To support their great 1972 album Exile on Main Street, the Rolling Stones toured the United States for the first time since the disaster that was Altamont, the 1969 free concert in Northern California at which members of the Hells Angels beat and stabbed a fan to death. The tour was an important event, and Robert Frank, a Swiss-born photographer and filmmaker, traveled with the band to shoot a movie—a little-seen cinema verité documentary that some music critics consider the greatest rock and roll movie ever made.
Titled Cocksucker Blues, the film takes its name from an intentionally scandalous song that Mick Jagger wrote to fulfill contractual obligations to Decca records. The song—about a gay hooker in London—was never released, and neither was the movie. You'll be able to see why this weekend. In a rare presentation, Cocksucker Blues will be screened Friday and Saturday nights at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
The Stones commissioned the movie themselves, but later changed their minds and blocked its release, reportedly because so much of it deals with the sex and drug-taking that the Stones, groupies, roadies, and hangers-on engaged in backstage. Frank eventually won the right to hold limited screenings, but other than those special presentations, the only way to see Cocksucker Blues is on poor bootleg copies. No, it’s not on Netflix.
Frank, now 88, was already an important photographer when he began making movies in the 1950s. He’s now considered one of the most influential independent filmmakers of his generation. The MFAH has archived Frank's films and videos for 27 years, releasing them for individual showings and to other institutions for retrospectives of this important artist’s work.
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
March 29 & 30 at 7 p.m.
$20; $15 students, seniors, & members