“Many would argue that the lineup of The Rolling Stones was never better than it was in the years 1969 to 1974,” intones the narrator towards the end of this documentary. I would have to agree, which is why I was so anxious to check this DVD out.
The first three albums the group made with Taylor are amazingly consistent. Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers, and Exile On Main Street, are certainly the finest of the Stones’ career. Nobody but The Beatles have ever been able to put a back to back run of records together like that, and it is doubtful anyone ever will.
The Rolling Stones – 1969 – 1974: The Mick Taylor Years is a 99-minute DVD which mainly uses interviews to tell the story. A number of writers are present, such as Barney Hoskyns, Robert Christgau, and the unbelievably annoying historian Alan Clayson. Mick Taylor’s former boss John Mayall contributes, as do various former Stones sidemen. The most unlikely comments come from Taylor himself, who still seems to be in something like denial about the whole experience .
The thing I look for in a DVD like this is the rare footage, and there is a fair amount of it here. The only problem is that the clips generally only run about thirty seconds, there are no full performances of any songs. Still, it is cool to see Jagger and Richards sharing vocal duties during a live take of “Happy,” for example. Other clips include “Brown Sugar,” “Tumbling Dice,” “Rip This Joint,” and “Time Waits For No One.”
The DVD begins in the wake of Their Satanic Majesties Request album, which was pretty much a disaster. With Beggars Banquet, Keith Richards and Mick Jagger took over the band from the increasingly addled Brian Jones. During the sessions for the follow-up — titled Let It Bleed, Jones was replaced by Mick Taylor.
Jones died just two days before what was to be Mick Taylor’s public introduction as a Rolling Stone, at a huge concert in London’s Hyde Park. Talk about a pressure situation. The concert became a memorial for Brian Jones, and a bit of a trial by fire for the new guitarist. Mick Taylor had just turned 20. The group then toured the States, winding it up in December with a free show at a speedway in California called Altamont. The live footage accompanying this period is not particularly rare, but it is nice to see how easily Taylor had already slotted into the band.
Two undisputed classic Stones records followed, Sticky Fingers and Exile On Main Street. Both are discussed in depth. From there, the inevitable decline sets in, due primarily to the lifestyle of the various members.
Goats Head Soup and Its Only Rock And Roll were the final two albums that Mick Taylor recorded as a Rolling Stone, and they were hardly fitting epitaphs. Still, his playing on Rock And Roll’s “Time Waits For No One” is absolutely brilliant.
At this point in the DVD, Mick Taylor gives his reasons for leaving the band, which are vague at best. It is up to the talking heads to illuminate us on what was really going on, and their explanations make a lot of sense. First was the fact that the young guitarist was dealing with his own drug problems. Maybe more significantly was his anger at not receiving songwriting credit for his contributions. Even a cursory listen to the music the band recorded after his departure makes it clear that he had a major role in shaping the music.
The only extra on the DVD is a six-minute segment titled “Meeting Mick Taylor” in which John Mayall talks about how he met his former protégé.
The Mick Taylor Years is a pretty good documentary about the time he spent as a Rolling Stone, but it is a little light on rare footage. Still, for those of us who think his time with the band is grossly underrated, it is worth seeing.