Rock’s Soft White Underbelly

When You’re Strange (Eagle Rock Entertainment)
The Doors

Stones In Exile (Eagle Rock Entertainment)

The Rolling Stones

Martin Kasdan Jr.

“Five to one baby one in five

No one here gets out alive ...” “Five to One,” The Doors

The lyrics seem prophetic in retrospect and might apply not only to Jim Morrison, but to the Exile on Main Street-era Stones. These two DVDs offer a frequently painful look at two of the most influential bands born in the 1960s, the Rolling Stones and the Doors.

Both bands shared backgrounds in the arts and the influence of the blues, and both featured charismatic lead singers. When You’re Strange goes far to demythologize the Oliver Stone version of the Doors, with interviews and performance footage, and featuring narration by Johnny Depp.

The Doors were always more than just Jim Morrison and some instrumentalists, and this documentary helps to focus on the band qua band. While I would have preferred more concert material, the behind-the-scenes segments and the poignant interview with Jim Morrison’s father (a bonus feature) add a great deal to the understanding of the Doors. One can only imagine what they might have achieved had Morrison not flamed out so young.

The Stones were in self-imposed exile in the early 1970 due to huge tax assessment issues in England. Unlike When You’re Strange, which tells the history of a band, Stones In Exile has a narrower focus, the making of their Exile on Main Street record.

There is footage from the, shall we say, rather loose recording sessions in Keith Richards’ French villa. What may have seemed cool at the time, the band members’ kids rolling joints and so forth, now seems sad. Interviews include band members, Anita Pallenberg (Richards’ partner foe many years), as well as recent segments by folks such as Sheryl Crow and Don Was.

When Exile was first released, many fans didn’t know what to make of the sprawling 2-record set, and it took years before the album really took off in acclaim. This DVD goes far in exploring how the album was made under circumstances that were far from ideal.

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