“Crossfire Hurricane:" 9 p.m. Thursday, HBO
Back in the day, if you asked a Rolling Stones fan if they envisioned the band still rocking out in their 60s — or, in the case of Charlie Watts, his 70s — they probably would have laughed in your face — not because the band wasn’t great, but because at the time rock ‘n roll was considered to be music by, for and about youth.
Many ’60s bands were about rebellion in one form or another, but the Stones, perhaps more than any other group, epitomized the theme. At one point in “Crossfire Hurricane," Brett Morgen’s 50th anniversary tribute film airing Thursday on HBO, a young Mick Jagger is asked by a TV interviewer why British youth are so dissatisfied with their lives. It is simply that they are pushing back against “the generation which they think controls them," Jagger said.
Today, the band members are a few generations beyond the age their parents were when the Stones were formed in 1962. The surviving Stones reached the age of “the generation that controls them" decades ago.
Over time, the Stones transitioned to becoming the world’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll band, but what’s clear in the kaleidoscopic overview Morgen provides in “Hurricane" is that, except for age and some personnel change, the band never changed its tune, so to speak.
Taking its title from a lyric of “Jumping Jack Flash," “Crossfire Hurricane," produced by the Stones themselves, focuses heavily on the years from the band’s formation through the next two decades, mining material and outtakes from previous documentaries, including “Gimme Shelter," “Charlie Is My Darling" and “C--sucker Blues."
The film begins with the STP tour stop at Madison Square Garden, where Dick Cavett and his TV film crew follow the band into their dressing room, crowded with the likes of Truman Capote and Andy Warhol. Later, we see the band’s plane heading skyward. When it lands again, we’re back in England in the early ’60s to retrace the journey of how the band was formed and became wildly popular almost overnight.
If you don’t know much about the band and are looking for a kind of Rolling Stones 101, “Crossfire Hurricane" probably isn’t the best place to start. To appreciate the film, you need a basic knowledge of the band, of the decline and death of Brian Jones, and of Jagger and Richards’ roller-coaster relationship over the years.
“Hurricane" is a whirling impressionistic painting of the band, beautifully conveying the energy, drive and genius of the Stones, more or less chronologically within the basic flashback structure.
There is no need for “Crossfire Hurricane" to ask why the Rolling Stones are the world’s greatest rock ‘n roll band: The answer is in the music and the energy, and not just because, unlike the Beatles, they survived and are still together.