I don’t think its much of a secret to the readers of this website that I’m a massive fan of The Rolling Stones. The highlight of my summer was going to see the legendary rock band in Dallas, Texas right after I had graduated from high school. It was easily the greatest two hours I’ve spent on this earth since (and I’ve seen some pretty cool shit in my life so far). It was also a pleasant surprise to learn that Keith Richards would be releasing a new solo album in September, and that a companion documentary from Morgan Neville, the Academy Award-winning director of 20 Feet from Stardom, would be released by Netflix on the same day. So after viewing the film this afternoon, I’m now able to give you my thoughts on Keith Richards: Under the Influence (as well as his killer new album, Crosseyed Heart).
First off, I can immediately see how this documentary could turn some folks off at first. This isn’t a documentary about Keith Richards’ life. Its a doc about the legendary guitarist getting back into the studio with his X-Pensive Winos side band for a new solo album, with the last solo album being released back in the early 90’s. The documentary also digs into the artists who inspired Richards and The Rolling Stones, and how those influences are being put onto this new album of his, which is a tribute to all of his musical idols.
We do get a few glimpses into Richards’ life before, with the infamous Jagger-Richards feud briefly mentioned in the doc as to why Richards decided to make a solo record. Some folks would want more info and background into a lot of what the documentary briefly touches on, but if you haven’t realized it by now, Richards put out an autobiography a few years back that goes into extensive detail about those moments (one of the best reads I can think of). While as a critic, I should find it off-putting that this is just a film about Keith Richards talking about what inspired him and how he made his new record and not about his past, but I’m not. As a fan, I already know his story, and that’s not what the film is about. It’s a love letter to the music that came before Richards, and how the 71 year-old is able to bring all of these into a new record that pays tribute to that. If you’re a sucker for music documentaries like me, you’ll dig Under the Influence.
The runtime of the film is a swift 81 minutes, which shouldn’t be too much to ask in terms of viewing. Just don’t expect to be as emotionally rocked as I was with the Amy Winehouse documentary over the summer. Just expect a fun little documentary with one of the most fascinating musical figures of all time taking you through some of the most important and influential music of the 20th century. Sounds pretty cool, right? Again, it also doesn’t hurt that his new album is stellar as well.