“I’m going to try to keep it light,” Mick Jagger says with a rubbery grin at the start of “My Life As a Rolling Stone.”
How to encapsulate one of music’s behemoths while staying breezy is, of course, a challenge given the band’s hefty history. But the four-part docuseries that debuts Sunday on Epix (9 p.m. EDT/PDT) tenders a comprehensive overview of how the Rolling Stones became the ROLLING STONES with vintage performance footage and interview clips, plus new commentary from Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood.
The series is split among four episodes, with the weathered-yet-spry Jagger, 79, as the obvious launch (Richards, Woods and the late Charlie Watts follow the next three weeks). The Jagger installment will air free for 90 days on Epix.com and the app, as well as Apple TV, Amazon, Roku and most cable outlets.
Though there is plenty of Stones minutiae to digest, at its core, the episode emphasizes the band’s inimitable frontman and CEO, of whom Richards says, “He really is an honorable man under all that crap.”
Here are some insights.
Tina Turner didn’t think Mick Jagger would ‘amount to anything’
Soul legend Tina Turner recalls Jagger attending her concerts in London, where he would watch from behind the speakers as she and Ike Turner performed. P.P. Arnold, one of the vaunted Ikettes, says the “sexy” and “cool” Jagger would also come backstage to learn dance moves from the Turners’ backup performers.
But Turner was unimpressed with Jagger’s early displays of showmanship.
“He was OK, but I didn’t think he was going to amount to anything,” she says with a husky laugh. “Sorry, Mick!”
Later in the documentary, Turner updates her opinion after seeing Jagger perform again with years of seasoning.
“Mick was not the same person that I met in London when he was hiding behind the speakers. He had come out of his shell,” she says. “Mick became Mick Jagger.”
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The Rolling Stones’ Redlands drug bust became a career boost
In 1967, the band retreated to Redlands, Richards’ estate in Sussex, England, for a “lovely party.” But it quickly turned scandalous: a high-profile drug bust.
“There were a LOT of drugs there. LSD, hash, and the fuzz busted in,” Jagger recalls. “Being busted on acid is really weird.”
The incident made Richards wary of authority. “I still carry a chip,” Richards says with a throaty cackle. “I could use a joint right now!”
But rather than dwell on the arrests of Jagger and Richards (after much legal drama, Richards’ sentence was overturned and Jagger’s was reduced to a conditional discharge), the scenario added to the mystique of the Rolling Stones as the rebellious foil to their groomed rivals, The Beatles.
“They got cleaned up by their manager,” Richards says of the British quartet. “Otherwise, they were exactly the same as we were – filthy swine!”
Mick Jagger calculated his moves to look good on TV
When the Rolling Stones were invited to play on ’60s-era TV music show “Ready Steady Go!,” Jagger seized the opportunity as a way to “work the medium” and beam into people’s homes.
“I could see how important this was,” he says of TV. “You’ve got to figure out how you’re going to make an impression.”
Over footage of the fledgling Stones performing “Little Red Rooster,” Jagger shares how he got the band to look like perfect rock ‘n’ rollers: He would visit the show’s set to study the camera angles, then go home and practice his spidery moves to best translate on TV – a calculated exercise created to look effortless.
The Rolling Stones logo has nothing to do with Jagger’s lips
During the creation of the “Sticky Fingers” album cover, Marshall Chess, founding president of Rolling Stones Records, decided it was time for the Stones to become a brand.
Art designer John Pasche was recommended by the Royal College of Art in London to fashion a poster for the Rolling Stones’ 1970 European tour. In the process, he created the iconic tongue and lips logo, which he says had nothing to do with the prominent pillow-y features of the band’s frontman.
“People believe the lips are based on Mick. That’s not true. I saw it as a symbol of protest, like a kid sticking his tongue out,” Pasche says.
Keith Richards addresses the elephant in the room – literally
The Stones are credited as the inventors of the stadium rock spectacle starting in the 1970s, and Jagger was integral in shaping the band’s stage designs because he wanted “a playroom for myself.”
But even one of rock’s mightiest power players had to be told “no” sometimes, and it was left to Richards to steer Jagger from one of his loftiest ideas: having an elephant come on stage at the end of the show to present him with a rose from his trunk.
“The sigh of relief,” Richards recalls with a chuckle, “almost blew the building down.”