While working on a recent article about Mick Jagger’s ’69 scrape around Australia, I swiftly rekindled a violent lust for Exile on Mainstreet. For me the Stones will always sum up the gritty simplicity of rock n roll. Swimming in glory; damage and filth never far away. While the legacy of the contemporary Beatles pop juggernaut was Shakespearean in triumph, the Stones pushed beyond their final trial to build a myth on sheer bloody endurance. They became Gods, they were pulled apart piecemeal; they kept playing.
They have nearly five decades of music history running through their veins. Count em on Keith’s face. Along with Gimme Shelter, Cocksucker Blues is an ultimate Stones documentary. Murky at worst, it is a fascinating siddle into the locker rooms of rock n roll excess. It was 1972, cracks in the edifice only just beginning to form. Perhaps you can see them – but I think it is still too early. For many around them things crumbled badly. But, Brian Jones aside, the group was untouchable.
Best known for the scene where Keith fades away in a slippery haze of heroin while the hangers on bustle around him, the film remains a curio, largely because the Stones banned it. “It’s a fucking good film Robert,” said Jagger at the time,”but if it shows in America we’ll never be allowed in the country again”.
Through a legal quirk, it can only be shown eight times a year and in the presence of its director – also shown zealously shooting up – Robert Frank. He had placed a camera in a number of rooms and encouraged anyone to film. The result is a kaleidoscopic, but ultimately honest, look at the machinations of rock nirvana. I don’t care what anyone says – Keith is drop-dead cool. If you don’t believe me read Nick Kent’s short account of spending some time with him in The Dark Stuff.
I didn’t get to watch this on Frank’s super 16, but managed to unearth a DVD. And you can, naturally, glimpse portions of the film on youtube. But where’s the intrigue in that?