The Stones Film You’ll Never See
June 8, 1975
A movie title: “Cocksucker Blues.” It is 1972; we’re with the Rolling Stones, in an enormous home somewhere in the hills round Los Angeles. Mick is mendacity on a mattress. The digital camera pans right down to his waist, and he begins to massage his crotch, in a sluggish, circular motion. He opens his pants and places his hand inside. He strikes it extra intentionally and the digital camera is available in tight.
Keith Richards is standing up at a piano, enjoying a stunning gospel-blues. The digital camera cuts away; the music continues on the sound monitor. Keith reappears, and shifts to boogie-woogie with such good syncopation the body appears to shake in time. Mick seems in Keith’s place, understanding a ballad, notice by observe.
“ ‘Cocksucker Blues,’ ” says Marshall Chess, head of the Stones’ label. “Yeah, Mick wrote it on a contract he had to fill… He wrote it for a play in New York, ‘Trials of Oz’… He did it for a porno album we have been gonna do. Dr. John wrote a track for it too, ‘How a lot Pussy Can You Eat’… ‘Cocksucker Blues’… Here, I’ll put it on.” He turns on a tape recorder.
It’s some track. Very hesitant, sung high and lonesome, more like “No Expectations” than another Stones tune, and more like Hank Williams than that, the music has the ragged edge Mick provides to every thing good he does. “Properly, I wait in Leicester Sq.…/I was only talkin, to the light…” Then arduous, indignant: “The place can I get my cock sucked?/The place can I get my ass fucked?” After which very quietly once more: “Properly, I ain’t received no money but I/Know the place to place it, each time.”
It’s lovely. And it throws you, off, utterly.
* * *
That’s the opening of the legendary “Cocksucker Blues,” a three-year-old film by Robert Frank, the good photographer who got here to the USA from Switzerland in 1947, and, after publishing his historic collection, “The People,” in 1959, gave up his first commerce to make films. Much of the duvet art for “Exile on Foremost Road” was taken from “The People” and from Frank’s second guide, “The Strains of My Hand.” Working with Danny Seymour, Frank then toured the country with the Stones in 1972 to make a movie. But “Cocksucker Blues” has turn into a legend not merely due to its title, or betrigger it’s concerning the Stones, or as a result of (save for the Stones’ collaboration with Jean Luc Goddard in “One Plus One”) no rock and roll group has ever made a movie with an artist of Frank’s stature. “Cocksucker Blues” has turn into a legend because it has by no means been proven.
It was never proven as a result of the Rolling Stones, who personal it, don’t need it proven. The rumors why have been simple: Frank, it has been stated, shot the Stones fucking groupies and capturing heroin. Prefacing his movie with the disclaimer, “apart from musical numbers, all events depicted herein are fictitious, and any resemblance…” and shutting it with a forged listing (“Junky played by…”), Frank shot some Stones associates and hangers-on doing each, however not the Stones. That may, to most, make the Stones responsible by association anyway; it might also hold a great part of the Stones audience barred from the theaters. However Frank does not really feel this is precisely why the Stones have locked his film up.
Jagger thinks the film is a downer; that it doesn’t rejoice the Stones, nor present that they are the greatest rock and roll band on the earth (as “Gimme Shelter,” for all of its horrors, pointedly did); that it might not convey followers shouting to their ft nor send them into the road shaking their heads in awe, which is clearly what a film concerning the Rolling Stones should do. Particularly after Altamont. So Frank’s 16-mm footage, some in colour, some in black and white, and his harsh, biting, mono sound mix, have been replaced — by “Women and Gentleman, the Rolling Stones,” a straight concert doc with sensible quadraphonic sound, a movie that did not get the Stones across nonetheless. Frank made his film anyway, and final Wednesday he drove to Berkeley and confirmed it for the primary and probably final time.
Tom Luddy, director of the Pacific Movie Archive, probably the most resourceful and wide-ranging outlet for films within the country, and his pal Jean-Pierre Gorin, talked Frank into advertding the picture, unannounced, to a invoice of two rock efficiency flicks. Frank made no money from the 900 individuals, principally Berkeley students, who had proven up to see Cream’s “Farewell Concert” and “Mad Canine & Englishman.” Frank arrived together with his print following two hours of Cream, was launched, and spoke briefly. “I made this movie with the Rolling Stones in 1972,” he stated. “It looks like 200 years ago. It was very troublesome to make. I prefer it. I’m glad to point out it, even when it isn’t utterly… authorized.” He laughed, the gang laughed with him, and everyone settled down.
As soon as previous the opening sequence, the film settled down as properly. Nothing really happened; the occasional memorable events and images had no context. The film was seamless, and it satisfied you that the tour it was tracking had no more shape than the film. Frank did not decide, make factors, condescend, sensationalize, or “humanize.” He did not play for jokes, or horror either.
