25 X 5: The Continuing Adventures of the Rolling Stones
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CBS Music Video Enterprises
Run Time: 145 minutes
This documentary chronicles the history of the Rolling Stones, from local pub band to international rock & roll success that has lasted in the decades. Starting with their somewhat poor and tawdry beginnings as a straight-ahead blues band hanging on the peripheral edges of London's jazz scene, the original sextet of Mick Jagger (vocals and harmonica), Keith Richards (lead guitar), Brian Jones (slide and rhythm guitar, harmonica), Bill Wyman (bass), Charlie Watts (drums), and Ian Stewart (piano) saw themselves more as proselytizers for the cause of rhythm & blues than as future stars of it themselves. But what separated the Rolling Stones from the myriads of pub bands popping up on the circuit regurgitating Muddy Waters records note for note was that their vision of what constituted rhythm & blues music had wider parameters than the other combos. For the music of this fledgling group not only embraced the traditional blues of Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf, but the Black rock & roll of Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley, all the while their cutting-edge fingers on the pulse of the burgeoning American soul music movement, itself an extension of America's R&B scene. As black and white snapshots turn into the first television appearances (and subsequent footage) of the band, modern-day interviews with Jagger and Richards coalesce with it to tell the tale of the early days of the band's success. After cutting a wide, influential path among up-and-coming beat combos (the Animals, the Yardbirds) playing high-voltage versions of Chuck Berry and obscure R&B tunes, they quickly became the bluesier, scruffier antithesis of the poppier, cleaner Beatles. Although great friends offstage, the competition (and disparities) between the two groups were played up in the press at every opportunity, mostly the crafty PR work of their first real manager, Andrew Loog Oldham. Taking things in hand, Oldham quickly ousted Ian Stewart from the lineup (he didn't have 'the look') and hipped Jagger and Richards to the fact that they could keep plundering other people's song catalogs for only so long. If they were going to survive as a band in a long-range entity (a fairly unheard of thing for a pop group back then), they would have to start writing their own material, just as the Beatles were doing. As Richards tells the tale, Andrew locked him and Jagger in a kitchen and wouldn't let them out until they had composed their first song together. After farming out their early tries to other artists ("As Tears Go By" to Marianne Faithfull, "That Girl Belongs to Yesterday" to Gene Pitney), Mick and Keith composed "The Last Time" and figure that "this one is good enough to bring to the group." This began the first great wave of success for the band, as hit after hit followed from the heads of Jagger and Richards -- now in full command of the band's direction -- including "Satisfaction," "Get Off My Cloud," "19th Nervous Breakdown," and "Paint It, Black." In the meantime, Oldham pulled every publicity ploy known to mankind, playing up the Stones' bad boy image to the hilt, culminating with the "would you let your daughter marry a Rolling Stone" ad campaign. After a couple of grueling tours, the group finally conquers America with the back-to-back-to-back successes of "It's All Over Now," "The Last Time" and "Satisfaction." It's now 1966 and the Stones are at the top of the London rock & roll hierarchy, sharing throne rights with the Beatles and no one else. But with the fame comes the heat, and soon the three front-line Stones (Jagger, Richards, and Brian Jones) all found themselves arrested on teach-these-boys-a-lesson drug-possession charges. By the time the dust had cleared in these swinging, psychedelic late-'60s times, Jagger and Richards were free, Andrew Oldham was no longer their manager, and Brian Jones was kicked out of the group, to die suddenly a few weeks later before the Stones could play an outdoor gig in Hyde Park to introduce his replacement, Mick Taylor.
Feeling they could now tour solidly and take advantage of the new technology in p.a. systems (i.e.; they would now be able to hear themselves), the Stones come to America to take on their first coast-to-coast tour in several years. It is an enormous success and the group decides to celebrate with a final thank-you date to the fans at Altamont Raceway. The date goes disastrously, with Hell's Angels beating a fan to death with pool sticks. But the '70s roll on, and so do the Stones, chalking up their biggest hits ("Honky Tonk Women," "Brown Sugar," "Jumping Jack Flash"), their biggest-selling albums (Sticky Fingers, Exile on Main Street), and sold-out concert tours world wide, living up to their sobriquet as "the world's greatest rock & roll band." Suddenly they find themselves being courted by politicians and upper-crust nobility. In the midst of this mega-success, Mick Taylor is replaced by Ronnie Wood with seemingly little change in sound and style and popularity. But all is not well, as Richards sinks deeper and deeper into heroin addiction. By this time, Jagger is almost completely running the band with Keith barely able to function. When Richards is busted in Toronto for possession, it looks like the end of the band. But Keith cleans up and the band's success continues unabated. By their 1981 North American tour, they were playing in huge stadiums with a gigantic show to go with it. But in 1985, the Stones' original piano player, the man who graciously stepped aside to become a permanent roadie and sideman, Ian Stewart, passed away, and its effect on the group was devastating. For Stewart was the emotional glue of the band, the one who could knock any original member down a peg if their heads got too big, referring to the band as "my little three-chord wonders." When it came time for the next Stones album to come out (Dirty Work), Jagger refused to tour behind it, and now, the tear in the friendship between Mick and Keith seemed to be spelling an end to the group. Jagger went on a solo tour to promote his solo album, adding Stones tunes to the live set list. Richards responded by recording his own solo album and putting a band together for his own solo tour. When the Stones were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, however, Jagger and Richards patched things up and by 1989 were down in the Caribbean working on new material. The result was the Steel Wheels album and subsequent tour, getting the band back on track, doing what they do best. The film closes with footage from that tour, showcasing the band back on top of its game.