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edge staff writer


‘My Life as a Rolling Stone’ director Oliver Murray: ‘It was fantastic, but terrifying’

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The Rolling Stones have been the focal point for a number of documentaries dating back to the 1960s, but none have centered on the lives of the band’s individual members quite like Oliver Murray’s four-part docuseries “My Life As a Rolling Stone.”

Commissioned by the BBC and Universal, Murray’s mission was to tell the story of the Stones through four hour-long portraits devoted to the lives of Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ron Wood and the late Charlie Watts.

With full access to the band’s archive, Murray juxtaposes newly shot interviews and previously unseen footage with scenes familiar to hardcore fans to highlight the personalities, passions and peculiarities that have kept The Rolling Stones together for 60 years.

Episodes drop Sundays at 9:00 p.m. on Epix and are also available to view through Amazon Prime.

An engaging interview is a highlight of the premiere episode devoted to Mick Jagger’s life. The takeaway: Mick still likes to be in control of virtually every aspect of the Stones’ affairs. He clears up a few misconceptions including the origin of the band’s legendary lips and tongue logo (spoiler alert: It wasn’t based on Jagger’s famous lips) but stops short of accepting any responsibility for the carnage that marred the Stones’ doomed free concert at Altamont speedway in 1969.

The challenge of summarizing 60 years in one hour is evident in what we don’t see and hear in the Jagger episode. As Murray explains in the following interview, time constraints were a constant issue during production.

Murray’s entrance into the world of The Rolling Stones was as director of “The Quiet One,” a 2019 film about Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman. He directed “Ronnie’s,” a 2020 documentary on musician Ronnie Scott and his world-famous London jazz club. Murray is currently working on a feature film about photographer Terry O’Neill.

The following interview aired on the radio stations of BIG 104 FM.

The Maine Edge: I loved your documentary on Bill Wyman, “The Quiet One,” and I can’t recommend it highly enough. It made me cry which really surprised me. Was that film what led to you gaining the full cooperation of The Rolling Stones for this docu-series?

Oliver Murray: That was part of it. When I made that film about Bill I thought that would be the closest I would get to a telling of the whole band’s story. I’d made my peace with that being kind of my foray into the world of The Rolling Stones but then I was asked by Universal if I’d like to be part of the creative team that put this together. I thought fantastic, I get a second bite at telling the story of, in my opinion, the world’s greatest rock and roll band. I couldn’t have been happier to be back in the seat, especially for the episode on Keith Richards, which was the one I was most heavily involved with. It’s also a deep-dive into the origin story of the Stones’ music which is what I fell in love with in the first place.

TME: Stones fans will see new interviews with the band and tons of never before seen archival footage in this series. What did it feel like as a fan to be granted full access to the band’s archive?

OM: It was fantastic but also terrifying because I got to look at all of this amazing material but I also wanted to make sure that we delivered something really fantastic. Some of the greatest documentaries of all time have been made about this band.

When you look at some of this material originally made by Scorsese and Jean-Luc Godard, it’s incredibly special and I just wanted to make sure that my involvement meant that I was really honoring all of these great artists that came before and that we could create something really special for this 60-year anniversary.

TME: How challenging was it to summarize lives like theirs in just one hour a piece?

OM: It was a really hard thing to do because we had 60 minutes per episode for each of the individuals. Of course one of the hardest bits is that question of what do you leave out? It was always an issue, you can’t have everything so what do you put in that shows the alchemy of these different personalities coming together to make up this unique chemistry of The Rolling Stones?

TME: Mick and Keith have had a complicated relationship for more than 50 years. How would you describe their partnership?

OM: I think Mick and Keith are the perfect rock and roll duo. Mick is the absolute archetypal rock and roll front-man set against the quiet genius, as I would put it, of Keith, his guitar playing and his songwriting. They are the perfect yin and yang. That was one of the things that really came through when we started to extract the components out of this fantastic compound of a band.

Mick looks forward and he’s about controlling everything, the band’s image, the tours and the music they continue to play. Then you have Keith, this anchor of authenticity saying hang on, remember where we came from and why we got into it in the first place. Let’s honor the music that came before us, and let’s make sure when we go out onstage in front of 200,000 people that we can put on the best show you could possibly wish to see. I think it’s that push and pull of those different personalities that is the combustible force that drives this rocket ship forward.

TME: I couldn’t imagine The Rolling Stones carrying on without Charlie Watts but here we are. He was so important to the band; so unique as a person and as a musician. How did you tell Charlie’s story in episode four of “My Life as a Rolling Stone?”

OM: Charlie didn’t like interviews particularly. He was happy to sit at the back of the stage behind the drums and offer up this incredible platform to the most flamboyant entertainers of our generation to perform on top of. I’m really pleased that there was an opportunity to shine a light on a very quiet soul but a very interesting and quite complicated man. The episode is a very special and tender tribute to Charlie.

TME: You spoke about how difficult it was to have to leave out so much great material because of the set length for each episode. Is there a chance that a future Blu-ray release might allow you to maybe expand the series a bit by including some of the special material you couldn’t fit in due to time constraints?

OM: I will go out on a limb and say there is zero chance of that happening because it’s such an incredibly difficult thing to acquire the rights to all of the different archives. That also applies to the music because the Stones famously didn’t own their own music until the 1970s when they gained control of their affairs. To this day you kind of have to ask permission for a lot of the material and it’s a very complicated process. We’re very pleased with these four hours and I think we’re going to leave it at that.

Last modified on Friday, 02 September 2022 10:57


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