Cocksucker Blues is an unreleased documentary film directed by Robert Frank chronicling The Rolling Stones’ North American tour in 1972 in support of their album Exile on Main Street. Though never released on DVD or screened in any meaningful sense, it has reached cult status among rock and roll fans.
There was considerable anticipation for the band’s tour stateside. The band had not visited the States since the 1969 disaster at Altamont Free Concert in which a fan, Meredith Hunter, was stabbed and beaten to death by Hell’s Angels. (George R. R. Martin would pattern his Nazgul band in his Armageddon Rag novel on the Stones and the plot builds off an alternate take on Altamont.) It is not clear if it for was legal reasons or a business decision by Richards and Jagger not to tour here for three years.
Behind the scenes, the tour embodied considerable debauchery, lewdness of all kinds, and enough drug use to make Richards and Jagger decide that allowing the release of Cocksucker Blues was a very bad idea. It is also possible that the record company prevented its legal release, as the film itself remains to this day under a court order that forbids it from being shown unless director Robert Frank is physically present.
As online sources note, ‘This ruling stems from the conflict that arose when the band, who had commissioned the film, decided that its content was inappropriate and potentially embarrassing, and didn’t want it shown. Frank felt otherwise — hence the ruling. However, bootleg copies of the film are available.’ Though we don’t condone piracy here at Kinrowan Ltd., it is worth noting it is widely available on both YouTube and myriad bit torrent sites. And I wouldn’t be all at surprised if it available as a DVD as well.
What makes Cocksucker Blues so interesting is that was shot cinéma vérité, with cameras available for literally anyone in the band or connected to the band to simply pick up and start shooting. So we see backstage parties, lots drug use (Mick Jagger is seen snorting cocaine backstage), tits and more tits, and even a couple or two fucking on camera.
Director Robert Frank took this raw footage and kind of shaped it into something coherent. It it worth seeing? Quite so, though it’s fairly boring after a while, as it’s fairly repetitive. I do wonder how much of it was staged, as it definitely has that feel.
Why the title you ask? ‘Cocksucker Blues’ was the title of a Stones song, recorded in 1970, that Mick Jagger wrote to be the Stones’ final single for Decca Records as per their contract before the band took over control of their music. The song is an acknowledged parody of Dr. John’s ‘The Lonesome Guitar Strangler’ which was released on his album Babylon the year before.
Its content and language were chosen specifically to anger Decca executives, which it definitely did. The track was refused by Decca, although promotional singles of it were pressed in the US. It was only officially released later on a West German compilation in 1983, although the compilation was discontinued and since re-released without the song per the request of Decca. And yes, Jagger sings it with great enthusiasm in this film.