This 4-part documentary about three of the current Rolling Stones lineup and the one who recently died is one of the oddest things I’ve ever seen. It offers a non-chronological survey of the band’s career with a shifting focus from (current) member to (current) member and then the dead one. Clearly, when planned, Charlie Watts was still alive, but he didn’t live long enough to be interviewed in the same way the other three were. So there’s this odd non-matching saucer at the end of the tea set, something the fastidious Charlie Watts would have been appalled by.
Each episode begins with a ridiculous statement. The first one, focused on Jagger, starts with him saying that he wants the documentary to avoid all the usual clichés. As the Guardian reviewer pointed out, the documentary then goes on to repeat all the usual clichés. They can’t help it. The Richards episode begins with the claim that he’s the quintessential guitar hero, which is patently untrue. Even from his own era, there are dozens of better candidates for that title. And Keith himself would never claim to be anything other than a one- or two-trick pony. (The trick, by the way, is to remove one string and tune the rest to an open G chord. I’m not saying I could do what he does, but he’s not Jimi, or Eric, or the other Jimmy, or Robbie, or Eddie, or… you get the idea.)
The Ronnie Wood episode is deeply weird because it tries to make the case for Ronnie as the most important Stone, the glue, as it were, when he’s still treated by all and sundry as the new boy after 45+ years in the band.
And then the Charlie Watts episode makes the claim that he’s the greatest rock ‘n’ roll drummer, which is debatable at best.
Fine. It’s a hagiography. But it’s so partial, so incomplete, with so many glaring omissions, that it doesn’t really do anything. Brian Jones is dealt with as a kind of peripheral, non-contributing character. Bill Wyman – so central to what Charlie Watts does with the band – doesn’t really warrant a mention. Wyman was with the group 30 years, and was the subject of a 2019 documentary, which might have been included here as a fifth episode. Meanwhile, Darryl Jones, who will very soon have played bass with the band for as long as Wyman, is also ignored. Sure, he’s treated as a hired hand, but the Stones’ rhythm section is central to their sound. They managed to talk about Charlie’s drumming on “Miss You” from 1978 without mentioning the bassline.
It gets weirder. Mick Taylor, probably the most talented guitar player to be in the band, who was present when they produced what everybody acknowledges is their best work, wasn’t mentioned until episode 3, in a kind of awkward and reluctant way. He’s still alive too. Why not speak to him? Afraid he might mention the reasons he left? Which would make Ronnie Wood look a bit pathetic: both were denied songwriting credits when they expected to receive them. One left, the other joined knowing that had happened.
So huge gaps in this story, yawning gaps around founding members and super-talented guitar slingers, which ends up looping around the same narrow period of time and really skipping over everything after about 1990.