November 15, 2012


The Rolling Stones Celebrate 50 Years on Film at MoMA

Ilya S. Savenok
Ilya S. Savenok

When you get a call to hang out with The Rolling Stones, you drop everything. Such was the case Wednesday night, when the band held a star-studded private soiree at New York City's Museum of Modern Art. And who was there? Yep, this hand's raised. We ran home, threw on a suit jacket and an hour later were standing next to actor Steve Buscemi at the bar. It was a hoot! 

Maybe you've heard: The Stones are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year and MoMA has joined the party, throwing the boys a retrospective that highlights yet another medium the band pioneered: Rock n' roll on film! MoMA kicked off the exhibit with an open-bar reception followed by a conversation between playwright Tom Stoppard (Shakespeare in Love) and the band, plus previews of their new HBO doc Crossfire Hurricane (airing tonight). 

The Rolling Stones have had a storied film career, collaborating with greats like Jean-Luc Goddard (Sympathy for the Devil), Martin Scorsese (Shine a Light, Mean Streets and many more), David Fincher, Michel Gondry and others, which the museum's director focused on during his introduction. He called the evening "a once in a lifetime" event with the world's greatest rock band and "perhaps the greatest living playwright." He even jokingly gifted them lifetime passes to the museum. And when that well-dressed, upper-crust director pronounced the title of the band's new compilation album, GRRR!, the crowd erupted in laughter. 

"And now I get to utter the greatest sentence ever," he gushed. "Ladies and gents, the Rolling Stones!"

The night had plenty laughs (hey, the crowd was well lubricated). When the lights dimmed and Stoppard, Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood walked to their respective chairs, each equipped with a bottle of champagne and flute, it all started with one of the Stones' greatest moments in film: Mick and Keef, aka the Glimmer Twins, as cartoon characters on The Simpsons.

And Stoppard began their convo with a funny jab at the band's early days and rivals the Beatles: "Did the Rolling Stones ever have their Hard Days Night?" They did, in fact, but it was never filmed, said Jagger. The script was written but, well, "it was very, very odd," he explained.

The clips from Brett Morgen’s new HBO documentary Crossfire Hurricane were great: It's all documentary outtake footage from the early '60s to now, chronicling the life of the band (and their bad-boy image and notoriety) via each member's individual story. Stoppard would use the footage as a cue for questions, asking about early TV appearances and their visit to record at Chess Records. "It was honor and a privilege," Watts deadpanned. "Chess was a church!" added Richards.

At first a little stiff, the conversation became like a chat amongst ol' friends: "A priest in Florida did a study and found that out of 1,000 Florida residents, 984 were impregnanted while listening to rock n' roll music," said Stoppard. "Just from listening to rock n' roll?" joked Keef. What a kidder.

Jagger chatted about his onstage dance moves and performing in front of James Brown, whom he admittedly lifted them from. "We'd go watch James Brown and copy his moves." In another clip, Richards is heavy-lidded, probably on a heroin nod, while discussing his fave blues guitarists. "Not one of my better days," he said afterwards. "It's rock n' roll, baby."

The overall sentiment was best captured by Richards, who spoke about working with Scorsese after a screening of the infamous scene in Mean Streets featuring "Tell Me." "Marty helped us get soaked into culture," explained Richards. "All of a sudden I'd go to the see the movies and my music is coming back at me."

There was a short pause. "And you're getting paid for it!" interjected Jagger, shrugging his shoulders. And the laughter roared.