The Story of the Rolling Stones: A Selection of Documentaries on the Quintessential Rock-and-Roll Band

The Rolling Stones define the rock-and-roll band, as they have for near­ly six decades now. Exact­ly how they’ve done so is thor­ough­ly doc­u­ment­ed, not least by the band’s own expan­sive and still-grow­ing cat­a­log of songs and albums (all of which I hap­pen to have spent the last few months lis­ten­ing through). But the sto­ry of the Stones con­tin­ues to com­pel, told and re-told as it is in every form of media pro­duced by each era through which the band has passed: books, arti­cles, pod­casts, and also the sort of doc­u­men­taries we’ve col­lect­ed here today. Some were orig­i­nal­ly pro­duced for tele­vi­sion; oth­ers, like Watch­Mo­jo’s “The Rolling Stones: The Sto­ry & the Songs” above, for the inter­net. Each of them address­es the same ques­tion: how did a cou­ple of blues-obsessed lads from Kent come to run the biggest rock group in the world?

Even when straight­for­ward­ly pre­sent­ed, as in the Biog­ra­phy broad­cast above, the his­to­ry of the Rolling Stones con­sti­tutes a pop-cul­tur­al thrill ride. It begins, by most accounts, with for­mer class­mates Mick Jag­ger and Kei­th Richards bump­ing into each oth­er at a train sta­tion in 1961. Their shared inter­est in music, and espe­cial­ly Amer­i­can blues, inspired them to put a band togeth­er.

Before long, Jag­ger and Richards’ Blues Boys made the acquain­tance of anoth­er band, Blues Incor­po­rat­ed, whose mem­bers includ­ed Bri­an Jones, Ian Stew­art and Char­lie Watts. Though Watts would­n’t join up until lat­er, the oth­er four con­sti­tut­ed most of the first line­up of the Rolling Stones, who made their debut at Lon­don’s Mar­quee Club in July 1962.

You can see a great deal of archive footage depict­ing the Stones in their ear­ly years in the doc­u­men­tary above, Rolling Stones: Rock of Ages. The title implies an obvi­ous and much-repeat­ed joke about the once-rebel­lious young­sters’ insis­tence on rock­ing into rel­a­tive­ly advanced age. But onstage — and the live per­for­mance has always been essen­tial to their appeal, more so even than their albums — they remain very much the same band once pro­mot­ed with the ques­tion “Would you let your sis­ter go with a Rolling Stone?” That line was only one of the strate­gies used by its author, the Stones’ first man­ag­er Andrew Loog Old­ham, to launch his boys into world­wide pop­u­lar­i­ty by fram­ing them as the brash oppo­site of the Bea­t­les — to whom, despite their con­sid­er­able musi­cal dif­fer­ences, one can hard­ly avoid mak­ing ref­er­ence in the sto­ry of the Stones.

Though the bands became fast friends in real life, the press of the 1960s could­n’t resist craft­ing a rival­ry, as recount­ed in The Bea­t­les vs. The Rolling Stones, the Canal+ doc­u­men­tary above. What­ev­er com­pe­ti­tion exist­ed between them (or with Amer­i­can bands like the Beach Boys) only encour­aged them to make their music more pow­er­ful and dis­tinc­tive. This they did in the face of count­less per­son­al and pro­fes­sion­al set­backs, which for the Stones includ­ed the loss of found­ing mem­ber Bri­an Jones and the vio­lent Alta­mont Free Con­cert, wide­ly inter­pret­ed as the end of the utopi­an 1960s. As prod­ucts and sur­vivors of that era, the Stones also remain embod­i­ments of its insou­ciant ambi­tion. “For my gen­er­a­tion, what was hap­pen­ing and the feel­ing in the air was: it’s time to push lim­its, says no less a sur­vivor than the sub­ject of Kei­th Richards: The Ori­gin Of The Species. “The world is ours now, and you can rise or fall on it.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

A Visu­al His­to­ry of The Rolling Stones Doc­u­ment­ed in a Beau­ti­ful, 450-Page Pho­to Book by Taschen

Watch the Rolling Stones Write “Sym­pa­thy for the Dev­il”: Scenes from Jean-Luc Godard’s ’68 Film One Plus One

Revis­it the Infa­mous Rolling Stones Free Fes­ti­val at Alta­mont: The Ill-Fat­ed Con­cert Took Place 50 Years Ago

The Rolling Stones at 50: Mick, Kei­th, Char­lie & Ron­nie Revis­it Their Favorite Songs

Watch the Rolling Stones Play “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” While Social Dis­tanc­ing in Quar­an­tine

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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