Even if you have been living as an exile on main street for the past few months, you should still be well aware that this year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Rolling Stones as a band. In most recent years, we have been flooded with ancient Stones artifacts, like Keith Richards autobiography Life and the reissues of 1972's Exile on Main Street and 1978's Some Girls. The Stones have announced three shows coming up in December in Newark, NJ and Brooklyn. Director Brett Morgan has compiled about 80 hours of footage and molded the most straightforward Stones documentary to date.
Even on their 50th anniversary, it's nearly impossible to display exactly how they became the world's biggest rock stars in an era where the boundaries of rock'n'roll and politics were intertwined as one. From a 1962 scene with Jagger dismissing a plate of white powder as sugar to Dick Cavett to 1980's Tattoo You, we are given a history of sex drugs and rock n roll before the Glimmer Twins began to hit some minor quarrels.
Morgan's approach to the interviews was crucial to its impact. Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Ronnie Wood, Mick Taylor, and Bill Wyman are all heard in the backdrop of the scenes. Their voices focus attention on the footage in front of you. Although you're hearing a 69 year old Keith Richards, you're getting to know the 21 year old British blues player who left home with no agenda but to play music.
To everyone's satisfaction, Crossfire wastes no time spewing dates, insignificant names, or song titles. It genuinely feels like the first distinct project where we are on the road with the Stones, not merely learning about them, more so about the connections between life events and the music.
"The Beatles got the white hat, what's left? The black hat." Richards laughs. From the day they stepped onto the scene, they were playing by their own rules in a hazy rush of stardom.
We watch the dwindling attention span of Brian Jones, and his growing disdain for being a Rolling Stone. The documentary shows Jones' funeral, without putting too many words on it, showing the sheer sadness the band members felt afterwards. Firsthand, fans are shown the insight to Jagger's growing struggle between the decorated frontman character and the man inside the performer.
Viewers are taken through the day of the infamous 1967 drug bust at Richards' Redlands estate, and how he still believes "the cops turned me into a criminal." We are shown how deeply affected the Stones were after being arrested and facing the possible consequences of any musical delay.
The developing psyche of the Stones' mentality that life is just a cocktail party on the streets is shown through scenes of the band partying on private airplanes, slamming whiskey bottles almost everywhere they went, and rarely being scene not smoking cigarettes. These scenes truly epitomize the definition of the life of rock stars.
The cocktail party lifestyle hits a minor halt after the haunting death at the Altamont show, which Gimme Shelter zoned in on. Viewers can still hear the lingering sadness and fear that night left on the Stones as a group, which in essence turned their music more sharp.
The binges and all nighters of the recording of Exile in France, are, for the first time, put into perspective. The nitty gritty sounds of tracks like "Ventilator Blues" and "Sweet Virginia" are pieced together visually.
Throughout all the struggles, scrapes, and laughs along the journey, the Stones fought and prevailed to produce the most transcendent rock music to date.
Morgen's Crossfire Hurricane is the gift Rolling Stones fans have been waiting for after all these years. As the oldest and arguably most influential band of all time, they now finally have a publication not focused on their disputes, legal problems, or affairs, but solely based upon the music that we will continue to not fade away for generations to come.