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This excellent 2012 documentary follows the Stones journey as a band from breakout to 1994's rather forgettable Love is strong. Arguably, that's as good a point as any to bring down the curtain. Although the band has enjoyed the odd hit here and there, their halcyon decades were the 60's and 70's, and this Brett Morgan as director of Crossfire Hurricane is wise enough to realise it.
Shot in a jarring montage style, it demonstrates that their breakout was primarily due to the press casting them as Villains opposed to the Beatles, being portrayed as relatively wholesome. This is, as it is now, designed to fill column inches and create controversy. As the success continued, controversy would peak with a famous drugs bust and prison sentence. Chart success was never far away, and decades later the real suprise is that they are (almost) all around.
I'll hold my hand up now and say that I'm not a huge Stones fan. I would not pay outrageous prices to see them play live and I don't faint over the alpha to omega of their back catalog, but there is a lot to admire and most of it is covered by clips of live performances here. The Stones began as a blues cover band, though they tried their hands at pop style stuff also. Where they blossomed was by marrying blues to rock, even though it was heavy on the rock.
In interviews, Jagger comes across as suprisingly calm and intelligent. Not every word that passes those famous lips is wise, and an errant gust of wind under the flared collar of his shirt threatens to send him airborne faster than Mary Poppin's umbrella, he's never less than quietly charismatic.
Drugs are one word that comes to mind when you think about the Stones, or try and figure out the Roschach blot that now represents Keith Richard's face. Both Richards and Jagger were sentanced to quite stiff prison sentences for posession of some hallucinogenics, both sentences were vastly reduced on appeal to little more than a slap on the wrist, something that seems to have given the green light to Richards in particular who comes across as quite arrogant and pointlessly argumentative. Mick just smiles a lot, often nervously.
The documentary doesn't shy away from the move onto regular drug taking, with video backstage showing Mick openly shorting white powder from a flick knife. Nor does it gloss over the gradual disintegration of the immensely talented Brian Jones up to his death at the bottom of a swimming pool not too long after the band finally asked him to leave.
The band's reaction to the news was almost chilling, with Mick appearing relieved it was over. But put into perspective by Jones' often cruel treatment of his bandmates for many years, the innumerable times he'd let them down professionally and the constant negative atmosphere, I think Mick can be forgiven. He went on to write a tribute song for Jones.
Was Jones the catalyst for the Band to turn their backs on drugs? Absolutely not. The snorting scene above was taken several years after Jones' death. The late 70's marked a decline for the Stones, one in which they would never recover.
Most of the documentary's songs can be found in their best albums; Beggar's banquet, Let it Bleed, Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main Street. All released within a year period when the Stones were at the height of their powers. If you want the best of the Stones in a single album, the Hot Rocks compliation album is your one stop shop.
Regardless, Crossfire Hurricane is one of the better rockumentaries that I've seen. It doesn't set out to sensationalise, and it doesn't feel like fawning. Check it out. The Blu ray may not be able to add too much clarity to grainy black and white video, but there's plenty of more recent interview snippets to be had.