The gang’s response was proof Jagger was proper concerning the film so far as he went. Virtually any given close-up of Clapton or Ginger Baker in the execrably filmed and recorded Cream movie brought extra typical rock fan response than all but a number of bits of “Cocksucker Blues.” Save for a shocking montage of Jagger in “Midnight Rambler,” shot in dark reds and edited in time with the music from footage shot at a number of totally different live shows, and the irresistible excitement of Mick and Stevie Marvel dueting on “Satisfaction,” the reside music was temporary and never too frequent. The intercourse footage, which included a nude couple humping within the aisle of a aircraft as the Stones, shaking maracas and tambourines, egged them on, was by no means erotic; it was, like most of what happened within the film, dispirited and compelled, a matter of some individuals going via the motions.
And it was a way of the Rolling Stones going by means of the motions that I took away from the film — that and a few outbreaks of life. In “Cocksucker Blues” one sees the Stones working exhausting, the best way laborers and panicky businessmen work onerous, however you never see them take any pleasure or satisfaction from their work, nor see them feeling out their genius and their unity as you probably did in “One Plus One.” You see the Stones, and everybody else, at play, if that’s the word: mugging for the cameras, making an attempt out Frank’s gear. There’s a advantageous shot of Jagger returning the salute of a TV recruiting sergeant. But apart from a quick respite in a black pool hall someplace in the South, no one appears to be having any enjoyable. “Ah, to get away from all those individuals,” Mick had moaned a short time before, because the Stones, crowded with Bianca and Frank into two station wagons, headed down a two-lane freeway, Mick telling tales of southern cooking because the automobiles handed a jail, and an arm reached out from a barred window, two fingers raised in a V the Stones may need seen, and won’t have.
Probably the most appalling scene of the film isn’t the lady capturing up; not the woman outdoors Winterland San Francisco dully stating to the digital camera that she has no ticket, that if she doesn’t get one she’ll leap off the bridge, that her child has been taken by the state because she was on acid and what’s incorrect with a mother on acid who loves her baby for Christ’s sake the kid was born on acid — the worst scene is backstage in New York as, in colour, Truman, Andy, Lee, and their troupe make their entrance, making an attempt and simply succeeding in displaying that they are far less interested within the “Rolling Stones” than in one another, and then Mick, in black and white now, operating for his dressing room, raging, wanting sick, yelling “Fuck you!” as a photographer pursues him, after which slumping down, cursing, “Bloody bunch of voyeurs!”
And from there I assumed again to the pool corridor: Charlie, capturing with a person who appeared identical to Muddy Waters; Mick, fooling with a pal, dropping a whiskey bottle, wanting down anxiously, listening to a voice say, “That’s Southern whiskey, it don’t break straightforward,” and liking what he heard.
This is the one time in the film that Robert Frank and the Rolling Stones in any method join.
Frank’s deepest footage are of men and women doing what they know how one can do greatest, what they’re most at house doing: attending a funeral, standing over a body on the street, waiting in a automotive pulled over to the aspect of the highway, choosing out a track on a jukebox. They’re footage of people in tune with themselves and their world with the sort of solidity that suggests that a profound selection about life has been made, or that there isn’t any selection at all. It is this duality that makes Frank’s footage directly lovely and terrifying. They are footage of women and men coming to phrases with fate.
In “Cocksucker Blues,” outdoors of that quiet, magic pool hall, there’s nearly no such thing. “25 years of in search of the best street,” Frank wrote in 1972, however he discovered on the Stones’ street neither something that deserved the phrase destiny, nor ever anyone at residence. He discovered solely a queasy inertia — the inertia of the frantic motion of the Stones on stage, and the inertia of them sitting of their rooms. That was something Frank might document, however that was all he might do with it.
However there are moments that do have energy, and that might matter should this film be seen. These moments converse for Frank’s genius, and for the Stones’, and for the best way by which the Stones and Frank could not join, because they’re two moments when the artists work individually, solely on their very own phrases. First there’s Mick, singing that title music; and then there’s, in a means, only one extra of Frank’s pictures.
Very early within the film, in grainy black and white, the display is crammed with the poster of circus freaks Frank shot within the mid-’50s and which was used for the duvet of “Exile on Important Road.” The digital camera pulls back, not merely slowly, however in virtually imperceptible sluggish motion, until we see that the poster is a billboard on Sundown Strip, advertising the Stones’ new album. The picture appears to darken, as if it have been a time-lapse photograph and night time is falling, and the digital camera pulls again barely farther till the thick black outline of the automotive window from which the shot is being made is visible, and the automotive edges previous the billboard, so slowly, till you might have forgotten the billboard, and are transfixed by the automotive itself, which has taken over, and is shifting on.
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