Monday, August 24, 2009

Cocksucker Blues

Cocksucker Blues: Rarely Seen Rolling Stones Documentary
Richard Metzger

The Rolling Stones
Robert Frank

Hard to remember it now, but it wasn’t until approximately 1987 that VCRs were commonplace in America life. I lived in lower Manhattan at the time and there were very few video rental stores then, too. The only ones I can recall are Kim’s Video (originally sharing space with a dry cleaner and now with several locations) and the New Video mini-chain, now a DVD distributor. By the following year, the “tape trading underground” was starting to organize itself (aided by the then burgeoning zine scene) and an unlikely character named “Dan the Record Man” became a key node in that machinery.

Dan the Record Man was probably in his late 60s when I met him, but he was in such terrible shape that he could have been much younger. He was a classic example of what eating SHIT 24/7—in his case dirty water sauerkraut and mustard slathered hot dogs sold by street vendors outside of the Canal Street flea market where his stall was located—could do to a human body. My god did he just reek of poor health and future strokes and heart attacks, but he was a super cool old guy who had been a dancer on Hullabaloo and knew everything about music and had records so rare it made my head spin. Case in point he had copies of “The Great Lost Kinks Album” as well as the live Yardbirds LP and the novelty record “Stairway to Gilligan” that Led Zeppelin’s lawyers had yanked off the market. Once he knew you were “cool”—he was really paranoid—he’d pull back the black curtains covering the top shelves in his overstuffed corner booth and show you the bootlegs (there were thousands) and the real treasure, the bootleg music videos.

Dan had EVERYTHING you ever wanted or could ever want. And if he didn’t have it, he could get it for you (he scored Nancy Sinatra’s TV special for me as I recall). Tapes were $20 and he’d do trade if you had something really good, but in keeping with his Gollum-esque character, you had to have two really good things in order to get one of his really good things for free. Those were his rules and you could fuck off if you weren’t prepared to play by them. Old school record collectors out there will feel me when I say: you did play by his rules. Otherwise you were cut off from so much illicit bootleg goodness.

Every once in a while you could surprise Dan with something incredibly rare. At the time I knew Dan, I was working in a digital video studio that ran Super8, 16mm and 35mm film transfers. On one occasion, photographer Robert Frank booked time to make a film transfer from his little seen documentary of the Rolling Stones’ 1972 American Tour with the title Cocksucker Blues. Cocksucker Blues had an injunction against it screening (unless for charity) because, well, it was a fairly decadent and quite unflattering portrait of them, let’s just say. The staff were told that under no circumstances could we make our own copies of what Frank was coming in to transfer. Yeah right! So, uh, this friend of mine, yeah this friend of mine, made copy, a copy I then traded to Dan, for, as I recall, a live video of David Bowie’s Heroes tour from 1978 and Bowie’s 1980 Floor Show performance from The Midnight Special. Whenever I see a bootleg DVD or Bit Torrent avi of Cocksucker Blues, I always look to see if it’s a generation or two away from the one I traded with Dan. Since that was easily the cleanest copy possible to have, most of them are my copy’s progeny (I can tell by a warble in the opening credits, but they’re cut too close in the below video for me to say about this version).

In any case, my rambling anecdote about the VHS tape trading underground of the late 1980s is because I wanted you to know that the legendary BANNED Cocksucker Blues documentary has been liberated and is now for viewing on the Internet:

PS: The quality is bad. It always was bad, as the film was shot on Super8 to begin with…


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