Thoughts After Watching Crossfire Hurricane

I watched Crossfire Hurricane, the documentary on the Rolling Stones directed by Brett Morgen produced by Mick and Keith, that aired on HBO. I enjoyed it. I can not say it was unbelievably original or even edited well. I did love seeing all the archival film footage. I did learn some things. I finally understood far more about the 1969 Altamont concert and why they were not able to get out or manage the crowd. (There was hardly a stage. I had been thinking why didn’t they just leave or why didn’t they just do this or that. They couldn’t they were stuck in there with basically no defined boundary between them and the crowd.) I realized that despite losing band members for one reason or another, The Stones continued to be successful. There are countless examples throughout history where the loss of a band member has broken a band. I believe Mick and Keith are blues musicians. Finally, Keith is so above the law of the human body and government that he is still alive (and free) today.

I learned some other things too, specifically about artists, artistic integrity, and how it has changed due to technology and cultural shifts.

Mourning Rock Stars has Changed It was nothing short of inspired to see all of Hyde Park covered in a sea of humanity after Brian Jones death.  The last mass gathering after a musician’s death was for Kurt Cobain. Today we are content to place RIP so-and-so on our Twitter or Facebook feed. Are people no longer as passionate about their music because it is no longer a hard won object? Is it all too accessible?

Media Attention is similarly handled by like-minded, stand-offish creative types. Artists, on the other hand, are more accessible because of social networking. They must all have verified accounts to make money and stay relevant. This was not the case when The Stones were at their height of musical dominance. (But then again when did they not dominate.) The only way the public could see them off stage was through interviews by the media. The media asked all the questions it wanted, but that did not mean they would get what they wanted in return, an honest answer. Answers to questions by Mick and Keith back in the day were consistently riddled, not unlike how Andy Warhol handled the media.

Today we still see this happen [See Also: Bill Belichek] People are going to say, “Oh what a dick move. But is it? Maybe Warhol, The Rolling Stones, and the Patriots just want their privacy and do not want to give away the secrets to their success to others.  Perhaps, they felt they were above the need to “do media.”  All three attract enough attention themselves on their own merit. Or maybe they feel behaving intolerable will force people away quickly, so they can go back to creating greatness. At the end of the day, their commentary on their art does not matter, what does matter is how the viewer or listener feels. The Stones commented on society the best way they knew how, through their music.  During the documentary Mick, but especially Keith, were very vocal about being forced into the role as the men in black, as the squeaky clean Beatles were the good guys, the men in white.

Few understand that the medium is the message. They could be crazy or they could just be crazy enough to acting just the right way. They were the media. The Stones’ performed the lyrics “I can’t get no satisfaction,” during a time when they felt the world was, well, unsatisfying. No, seriously, they were commenting on the reality of that generation’s growing pains. The music or art of Warhol transcended any conversation one could have with the artist, so they all gave silly answers to the establishment media. They hated talking to the press and seriously loved to mess around with them. Since the Rolling Stones and Andy Warhol ran in the same circles, I would guess that their actions were intentional.

What does this or that mean? is a question that an artist gets asked often. It is not for the artist to say what it means. It is the for the viewer to decide. And the final product of creation may very well mean different things on different days. It is the artist’s job to provoke his audience, to make them feel something, not to ascribe meaning.

The 1960s were an interesting time when so much changed. Today many things continue to change. We valued art and creativity differently back in the 1960s than we do today. Due to technology anyone can be a musician, start a podcast, and make a video. Less and less talent is needed to be a creative success. In the 60s, you had to have a lot of talent, a ton of drive, and know the right people to get access to the tools you needed to accomplish your artistic goals. Technology limited and weeded out the untalented. Now everyone can be famous for 15 minutes as Warhol prophesied those many years ago. He just missed the one crucial point that most of those who would be famous, in this future, would not be talented.

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