‘Crossfire Hurricane’ a kaleidoscopic tour of Stones history

Crossfire Hurricane/2012/111 min.

“Crossfire Hurricane: The Rise of the Rolling Stones” the new HBO film by and about the Rolling Stones marks the 50th anniversary of the musicians who went from badass to beloved, from “moronic cavemen” to the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band in the world.

The enduring appeal of the Stones stems from superb music, a capacity to reinvent themselves and the forceful personalities of the players – by turns outspoken, irreverent, shy, clownish, sensitive, clever, acerbic, funny and raw.

The Stones’ quick trajectory to fame was, as Keith Richards notes, kaleidoscopic. So is this must-see doc. Images are culled from more than 1,000 hours of film and “Crossfire” zips through the days at lightning speed.

Early on, we see a label (July 25, 1972, a day before Mick Jagger’s 29th birthday) and not much is time-stamped after that. But the chronology isn’t hard to follow, given the film’s tight pacing and focus on the early years.

As narration, you hear the voices (but don’t see the faces) of originals Richards, Jagger, Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman (he left the Stones in 1993) as well as Mick Taylor, who replaced Brian Jones (Jones died July 3, 1969) and was with the band until 1974, and Ronnie Wood, who replaced Taylor in 1975. There are no talking heads, i.e. rock critics, industry types or pop-culture commentators.

Drawing on more than 80 hours of new interviews with the band, “Crossfire,” directed by Brett Morgen, is the Stones talking about the Stones. They discuss their nearly-overnight success and chaotic early tours (“A chemical reaction seems to have happened,” says a young Jagger in an archival interview), the genesis of Jagger and Richards’ song-writing collaboration, the decline and death of Jones, the 1967 drug bust at Richards’ Redlands estate and subsequent run-ins with the law over drugs, the disastrous violence at the Altamont Speedway Free Festival in 1969, their days in the South of France recording 1972’s “Exile on Main Street” and their transition from “the band everybody hated to the band everybody loves,” as Jagger puts it.

Richards sounds craggy and wry. Charlie doesn’t remember much and sees himself as a loner, not truly a part of the band somehow. Jagger’s intelligence and charm is just as fresh as they were in his first interviews – a motif throughout “Crossfire” is the extent to which Jagger’s live performances can be likened to that of an actor’s craft. There is also never-before-seen footage as well as previously unheard versions of Stones’ songs and rare live performances.

Collectively, the Stones seem to have two Zen traits that in addition to heaps of talent, chemistry and supremely lucky timing, have held them in good stead for five decades. They exist in the moment and they’re authentic, whether they’re composing in a makeshift studio, performing at a stadium or just plain debauching, Keith’s specialty. They also don’t appear to take themselves 100 percent seriously. That could be why so many people around the world have loved them for so many years. In addition to being wildly entertaining, they act as an inspiration – to be creative, to be oneself, to question authority, to enjoy life, to swagger.

“When we got together,” says Wyman, “something magical happened.” A half-century later, the magic shows no sign of stopping.

“Crossfire Hurricane: The Rise of the Rolling Stones” will play several times on HBO and HBO2 through Nov. 29. (It debuted Nov. 15.)

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Who Shot Rock & Roll shows photographers’ role in rock

Southern California National Public Radio (NPR) affiliate KCRW is hosting one more free night of outdoor live music, DJs and photography at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Century City. Moby played on July 14; on Saturday night, Portugal. The Man celebrated the 40th anniversary of T.Rex‘s “The Slider” and on Aug. 4 Raphael Saadiq & Band of Skulls will perform the songs of Bob Dylan.

The concerts are in conjunction with Who Shot Rock & Roll: A Photographic History, 1955 to the Present, organized by the Brooklyn Museum with guest curator and author Gail Buckland. Show organizers say it is the first major museum exhibit on rock and roll to spotlight the creative and collaborative role that photographers have played in the history of rock music. The show features 166 prints from iconic photographers, a Henry Diltz slideshow, several videos and a short doc film. Who Shot Rock & Roll runs at the Annenberg through Oct. 7.

This is one of 1,500 shots that Alfred Wertheimer took of Elvis in 1956.

Marianne Faithfull at a London pub, 1964, by Gered Mankowitz. This shot was considered too provocative to use as an album cover.

Kurt Cobain photographed by Ian Tilton at a Seattle venue, 1990.

Mick Jagger shot by Albert Watson in Los Angeles, 1992.

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Rolling Stones: Some Girls Live in Texas shows band at its best

I took a break from the Chicago Film Fest, which ends Thursday, to watch The Rolling Stones: Some Girls Live in Texas (a live concert shot in 1978 and shown last night in movie theaters nationwide). Seeing it made me think of a piece I wrote when I was on staff at the Chicago Tribune. This essay ran in January 2003 a few days before I saw the Stones live in Chicago. It’s an oldie but I hope still a goodie.

Copyright: The Chicago Tribune

An oddly touching moment over the holidays was seeing this tag on a gift from a girlfriend: “To Jackie, the Sixth Stone,” acknowledging my decades-long attachment to Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and the boys. The reason it touched me is that of all the millions of Rolling Stones fans around the world, I’m probably the least deserving of the honorary inclusion.

A vintage shot of the original band.

I’m a loyal fan and I love them to death. But I have to confess: I’m sort of a “lite fan.”

I have no idea what their first hit single was, I can’t recite all of the songs on “Exile on Main Street” and my fairly extensive collection of Stones memorabilia is composed mostly of gifts, rather than the result of any vigorous scouring or even casual browsing on my part.

