What “Crossfire Hurricane” Gets So Right About The Stones

Crossfire Hurricane had its U.S. premiere on HBO last night, and what, you think the folks at Tulip Frenzy were going to miss it?  It had much to offer, and we have the usual complaints.

We loved hearing Brian Jones speaking to the camera.  We can never get enough of the video footage, not to mention Dominique Tarle’s still images, of the band recording Exile On Main Street.  But it was the usual pastiche of footage we’ve seen, edited together kaleidoscopically, from movies such as Charlie Is My Darling, Gimme Shelter, Cocksucker Blues, etc.  And it always makes us mad that, in these sorts of films, we can’t get no satisfaction of seeing any given song played live for more than, say, 30 seconds.

But there was one thing — a big thing — that director Brett Morgan completely got right.  The two-hour movie takes the Stones from 1962-1981 and ends there, recognizing that by then, they no longer had it, and the 31 years of hugely profitable touring since then has largely been a scam, if not an embarrassment. A subtraction from, not an addition to, the greatness of the greatest rock’n’roll band in the world, and our first love.

But the arc of the movie even more profoundly makes the essential point about the Rolling Stones story.  Over 100 minutes, we see the Stones rise from their shadow-Beatlemania phase through their Golden Age — from “Jumping Jack Flash” through the ’73 tour of Australia.  The movie stretches out a little, takes its time, from the period between Brian’s death and the Exile era.  We actually get to see more than 30 seconds of “Midnight Rambler” during the ’72 tour, which Tulip Frenzy has long posited was the apogee of the art form, not just the Stones’ greatest tour but perhaps rock’n’roll’s highest moment.  And then, following those shows and the subsequent  tours of Australia, Hawaii, and Europe, Mick Taylor decided he needed to leave the band, if he were going to survive in the Sandy-like destructive wake of Keith’s heroin addiction.  The movie spends two or three minutes on Mick’s departure.  And while the Stones welcome Ron Wood into the band, the director makes his feelings known — and it is a sentiment we completely agree with — that while we used to love them, it’s all over now.  We see a few minutes of footage from those dire Black and Blue days, and then it’s all over, save for a momentary respite when the Stones, challenged by punk, exerted themselves to produce Some Girls.

The movie effectively ends the moment Ron Wood joined the band.  And sure enough, that’s exactly what happened. The day Mick Taylor left, it was over.

The Stones are celebrating their 50th Anniversary as a band.  We celebrate the first 10, maybe 12 years.  And we regret the rest.  Apparently so does Brett Morgan.

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