"I should have started two years before because it's quite time-consuming. I thought about it two years before but didn't do much. It was rushed, and yet we got a very decent film out of it. This is the best (Stones doc) I've seen for a long while. This and (Martin Scorsese's) Shine a Light are two of my favorites."
The voices of the players (Jagger, Richards, drummer Charlie Watts, guitarist Ronnie Wood and two former members, bassist Bill Wyman and guitarist Mick Taylor) are heard over archival footage drawn from TV clips and such films as Gimme Shelter and Charlie Is My Darling. Scrappy live versions of Street Fighting Man, Jumping Jack Flash and Paint It Black are spliced with key scenes from the Stones age.
"My intention was not to have too many talking heads, in fact, none," says Jagger, who is co-producing a James Brown biopic. He felt more engaged as Crossfire's architect than as its subject. The film "is an exciting ride, but I can't say I was surprised by any of it. I'm quite familiar with the story. For me, it's about how the narrative unfolds, what you give prominence to, avoiding certain side roads."
In the film, the young Jagger appears witty and astute amid chaos and self-possessed through hysteria at early shows, drug busts, Brian Jones' death, even 1969's horrific free concert at Altamont Speedway near San Francisco, where 18-year-old Meredith Hunter was killed by one of the Hells Angels acting as security. Was he as cool as he seemed?
"It's hard to say," Jagger says. "You can say the whole thing is a faade, a fantasy. No matter how crazy it was, you manage to keep going. There was no training for that. There was no school for rock."
NO 'GREAT SECRETS'
Richards' reaction to footage of himself as a teen rock anti-hero: "It's amazing to see it walk and talk."
He's impressed by Crossfire's laser focus on the band's core and its exclusion of "girlfriends and blah-blah-blah peripheral stuff. It's fascinating, even for me, and I was there. It's very Marx Brothers in a way. Those crazy shows in the early '60s where riots broke out in the first minutes -- the main problem for us was how to get in and how to get out. With the Stones, you never knew what was coming around the corner."
Often, it was the authorities. He faced a long jail term when charged with heroin trafficking in 1977 in Toronto but got a suspended sentence after pleading guilty to possession.
"For some weird reason, we never had any fear that we wouldn't get out of it one way or another," Richards says. "I've got to put that down to the fans. It was hardly worthwhile putting me away, was it? Half the stuff I was accused of was (bull). The judges saw through the prosecution. I thought, well, God's on my side and we'll win out."
He was less placid about Altamont, "the one show I'd rather not have been at. It was all done a bit on the wing. We had the Grateful Dead set it up, and they did free shows all over using the Angels as security, no problem. We just waltzed in expecting another Woodstock, and apart from that terrible incident, it was.
"Obviously, it was the dark side of what can happen at those things. I was amazed that Meredith was the only casualty. It's a shame the guy died, but he wasn't an innocent bystander. (Hunter rushed the stage and later pulled a gun before being stabbed.) People said the cat was asking for trouble. You don't screw with the Angels, and they were already antsy."
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