I love documentaries. I really love them. I don’t think I’ve seen a bad documentary, per say. I subscribe to the theory that at the very least, a documentary will tell or show you something you didn’t know, and thus it wasn’t a complete waste of time. Some are better than others. The Martin Scorsese film on Bob Dylan, for example, is a damn good documentary. Recently, I sat down and watched HBO’s Rolling Stones documentary Crossfire Hurricane, which while not as good as Scorsese’s No Direction Home, was entertaining.
And how could anything about the Rolling Stones not be entertaining? As far as legendary bands go, the Stones are tops when it comes to drugs, debauchery, death, and deceit. All the makings of a compelling documentary, right? Well Crossfire Hurricane covers all the major points in the band’s storied career, but doesn’t really dig in very deep. Some of it felt rushed and major chapters in the band’s career are glossed over. It wasn’t until the credits started to roll (and I thought, “That’s it?”) that I saw what the problem was: the band were the producers.
So Crossfire Hurricane is really the whitewashed version of the Stones as told by the Stones. If you’re super-fan, you’re not going to necessarily gain any new insights, but the backstage/behind-the-scenes footage is worth seeing. We see the Stones at the height of their success doing drugs and running around half (or totally) naked backstage. It’s all very cheeky and fun.
I really wanted to recommend Crossfire Hurricane as THE Stones documentary to see…but it’s not. The real story is what happened after the credits had rolled: the next morning, all I could think about were the tunes. I fired up Spotify and started skipping around in the band’s massive back catalogue. And then a funny thing happened: I discovered my all-time favorite Stones song.
I was listening to STICKY FINGERS while doing my laundry, when I heard “Bitch.” I’d of course heard it before, but I didn’t hear it until this week. The cocky, self-assured Jagger vocals, the brilliant Keef guitar lick…it was your standard-issue Stones song until the horns kicked in. Holy shit, the horns take “Bitch” from good to fantastic. It was like hearing “Satisfaction” for the first time: I was blown away.
Which got me thinking, if a great never-played-on-the-radio song like “Bitch” could hit me like a bolt of lightning—what other astoundingly great Stones songs am I missing out on? Suddenly being a more causal Stones fan doesn’t seem so cool. There is only one course of action: I must listen to everything by the Stones to ensure that I’m not missing out on any other gems.
To be fair, “Bitch” was a B-side to “Brown Sugar” so it wasn’t cast off into complete obscurity, but with B-sides like this who knows what awesome deep-cuts I’m missing out on. These are the problems of a true music-nerd. There are too many great bands with too many great songs left undiscovered. Whenever I find a blank spot on my musical map, I try to fill it in. That a band like the Rolling Stones has so many blank spots on my map is embarrassing, to be sure. So even though I’m pretty sure I could die a happy rock-enthusiast without hearing the entirety of the Rolling Stones 80’s output—I’m gonna listen to it all. Just knowing the singles and key albums is good, but the odds ‘n sods/deep-cuts are what keep me going, both as a fan and as a human being.
That endless quest for my next favorite song, that’s the very essence of what DEFENDING AXL ROSE is all about. In the coming days, weeks, and months, I’ll post more about my travels in the Stones back catalogue.
I know what you mean about having a song you’ve heard for years suddenly leap out of the background – that’s what happened with me and “Runnin’ Down a Dream.” That one song was the domino that knocked into everything else in Tom Petty’s catalog, then those he collaborated with, and so on and so on. Pretty marvelous how it all is connected.
I came to love the Stones only within the last few years. In high school I was famous for how much I hated them; I was dragged to a concert film of theirs in the 1980s and groused the whole time. Now, I know their stuff up to Tattoo You from back to front pretty well. All the stuff with the horn section is mind-blowing.
“Can’t You Hear Me Knocking?” is my favorite of theirs.
Looking forward to the results of your quest!
Yep, it´s a great documentary. I´m in the middle of reading Keith´s Life at the moment. Very good.
Yeah, LIFE is an amazing read. I’m reading a book in the 33 1/3 series right now on SOME GIRLS and like 1/3 of the book is quotes from LIFE.
Believe it or not, my experience of becoming a Stones fan sounds an awfully lot like yours. I used to own both ‘Let It Bleed’ and ‘Sticky Fingers’ and have listened to them both about 2 or 3 times, without really paying attention to anything other than the well-known hits (Brown Sugar, Wild Horses, Gimme Shelter, You Can’t Always…). But one day I sat down and *really* listened to ‘Sticky Fingers’ and was floored by most of the tracks, especially ‘Bitch’. I thought it had the most infectious rhythm I’ve ever heard (I still do). Such a shame that it wasn’t a hit, but a mere B-side.
Really nice essay, by the way.
I feel like there are tons of “classic” bands that 85% of people only know via singles on the radio. The Rolling Stones are such a huge, well-known band, and most casual music fans are really only aware of their hits.
I bought EXILE ON MAINSTREET based solely on it’s reputation as a “great” album…and wasn’t feeling it. Fast forward a few years later, and I gave EXILE another listen and fell in love.
Anyway, thanks for the comment and keep rocking!