Docs That Rock

Watch Rare Rolling Stones Doc Online Before it Vanishes!

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The Rolling Stones doc with the unfriendly family name has been such a subject of mystery because it’s basically a lost artifact. Filmed by famed photographer and filmmaker Robert Frank during the band’s 1972 tour after Exile on Main Street came out, it’s a true cinema verite doc in a day when there weren’t a thousand publicists, tour managers, label executives, etc. surrounding a band and making sure nothing spontaneous or interesting happens in front of a director. Of course, when seeing the final cut, the Stones and their people were horrified since its depicts the guys using drugs and having wanton sex with fans. They tried to block its release it but after a pushback from Frank, an odd deal was reached: the film can be shown only if Frank is physically present. He shows it every now and then at a film festival but he’s also 84 years old.

I was so fascinated by this film that I helped develop a doc around it at VH1. I thought its lore and unvarnished showcase of rock decadence gives a rare insight into one of music’s greatest bands, and its existence speaks a lot about celebrity culture and the filmmaking process. I thought doing a documentary about the documentary would be much better than ever showing the actual film (not that we could on VH1 because of standards issues) but also because its best been described by Ray Young as “less a film than a chattering cocaine hum.”

But the key was convincing Frank to let us license parts of the film. While we had a grainy bootleg copy on VHS (obtained from eBay if I remember correctly), we needed a better version for air and also needed to excerpt longer pieces than a few fair use snippets. Frank refused. Wasn’t interested at all. No earnest talk about our intentions could convince him. Another project that died on the development vine.

While the film has surfaced on YouTube and has been taken off, now its appeared online again, split into nine parts on a French site wat.tv. The resolution is still pretty subpar (Frank would be bummed if he knows) but at least it’s up. For now. So watch it so you can say you’ve seen one very samizdat piece of pop culture.

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August 21, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Listmania: Paste’s Top Music Docs


Dog days of summer means more easy copy for lazy bloggers – at least for Paste Magazine and this blog! At least Paste’s List of the Top Ten Rock Docs defines it like I do, excluding concert films (its own genre; see this older post for more list fun) and seeking films known for creating “a balance between moving concert footage and revealing backstage confessions, telling a story while illuminating the band’s impact on both fans and the cultural zeitgeist.” They select Pennebaker’s Don’t Look Back as their top choice; certainly defensible. Here is the rest of their list:

  1. Dig
  2. Westway to the World (The Clash)
  3. The Devil and Daniel Johnston
  4. Gimme Shelter
  5. End of the Century (The Ramones)
  6. Fearless Freaks (Flaming Lips) – [ed note: never really saw or heard of this one.]
  7. Some Kind of Monster [ed note: only 8th??]
  8. I Am Trying to Break Your Heart – [ed note: I love Wilco but this beautifully shot but underachieving doc not a top ten.]
  9. The Kids Are Alright [ed note: only 10th??]
  10. This is Spinal Tap [ed note: har har]

What do you think of the list? Post comments!

July 14, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments