming backing up Ono while she screams and makes guttural noises vaguely reminiscent of Inuit throat singing. Charming in its own right, to be sure.

Who knows what would have happened if the special had been released in 1968 and The Dirty Mac had been unleashed on the public? Perhaps it would have led to further collaboration. Perhaps it would have led to a whole album. Perhaps the group would have become the greatest musical act to ever live, changing the world forever through the force of their rock and roll. But, now we're getting into the realm of wild stoner speculation again - and that's not my bag, man.

November 17, 2015
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Comments: 2

  • Stickmanh from CaledoniaA mac is short for macintosh, a dated British term for a raincoat. A dirty mac was reputed to be worn by a local lurker, or a dirty old man. Lennon’s implication is he was fronting a band of perverts.
  • Mick Mcbob from Bristolhas to be said: as Mitch was the drummer on almost all Hendrix recordings and live with him at Woodstock, Monterey, and most other of the 60s-defining Hendrix-headlined festivals, he is A GOOD MATCH for the others in epicness, be honest.
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