The Rolling Stones: Rare and Unseen (2010) – By Rachel Grubb

With the re-release of the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main St, along with 10 new unreleased tracks from the same era, I’ve had a lot to be excited about this summer.  Duane from Rogue Cinema knew what a big Stones fan I am, so he asked me to be a guest reviewer for this DVD–The Rolling Stones: Rare and Unseen.

The purpose of this DVD is to give us unreleased footage.  So, unlike other Rolling Stones documentaries, such as the brilliant Gimme Shelter and even the infamous Cocksucker Blues, there is no narrative, and no common thread that strings the clips together.  But the pieces are grouped together to make them more cohesive. 

One of the more charming moments is a very early interview with Mick in which he is being pressed to say that the Stones are better than the Beatles, in an attempt to stir up a Biggie and Tupac-style rivalry. Mick just smiles. 

Ron Wood fits in as comfortably as if he had been there from day one.  The fans even seem to forget that he wasn’t, apparently, as he tells us, "I just signed an album that I wasn’t even on!"  While the man he replaced, Mick Taylor, always seemed more like a session musician standing in for Brian Jones.

Mick Taylor speaks, and still manages to say nothing.  That is, until we see him later in life, and he answers the all-too-obvious question, "What was Mick Jagger like?"  Although he is too outgoing to be mysterious, Mick Jagger is one of those iconic figures who has us putting together puzzle pieces to create a picture of what he is "like".  He’s a rock and roll sex symbol, yet its not much of a stretch to describe him as ugly. 

I remember watching him on TV as a little kid.  My father asked me, "Isn’t Mick Jagger ugly?"  I didn’t know what to say, because while I didn’t disagree, that wasn’t really the point. 

Indeed, the video is very Jagger-centric, which is just fine by me, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard Charlie Watts speak so much in my life. 

I was pleased not to see any talking heads in this documentary.  No "experts" or "sources close to the band."  Only the Stones themselves telling their stories.  The occasional Pop Up Video style factoids on the screen, however, are largely pointless.  The target audience for this is the hardcore fans, and they reveal nothing we don’t already know. 

Another interesting clip features Jagger and director Julien Temple, who made the Sex Pistols’ documentary The Filth and the Fury.  It’s a very challenging interview about the violent content of the "Undercover of the Night" video, which Temple directed.  The questions are pointed, and the interviewer clearly does not approve. 

I wasn’t born when the Stones first played together.  When I saw them on TV, I never got to hear them talk about Performance, Mick Jagger’s acting debut.  In an interview many years after the making of the film, we get to see Mick give us his interpretation of the bizarre and ambiguous ending of the film.

We get to see a lot of cool stuff, including footage of the Shine A Light premiere, with Scorsese, and a shot of Mick with a black eye.  Overall, this is not universally compelling like Gimme Shelter, which everyone should see, but it’s a lot of fun for hardcore Stones fans.  But like most documentaries of this sort, there is no music.  So you’ll have to go out and pick up the reissue of Exile On Main St when you’re done.