We’ve discussed Cocksucker Blues before,1 but apparently if you are wealthy enough2 to purchase the Super Deluxe package release of Exile On Main Street, you’ll be able to see snippets from Cocksucker Blues:
It’s hard to know what the Stones expected from [Robert ] Frank, whose previous films, including the Beat landmark “Pull My Daisy” (1959), showed little interest in conventional narrative of either the fiction or nonfiction variety. (At one point, Frank theorized he was chosen because his friend Danny Seymour, who appears in the film, was adept at procuring hard drugs, which made him a valuable commodity in the Stones’ circle.) In any case, the Stones didn’t like what they saw — or at the very least considered it unwise to release. According to one account, Jagger told Frank he liked the film but worried that “if it shows in America, we’ll never be allowed in the country again.” The band successfully sued to prevent the release of “Cocksucker Blues,” with showings limited to those at which Frank was physically present (a requirement that has been slightly loosened in recent years as the 85-year-old Frank’s ability to travel has been curtailed). Video was verboten as well, of course, although VHS bootlegs and now Internet downloads have always been within the reach of the curious and determined. It’s also made appearances on various streaming video sites, although its tenure is inevitably short-lived.
“Cocksucker Blues” is infamous for its scenes of debauchery, like an incipient orgy on the Stones’ private plane where women shriek as their shirts are pulled off and Jagger and Richards bang instruments like a satanic house band. (Carefully edited snippets appear on the “Exile” DVD, although the Glimmer Twins now seem to preside over a mild outbreak of tickle fighting.) But such spectacles would hardly have damaged the reputation of a band whose image was based in excess. And besides, the Stones are absent for many of the movie’s most notorious scenes, including those in which unidentified hangers-on stick needles in their arm and a sperm-spattered naked woman sprawls on a hotel bed and fingers her crotch in postcoital reverie.
What was perhaps more damaging — and, to the outside observer, most intriguing — is just how dull the life of the world’s biggest rock ‘n’ roll band could be. At times, Frank goes out of his way to portray the drudgery of life on the road, as when he intercuts footage of a couple shooting up in a hotel room with scenes of Keith Richards quietly playing cards. In one sublime sequence, included on the “Exile” DVD, a lugubrious Richards makes a slurred and unsuccessful attempt to order a bowl of fruit from a woman in a Southern hotel.
There’s concert footage as well, much of it astonishing; many fans regard the 1972 tour as the Stones’ finest hour. It’s a shame the “Exile” DVD only shows us the second half of their duet with Stevie Wonder, who toured as their opening act, picking up with “Satisfaction” but omitting the segue out of Wonder’s “Uptight (Everything’s Alright).” But the vividly colored stage performances only heighten the dolorous feel of the black-and-white behind-the-scenes footage. In his novel “Underworld,” whose third section is named for the film, Don DeLillo described it thus: “The camera phalanx in the tunnels. People sitting around, two people asleep in a lump or tripped out or they could be unnoticeably dead, the endless noisy boredom of the tour — tunnels and runways.”
(click to continue reading The Rolling Stones’ forbidden documentary – Documentaries – Salon.com.)Footnotes: