Rolling Stones 50th anniversary hoopla is in full swing, and director Brett Morgen's new Crossfire Hurricane documentary stands a good chance of being the most interesting part of it.
The band members agreed to be interviewed, but no cameras were allowed in the room, so Morgen and his team brilliantly used their words along with rare archival concert and behind-the-scenes footage as well as old interviews and news clips to piece together a film that chronicles many of the trials and tribulations of the Stones' first 20 years.
None of the group members were particularly erudite interview subjects, especially in the early days, but Jagger definitely comes across as the most charismatic of the bunch.
We hear how they would take bets on how long early shows would last while watching scenes of fans storming the stage and mobbing the band or causing riots down in front.
Jagger and Richards talk about the afternoon acid trip they were on before returning to Richards' Redlands country mansion and being arrested for drug possession.
Things turn darker when the lads talk about guitarist Brian Jones' growing lack of involvement with the band because of his heavy drug use, which ended with his drowning death. That's followed by them recounting how fearful they were at the tragic Dec. 6, 1969 Altamont concert over harrowing images of whacked-out Hells Angels who provided brutish security and killed an audience member.
The film deals with guitarist Mick Taylor's entry into and departure from the Stones, which seemed to catch his bandmates off guard, but he explains that his growing involvement with drugs when the band was at its most hedonistic point in the early '70s scared him away. Not everyone has the constitution of Richards, who talks about his infamous Toronto heroin bust and quips, "I never had a problem with drugs, I had a problem with cops."
And guitarist Ron Wood was more than happy to take on the party boy mantle as Richards' musical and social foil.
Crossfire Hurricane ends in the early '80s, which was perfect for me because that's essentially when my interest in most of the Stones' music ended, but more recent performance footage is shown during the closing credits.
Crossfire Hurricane exceeded my expectations and provided an insightful and entertaining couple of hours. Americans with HBO can watch it at 9 p.m. on Nov. 15, while BBC Two will show it in the United Kingdom in two parts on Nov. 17 and 24. The film will be released on DVD and Blu-Ray in the spring.
You can watch the trailer here.