That’s probably because I missed the early “street fighting” days, having become smitten in the 1980s. It may be a rite of passage for girls to have crushes on rock stars, but almost 20 years later my swooning is still going strong.

I think the first Stones record I bought was “Emotional Rescue.” The first one I fell in love with was “Some Girls,” which I probably “borrowed” from one of my older siblings.

My older sister is a big fan, although I don’t have any pivotal memory of her playing a song for me or of trying to copy her taste in music. As adults, we’ve attended several Stones shows together and last summer she flew in to attend the party I held to celebrate Sir Michael’s 59th birthday. (It was well attended, even if the guest of honor didn’t make it.)

Mick Jagger in 1978

What I find especially entertaining, besides the music of course, is that revealing my adoration yields varying and vehement responses.

I often hear the charge that Mick is a womanizer. And it’s pretty tough to argue to the contrary. Concerts and conquests have accounted for a huge chunk of his life. But my impression is that he’s been pretty open about not wanting to settle down and be faithful to one woman. Anyone who got involved with him would have to have been living in a cave not to realize that.

Sometimes people whine that the band should retire. It bores me to hear the claim that the Stones are passé or over the hill, and to the people who wrongly think the group hasn’t done anything good recently, I say, “So what? They’ve already done enough great stuff to last another 40 years.”

Meanwhile, without ever specifically seeking out fellow fans, I’ve bonded with people who share my love for the Stones. When I lived in London in the late 1980s and early ’90s, I went to lots of parties that culminated in guitars being plugged in, Stones songs being played and dancing until morning.

Producer/manager Andrew Oldham once wrote that "the Rolling Stones are more than just a group, they are a way of life."

I also encountered a fair amount of snobbery. “Mick’s trying to write an autobiography, except he can’t remember anything that happened past last year,” was one snide remark from a friend who thought the Stones were overrated.

It was in London that I met my French friend Véronique and discovered that in addition to our mutual frustration with English plumbing, we also shared a fascination with the sexy, stylish and silly Mick Jagger.

Given her record at other Stones shows, I wouldn’t put it past Véronique to try to use my above-mentioned gift-tag as a backstage pass. “I must see Meeck,” were her parting words when she left my boyfriend and me at Wembley Arena and rushed closer to the stage. I didn’t see her again that night. The next morning she called to say she had maneuvered her way into the third row – within touching distance of Meeck – and that we had been foolishly timid to stay behind. In fact, it wasn’t fear as much as confusion and disbelief at the way she took off.

But more power to her, I thought. And she has never hesitated to get up and dance to Stones songs at a pub, a bar or a party on either side of the Atlantic. It actually works better if different people “play” different band members, but with her I make concessions and we both play Mick.

Having left London with zero Stones sightings aside from Wembley, I almost booked a vacation to Mustique because Mick has a house there; until I checked the dizzying schedule of connecting flights from Chicago and chose St. Martin instead. Well, perhaps I’ll run into him in the south of France sometime.

The Stones' last studio album was "A Bigger Bang," 2005.

I briefly dated a friend of a friend whom I met at the “Bridges to Babylon” show at Soldier Field in 1997. Other romances have fizzled upon the discovery that I fawned from afar over Mick – who is not a “skinny little runt.”

A friend I met last year established a permanent claim to being cool when he revealed that he had once obtained backstage passes and met the whole band before seeing the show. “They’re all much shorter than I am,” he informed me. He added that Mick was diplomatic; Keith was dipping into a bottle.

Mick, with his prancing and preening, his strutting and sashaying, will always be my No. 1 favorite. But over the years my appreciation and affection for Keith has grown considerably. Yes, he’s still scruffy and spaced out, but endearingly so, I think now. And as a musician, he’s matchless. I understand why Mick is the leader, but even lite fans know that Mick really wants to be Keith and Keith is actually in awe of Charlie Watts, deadpan and detached, and charmingly eccentric.

For Wednesday night’s show, I’m happy to be going with a bona fide, longtime and proper fan. He vividly recalls hearing his first Stones song, “Satisfaction,” and can recite all the songs on the first Stones album he bought, “Aftermath.”

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A Film Noir Blonde fave: Rolling Stones rock the big screen

I always thought Mick Jagger hit the nail on the head when in “Some Girls,” he says, “American girls want everything in the world you can possibly imagine.” I’d be good with that, as would most femmes fatales. I can’t wait to hear the song again later this month at The Rolling Stones: Some Girls Live In Texas, a one-night in-theater concert.

This rare, never-before-seen concert was captured live in Fort Worth, Texas, on July 18, 1978. The show will be broadcast to more than 300 theaters nationwide at 7:30 p.m. (local time) on Tuesday, Oct. 18. The event will also include an exclusive 20-minute interview with Jagger filmed in August 2011 where he reflects on the fabled 1978 U.S. tour, which is believed among many fans to be one of the band’s greatest tours and strongest musically.

“Fort Worth was an amazing night in a blistering hot July,” said Jagger. “Watching it now, the band was really intense and focused, but we were also having a blast with the fans who were really getting into the show and the new tracks from Some Girls.”

Digitally re-mastered to HD with Cinema Surround Sound, this legendary footage includes a mixture of classic Stones hits such as “Brown Sugar,” “Honky Tonk Women,” “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and “Tumbling Dice,” paired with blues numbers and Chuck Berry covers, as well as songs from the Some Girls LP including “Beast of Burden” and “Miss You.”

Presented by NCM Fathom, More2Screen and Eagle Rock, tickets for The Rolling Stones: Some Girls Live In Texas are available at participating theater box offices and online at www.FathomEvents.com.

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