Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Fagged Out Masterpieces

Perfect Sound Forever has a fascinating article about Robert Frank's seminal Rolling Stones documentary "Cocksucker Blues." It's one of the most famous rock docs simply because it's been banned - by the group itself - for years. See a groupie shoot up on screen, watch Mick snort coke before going on stage, marvel as Keith nods off mid-sentence, shake your head as the band tosses a television out the window, recoil as roadies grope a groupie during a plane trip while Mick and Keith provide a soundtrack by playing bongos. There's also some powerful live footage - after all, this was 1972 and the band was at the height of their powers, touring in support of their "fagged out masterpiece" (per Robert Christgau) Exile on Main Street.

Frank, who also did the artwork for that album, was best known at the time for his photography and the classic beat film "Pull My Daisy." But "Cocksucker Blues" does more than just give the scaborous backstage highlights of the sleazy touring life. Like no other rock film, it also gives a sense of the soul-crushing of the boredom of the Big Tour. See the endless hotel corridors and hotel lobbies. Watch as the band eats coffee shop breakfasts after dull all-night parties. Marvel as they try to fit in some sightseeing during their forty minutes of afternoon freetime. Witness them receding further and further into their own insular and airless world.

Jim Jarmusch calls this "one of the greatest rock’n’roll movies because it makes you feel like being a rock star is one of the last things you’d want to do. It’s very depressing and gritty." Which probably doesn't make you want to run out and buy a bootleg copy from eBay, but it's accurate.While the film may be a big downer, it also has a rare ring of truth about it. Plus gorgeous photography. Plus the jaw-dropping title song, itself a bootleg, which contains some of the most soulful singing of Mick Jagger's career. (BTW, find the Mick solo version, not the band one).

As Perfect Sound points out, the film is relatively tame by today's celebrity porno standards. As its acquired near mythic status over the years, why not finally release it? Surely the Stones could use the gritty cred it would give them, right? Alas, the Stones would rather bury what even Mick called "a great movie" before risking a stain on their corporate image. Think of all those premium skybox seats that might go unsold - for like five minutes. The repression of "Cocksucker Blues" is just another reason the band is artistically bankrupt. They had the balls to hire Frank and misbehave in front of his camera. But when it came time to view those unvarnished images, they simply couldn't face the music.


Blogger Prof. Drew LeDrew said...

Thanks for the link. Much as I hate the new PSF look, sounds like something to slog through anyway. And as for the Stones viewing unvarnished images, the last time they did that (on camera, at least) was probably when the Maylses showed 'em the Altamont footage shot for Gimme Shelter. No amount of rock-god detachment could cover up the decidedly green pallor on Charlie and Mick's small faces. Guess that's when the remaining air supply was sucked out of their world.

11:35 AM  
Blogger Chilly Jay Chill said...

I hate the new PSF look too -- that's why I linked to the "printer-friendly" version of the article which helpfully eliminates all their terrible design features. Easier reading. Or just print a copy for the subway ride home.

1:03 PM  

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