Unreleased 1972 Rolling Stones Documentary Shined the Real Light
The Rolling Stones are old and tired. Their continued popularity is perplexing. Don’t start: I understand their legacy; I just don’t think “Brown Sugar” and “Wild Horses” justifies half a century of hype. Put yourself in my shoes. Since I started listening to music — about 1982 — their “big hits” have been “She’s So Cold,” “Undahcover of the Nooooight,” and “Waiting on a Friend.” You’ll forgive me if I’m a little sick of the Mick chicken strut.
Anyway, they are set to star in the upcoming “Rockumentary” by Martin Scorsese “Shine a Light.” The movie features them playing in a small New York venue in front of the gliterrati (the Clintons are there jumping their jack flash and Christina Aguilera climbs onstage to check another box off the “diva to-do list”). It’s getting good reviews and the kids are excited about it. Here a reviewer explains how the film manages to capture the Stones’ “incredibl[e] human[ity]”:
[T]his film works because it shines a light on the Stones in a way that few have had a privilege to witness. For decades, the band has come across as a corporate entity — rock’s Disney or Microsoft, if you will — but the Stones seem incredibly human here.
Blah blah blah anyway on to the point.
Coincidentally I was reading a Vanity Fair article this morning about photographer Robert Frank; author of the seminal photography book “The Americans.” Frank was an odd, unsentimental guy who hung with folk like Allen Ginsburg and Jack Kerouac. Frank’s book came out in 1955 and was considered “shocking” because it showed normal Americans going about their lives without decoration or adornment. These pictures would be standard fare today but, back then, he was pretty much a “commiepinkonutjob.” Try to repress your disgust, if you are able, when you view this “shocking” photo:
See how the flag isn’t centered in the frame and there’s a kind of gross pudgy guy in the window? In 1955 that was enough to earn you many a stern finger-waging, if not a beat down from J. Edgard Hoover.
There are two points to this soliloquy. First, I have finally come up with my thesis: “Goddamn America Sucked Bad in the 50’s.” Second, in addition to photo-ing stuff, Frank also fancied himself a director. In that role Frank managed to garner the right to film a Rolling Stones documentary of his own. The result was a film with shocking footage and a great title:
Cocksucker Blues was never officially released. Seems the Stones weren’t all that keen on fans seeing the coke snorting and groupie boning and bluesie cocksucking they were up to. They sued Mr. Frank to keep the thing from being shown. But, as part of the settlement, Frank was given the right to show the movie once per year in small venues. This was a bad decision.
See round ’bout the time Mick was Doin’ the Harlem Shuffle, some company invented portable video cameras. Then, a few years later, when Mick was extolling the ladies to “button their lips” and/or “their coats,” some jerk whipped up the Internet. And, of course, just as the boys were chilling on one of many Street[s] of Love, along comes YouTube. Next thing you know its clip madness.
Cocksucker Blues is bad filmmaking. But I think you’ll agree it goes a little further than Scorsese’s sanitized joint in capturing the truth of the Stones’ “Incredible Humanity.” Here are a few clips:
In this one the Stones discuss doing coke. Then Keith shoots up for a while.
Here you can watch the boys doing more drugs and see Mick adjusting his junk a little:
Yet more incredible humanity here as the shooting up continues then Keith throws a TV set off a balcony:
You don’t need to watch these clips to get the point. Recording an exclusive performance in front of an elite crowd is hardly “Shining a Light” on the true nature of the Stones. The light was shone thirty-five years ago but the glare was too harsh. So they snuffed it.
Can someone do the same with the Stones please?