Why were rock stars so drawn to “The Lord of the Rings?”
In 1977, Mick Jagger was one of the sexiest, coolest and most wanted people in the world. He dated models, headlined arenas and was a regular at Studio 54. But what did the Rolling Stones frontman really want? To voice Frodo in animation the Lord of the Rings adaptation which will be released the following year.
“He basically called me one day and said, ‘I heard you were doing the Lord of the Rings. I want to do Frodo,” the film’s director, legendary animator Ralph Bakshi, told me recently. So Bakshi invited Jagger to the studio for a tour, eager to give him the role. The film’s producers, who wanted classic British stage actors to do the voices, weren’t.
“I said to him, ‘Listen, I want you to do this, but they don’t want you,'” Bakshi said. “His feelings were hurt. He was a perfect Frodo and he would have been great. How stupid is everyone? Just stupid as usual. (In a 2018 interview, Bakshi said the dialogue of Frodo had also already been recorded.)
Jagger wasn’t the only rocker to be captivated by JRR Tolkien’s fantastical world of hobbits, wizards and elves. The Beatles tried to make their own film adaptation of The Lord of the Rings trilogy in 1968. Peter Jackson, who directed the live action Rings films in the early years and the eight-hour documentary on the Beatles Come back in 2021, spoke to the BBC last year about discovering the surprising connection between his two passions. While the group was introspective in India, he learned, their film producer Dennis O’Dell introduced them to the trilogy. “I guess because there are three, he sent a book to each of the Beatles. I don’t think Ringo got one, but John, Paul and George each got one. The Lord of the Rings book,” Jackson said. They got excited about creating their own version, which would have played Paul in Frodo, Ringo in Sam, John in Gollum, and George in Gandalf. Stanley Kubrick would direct. Alas, Tolkien turned down the Fab Four when they asked for the film rights.
Despite the chaste saga’s reputation as being exclusively the domain of fantasy nerds and cosplayers with prosthetic elven ears, its fingerprints were all over the lush, oversexed rock and roll scene of the ’60s and ’70s. influence on several metal bands.) The most well-known Tolkien heads in the industry were of course Led Zeppelin, who shamelessly incorporated the sights and sounds of Middle-earth into their songs. “Misty Mountain Hop” takes its name from a mountain range in the books, “The Battle of Evermore” refers to specters in the ring, and in “Ramble On”, Gollum steals the singer‘s daughter from Mordor. . Robert Plant even named his dog Strider, another name for the Aragorn character.
But dig a little deeper and you’ll find other jam-band legends, folk goddesses, and glam rock pioneers who have incorporated surprising implicit and explicit Middle-earth references into their music and lives. Rush named a song “Rivendell”, after the elven city, due to drummer Neil Peart’s fandom. According to the 2001 biography A long strange journeythe Grateful Dead were originally called the Warlocks in part because Bob Weir read The Lord of the Rings at the time and “we talked a lot about wizards and magic”. (Phil Lesh would eventually release an album with his band Phil Lesh and Friends in 2002 titled “There And Back Again”, the subtitle of The Hobbit.)