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USA 1972
Directed by
Robert Frank and Daniel Seymour
90 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

Cocksucker Blues

This documentary of sorts has acquired legendary status due to its suppression by Jagger. Although produced by Marshall Chess, who was working for the Stones at the time, and evidently made with their consent, someone less drug-addled than anyone we see in it (including the makers themselves) must have rightly pointed out to the Stones that it was a loaded gun for anyone who had the Greatest Rock'n'Roll Band In The World on their hit-list. And in 1972 there were plenty of those dudes.

Chronicling the band's US Exile On Main Street tour it is less a conventional doco than an edited compile of on-the-fly footage. It is, if not warts and all, a pretty good sample of life on road with the Stones at the height of their power and of the literal application of the sex, drugs and rock'n'roll lifestyle of any touring rock band worth their salt. There's the infamous scene with tour personnel dragging some women into an orgy with Jagger and Richards providing a musical cheer squad, there's Keith nodding off and Mick about to have a snort before going on stage (CUT!) amongst a miscellany of stoned and bored late night/early mornings goings on (tho' Mick cleans up his act when Bianca arrives). In fact, and to its credit, visually it is reminiscent of the cover to Exile - bleary, fragmented, slightly nostalgic and reeking of decadence.

Lifestyle issues aside, it is of course the music that makes the Stones what they are (well, were) and whilst the film offers few musical interludes (about 15 minutes in total), what we do see has raw intensity of a bootleg album and is in its way better than the more polished effort of the Maysles brothers in Gimme Shelter, largely thanks to the fact that it captures Jagger at his unself-conscious, satin-and-sequinned androgynous best. Brown Sugar, Midnight Rambler and Street Fightin'Man get an excellent work out from His Satanic Majesty but in All Down The Line he reaches a near-Dionysian frenzy, quite in contrast to his Wiggles-like bouncing with Stevie Wonder when they tackle Satisfaction in a double bill concert appearance.

Shot in available light and with often dodgy sound, with nothing more than a vague chronology to give it structure and in its latter stages dragging its tail insistently, this is strictly for Stones fans who, for all its faults, will find it fascinating.




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