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Rarely Shown Rolling Stones Documentary Screening Tonight At Stanford University

In Culture
This image, taken by Robert Frank, is among many on display at the 'Robert Frank in America' exhibit currently at Cantor Arts Center at Stanford. Frank's rarely shown Rolling Stone's documentary, 'Cocksucker Blues,' will be screened Oct. 15 at the Annenberg Auditorium.

This image, taken by Robert Frank, is among many on display at the 'Robert Frank in America' exhibit currently at Cantor Arts Center at Stanford. Frank's rarely shown Rolling Stone's documentary, 'Cocksucker Blues,' will be screened Oct. 15 at the Annenberg Auditorium.

This evening, the rarely screened and highly acclaimed documentary on the Rolling Stones, Cocksucker Blues, will be screened at Stanford University, as part of the Cantor Arts Center exhibit, Robert Frank in America. And you can check it out for free.

The documentary, directed and shot by American street photography icon, Robert Frank, was filmed during the Stones’ 1972 tour of the U.S. It is a gritty and unflinching examination of the banality of life on the road, which seems to conclude that sex, drugs and rock & roll can be a real bore.

“The people of Palo Alto are in for a real treat,” says Peter Galassi, curator of the Robert Frank in America exhibition, which secured the precious rights to screen the film. After the completion of the documentary, the Rolling Stones were allegedly displeased with Frank’s final product, and took the photographer to court. As a result, the film may only be legally screened a handful of times each year, according to Galassi.

“Most of these road movies were about glorifying the band,” Galassi explains. “The Stones didn’t like the movie because it wasn’t just a glorification of the Stones—it was also about the cloistered boring life of all the time when they’re not performing.”

CocksuckerBlues

And it was also about drugs. Multiple clips of the film on YouTube appear to show the band and their entourage sniffing cocaine. In one scene, Keith Richards nods off—passing out in the lap of a girlfriend backstage, presumably after a particularly potent hit of heroin.

According to Galassi, the Stones felt the film constituted incriminating evidence against them. They had good reason to be paranoid (aside from all the blow they were shoving up their noses at the time), the curator says. At that time, the band were under the perpetual observation of American drug enforcement authorities.

“It’s too bad, because I think it’s a really great movie,” Galassi says.

But the showing of Cocksucker Blues is merely the icing on the cake, according to Galassi, who worked as the chief curator of photography at MOMA from 1991 to 2011. According to Galassi, the main Cantor exhibit, Robert Frank in America, compiles 130 photographs, which until recently had remained hidden away in private collections.

As Galassi tells it, when he first took a look at the photos that Cantor and Stanford had acquired directly from private collectors, he was stunned to find that he was unfamiliar, or only vaguely aware of the pieces he was seeing.

The curator explains that in the late ’70s, the market for art photography really started to take off, and Frank, a hero in the street photography world was suddenly being approached left and right by collectors seeking to buy his work, which he was glad to sell, as it allowed him to finance the pursuit of his new passion—motion pictures.

“The Cantor’s collection was part of this chunk that he sold off in the ’70s,” Galassi says. “Basically it’s been sleeping for the last 40 years.”

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