Review by Brian Lowry, CNN
“The Beatles: Get Back” set a very high bar for musical nostalgia, but “My Life As a Rolling Stone” is no slouch, breaking the four band members into their own dedicated hours, with extensive access to the three surviving members and a who’s who of rock voices serving as the chorus. Yes, you can’t always get what you want, but for Rolling Stones fans, this should come close.
Narrated by Sienna Miller, the docuseries — playing on the BBC in the UK and on the Epix pay channel in the US — interviews Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood on camera, while leaving the musicians, managers and others with insight about the band as off-camera voices, keeping the focus squarely on the Stones.
Nicely written, the opening installment (devoted to Jagger, naturally) describes the group as “a link between the counterculture of the 1960s and the commercial modern world.”
There’s biographical material focusing on their musical influences, such as how Jagger — the clear leader and “brand manager,” as one observer puts it — essentially studied Little Richard as he learned how to command a stage. That included creating the rock stadium experience, as Jon Bon Jovi notes, calling his first exposure to those early shows “mind-blowing.”
Jagger insists he was actually naïve about the impact of his androgynous look (“I didn’t even know I was doing androgyny”), while Richards credits the Beatles and their burgeoning popularity in the ’60s with making the Stones happen.
“Without the Beatles the Stones would never have been there,” he says.
Ever colorful, the Richards hour details his reputation as a “defiant hedonist” and drug abuser, but also a trailblazer who helped create the band’s sound and image — “The model,” as Slash of Guns ‘N Roses says, “that all of us rebellious rock guitarists follow.”
Wood, meanwhile, is presented as the glue that held the Stones together after he replaced Mick Taylor in the mid-1970s, setting his ego aside to deal with his higher-maintenance partners. The final installment pays tribute to the late drummer Charlie Watts, who died in 2021. “The best drummer England has ever produced,” Richards says.
Executive producer Steve Condie and the four directors don’t gloss over controversies and excesses associated with the Stones, but the emphasis is clearly to deliver a celebration of their artistry as well as longevity as still-rocking septuagenarians.
Those decades in the spotlight and the ample footage associated with them yield dividends for the filmmakers if not always the members themselves, who concede that the unrelenting attention is something of a double-edged sword.
“Some people can take it, and some people can’t,” Jagger says, discussing the pressures associated with fame. “It’s a bit of a pact with the devil.”
“My Life As a Rolling Stone” fosters a degree of sympathy for these devils, but mostly, a sense of appreciation for decades of a level of rock wizardry that, with apologies to the song, needs no introduction.
“My Life As a Rolling Stone” premieres Aug. 7 on Epix.
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