For years I had wanted to see Cocksucker Blues. Scandalous, the film was rumored to show the wilder side of the rockstar life – the booze, the drugs, the sex. For reasons unknown, I never actively sought out the film. Though I pined to see it, something held me back from tracking down a copy of the film. Finally, a copy just sort of came my way and I could no longer put it off. Having now seen the film I wonder if it was worth the wait, if it was worth the hype?
Shot by photographer Robert Frank, a man who’s still imagery I adore, Cocksucker Blues gives the cinema vertie look to life on the road with the Rolling Stones. Done around the time of Exile on Main Street, for which Robert Frank did the album design this so-called candid look at the myths of rockstardom feels much like so many behind-the-scenes documentaries that mix in energetic live footage with the rather slow paced off stage life of artists waiting for their next show.
The sex and drugs are certainly there, but they are neither excessive nor exciting. The band members themselves do not appear on camera overindulged in vice. Most of the illicit behavior falls to the road crew and the groupies. The fleas and ticks of rock ‘n’ roll. Frank himself admits in interviews done afterwards that he helped stage much of the in air antics that make up a bulk of the films most notorious imagery. Complaining that air travel was the most boring part of touring, Robert Frank used his dope connections to help spice up a rather routine airplane ride. The results are comical, not realistic.
Surely, rockstars do some rather outrageous things, but Frank’s cameras don’t catch much of it. They don’t even catch much of the musical performances. As concert films go, this shows nothing electrifying or new. Where is does shine is in the rather dull moments out of the spot light, the long hours between shows, spent in hotels. It’s here that Cocksucker Blues works best, but its here where it fails. For, this is not the stuff of legend and Cocksucker Blues is considered a legendary film, perhaps only because its supposed to be so hard to find and see. In reality, it isn’t. Just like a cocksuck, if you want one you can find it, but most don’t go looking. They wait until it happens and then they realize that maybe they made it out to be more than they expected. The whole experience can leave you asking “Is that all there is?” Just like Peggy Lee once sang. The emphasis in this film is not the cocksucking. It’s the blues.