The Trouble With 'Cocksucker Blues'

The controversial movie that even the Stones find objectionable.

Rolling Stones Mick Taylor Mick Jagger
Robert Knight Archive/Redferns
Mick Taylor and Mick Jagger performing live onstage circa 1972.
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The Rolling Stones and filmmaker Robert Frank have reached an agreement over the distribution and editing of Cocksucker Blues, a controversial film about the Stones' 1972 American tour.

According to Frank, the agreement states that the film may not be shown until March 7th, 1979. It may then be shown only four times a year, and during the first year only a version edited by the Stones may be shown.

The agreement, with both parties participating in how and when the film may be shown, still does not seem to answer the question of who actually controls it. The Stones, who have sought to keep the film out of circulation since its completion in 1973, have maintained they hired Frank to make it for them. But Frank's attitude is less clear. He did show the film in California in 1975 and 1976 and several times in Canada without reaching an agreement with the Stones. However, a copyrighted article in the Montreal Star, based on an interview with Frank, stated that he showed the film on those occasions to generate enough public interest so that the Stones would be persuaded to release the film.

Also at issue was the inclusion of a number of scenes that the group found objectionable. In the Star article, Frank detailed some scenes that he said the public might find "revolting." These included Keith Richards being injected and Mick Jagger snorting powder. Both Richards and Jagger have a great deal to say about Frank, and Stones' attorneys are reportedly contemplating legal action against Frank and the Star in connection with the article.

Another controversial scene involves a couple having intercourse at 30,000 feet while the Stones cheer them on. One source indicates that the scene was staged; former Rolling Stone reporter Robert Greenfield, who wrote the book S.T.P. about the '72 tour, reported that Frank approached a groupie and said, "We want a chick to fuck someone on the plane for the movie."

Things might have remained at an impasse had Keith Richards not been arrested on drug charges in Toronto last February. A week later, legal papers were served on Frank at his home in Mabou Mines, Nova Scotia. An affadavit filed by Jagger said the film subjected the Stones to "scorn and ridicule" and that Frank had distorted events through editing and included in the film events which are private to the Rolling Stones."

Frank told the Star he felt the Stones instituted legal action because the film could hurt Richards' trial (December 2nd in Toronto). They finally reached an out-of-court settlement May 17th. According to Frank, the Stones (besides allowing eventual release of the film) agreed to pay $100,000 to cover all legal fees.

Reached at his home, Frank was reluctant to talk. "It's settled, that's all. I haven't really thought too much about where I'll show it. I guess I'll show it in Montreal, maybe the Pacific Film Archive [in Berkeley]. I think it's good."

This story is from the November 3rd, 1977 issue of Rolling Stone.

From The Archives Issue 251: November 3, 1977