Frank & Stones

Thanks once again to Peggy Sue Amison of Picture Berlin for reposting a link to a short film edited from Robert Frank‘s Super 8 footage shot of the Rolling Stones in Los Angeles and New York, set to the soundtrack of their ‘Rock Off‘ from ‘Exile on Main St‘, a track many believe to mark the zenith of their output, a short time when they were clearly ‘The greatest rock & roll band in the world?’

Frank was hired by the Stones to make a documentary film about their 1972 American Tour and did so in cinéma vérité mode, with those taking part in the backstage antics being invited to pick up cameras and add to the record. They did so too well, providing a revealing view that led to the Stones getting a court order to prevent the release of the film; although in recognition of the rights of Frank as an artist it can be publicly shown if Frank himself if present.

You can usually find several parts – and occasionally the full film until it gets taken down fairly rapidly – on YouTube, though some of the links will be to the Stones track of the same name, their final single for Decca Records, deliberately made to be rejected (though Decca issued it by mistake in Germany in 1983, quickly withdrawing it after they realised what they had done.)

I can’t sign up to Charlie Finch’s opinion in Sockcumber Blues on Artnet when he says that rather than ‘The Americans’, “Frank’s true masterpiece is his still unreleased chronicle of the Rolling Stones’ 1972 American tour”, but it is a film that should be seen.  And ‘The Americans‘ is certainly a book every photographer should own and study, still ‘The Book That Changed Photography‘. But I’m sure I’m preaching to the converted.

While trying to find out more about the ‘Rocks Off’ video I came across a fascinating article by Bob Egan on Pop Spots NYC researching the location of photographs of Bob Dylan taken by New York musician/photographer John Cohen, who was a neighbour of Robert Frank who lived at 34 Third Avenue – and around three quarters of the way down the very long post he includes a photo of the relevant page of the NY reverse street directory showing both of them. There are also links to ‘Rocks Off’ and also mentions another of Frank’s films, Pull My Daisy, as well as more that may be of interest to fans (like me) of Jack Kerouac, who of course wrote the fine introduction to the US publication of ‘The Americans‘.

Elsewhere in various forums on the web you can glean more information about the film locations in ‘Rock Off’ video. The guy dancing on the street as he dodges traffic to wipe car windows is apparently at the corner of Houston and Bowery in New York, and the rest of the New York street scenes are in that area (including Lafayette), while Mick Jagger is shown outside the Galway Theatre at 514 South Main Street in  Los Angeles, an ‘adult’ theatre that has apparently appeared in a number of films.

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