With Crossfire Hurricane (8 p.m. Thursday, HBO), the Rolling Stones have produced a worthy 50th-anniversary documentary. It chronicles their journey from being "the band everybody hated to the band everybody loves," in Mick Jagger's words. We learn that the group consciously set out to become the bad-guy counterparts to the Beatles in the mid-1960s. "The Beatles got the white hats," says guitarist extraordinaire Keith Richards. "What's left? The black hat."
For over a dozen years, the Stones earned that black hat by causing riots, getting busted, and taunting the straight world with their hedonistic behavior. The incredible footage puts you on stage and backstage in the center of the storm — the "crossfire hurricane" of the title. The documentary is nothing like the one the surviving Beatles made about their own experience, as the Stones don't provide the same level of insight into themselves or their times. What they do provide is a visceral thrill — the thrill you can get only from diabolical musicians creating art outside the normal social boundaries.
The thing that sets the Stones apart from other blues-based poètes maudits — from Robert Johnson to Jim Morrison — is their knack for surviving into old age. "Usually the guy in the black hat gets killed in the end," says Richards. "Not this time, brother."