Watching the Rolling Stones' home movies while they reminisce on the soundtrack is thoroughly entertaining, although this documentary is such an inside job that it doesn't really tell us anything we don't already know. Indeed, the Rolling Stones commissioned this film for their 50th anniversary, and while it doesn't shy away from showing their heyday of sex, drugs and rock-n-roll, it never gets into their personal lives at all. And it only covers the first half of their half-century.
As well-educated blues musicians on the London club scene, the Stones enjoyed reasonable success, but it wasn't until they were dubbed the "anti-Beatles" and set about to play on their anarchic images that they rocketed to global stardom, setting teen girls' hearts (and bladders) aflutter across Britain and America. But their bad-boy behaviour also got them into a lot of trouble. Guitarist Brian Jones dropped out of the band in 1969 (and drowned less than a month later), while his replacement Mick Taylor quit in 1974 due to drugs, replaced by Ronnie Wood. But the partying hit a low point with Keith Richards' arrest for heroin in 1977, after which they cleaned up their act. And their early 1980s tour was their biggest ever.
Oddly, the documentary suddenly ends here, making us wonder if this is just part 1. Although their successes since then have been a bit more sporadic, they would certainly provide some telling backstage moments. By contrast, much of the footage here (mainly in grainy black and white shot on Mick Jagger's own home movie camera) centres on the band goofing around in their down moments. It's edited in with lots of concert footage, so the soundtrack is like an early greatest hits collection. And there are also lively TV interviews done through the years. For narration, the filmmakers use audio recordings done specifically for this movie, with telling memories and witty commentary.
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The Rolling Stones’ new single, ‘Doom and Gloom,’ one of two new songs on their forthcoming greatest hits compilation, Grrr!, due on November 12, is out, and we’ve had a listen.
The first thing to say is: well done to the guys for not producing and releasing a dubstep or electronica sound in a desperate and laughable attempt to glean a youthful audience. This is, intrinsically and quintessentially a Rolling Stones song, and for that; for managing to capture the raw, seemingly ephemeral sound that brought them a life of true rock and roll notoriety, we doff our entertainment caps at the ageing rockers. ‘Doom and Gloom’ is, at its core, a blues track with all the energy of a new born colt. Keith Richards and Ron Wood create a dirty rhythm upon which Jagger rasps his unclean vocals, and this all sways precipitously over a bespoke Charlie Watts beat.
"I had a dream last night that I was piloting a plane/And all the passengers were drunk and insane,” rasps Jagger - elongating every lyric he can get away with. In fact, the singing on the track is probably the least impressive thing about it, but when the mercurial frontman gives the mic a break, a harmonica solo ensues, and it works. It would be easy to reject anything new from such a legendary rock outfit. We could say it’s nothing original, and that they’ve past their best. And whilst they probably have, as long as they’re making decent songs, they might as well have fun whist it lasts.
Unfortunately, the Band's music didn't have much influence on the way future music would develop. But The Last Waltz, a concert film of the Band's 1976 farewell performance, remains an essential artwork. The film is a reminder that while they lasted, the Band (guitarist Robbie Robertson, drummer Levon Helm, keyboardists Garth Hudson and Richard Manuel, and bassist Rick Danko) was as good as any group in rock history.
Continue reading: The Last Waltz Review