Ten minutes into the Rolling Stones' documentary Crossfire Hurricane, you might well think you're watching the infamous, unreleased 1972 Rolling Stones documentary Cocksucker Blues. But suddenly, you're transported back to the early 1960s, the days when the Rolling Stones were branded the antithesis of the Beatles, even as they played to virtually the same audiences filled with virtually the same screaming teenage girls. History unfolds from there. Shown on HBO in the States on November 16, 2012 and now available on DVD and Blu-ray Disc, Crossfire Hurricane is a montage of old and unseen footage with low-key narration from Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman, Mick Taylor and Ron Wood.
This is not a full-blown overview as extensive as the Beatles' Anthology or the Stones own 1989 documentary, 25x5 (which, by the way, has yet to be officially released on DVD or Blu-ray Disc). Stylistically, Crossfire Hurricane is abstract, more a visual kaleidoscope than a biographical piece. If you don't need too much hand-holding, the story is one of the most captivating in rock 'n roll. From the band's rise to the drug busts, Brian Jones' downward spiral and death by misadventure, to the horror of Altamont, right through the 70s when they were decreed the world's greatest rock 'n roll band.
While the band celebrates its 50th year, it's the first 20 covered in Crossfire Hurricane that holds the most significance. Everything else has been gravy as the focus has shifted from making innovative albums to creating bigger-than-life stage shows. So, let's go back again and take advantage of the bonus material on the DVD and Blu-ray Disc that HBO didn't show: namely, live footage from 1964 and 1965 of the Stones with Brian Jones. There's also an insightful interview with director Brett Morgen, who talks about how the film came together and why it was made the way it was - no current on-camera interviews with any of the band members, rare footage, rare music, the cinematic look of the film, etc. With enough Stones video on the market to fill a lifetime, Crossfire Hurricane is definitely one you need to invest some time in.
~ Shawn Perry