The Rolling Stones aren’t about to be pulled by anybody into a serious, direct discussion of the question of aging in rock ‘n’ roll. But the makers of tonight’s VH-1 special, “Conversations With the Rolling Stones,” do elicit at least a bon mot or two on the subject: “It doesn’t mean that I have to do the same delivery as a 21-year-old,” says Mick Jagger, pungently exasperated as usual, “but I’m not gonna fall down in the middle of it and die!”
No one dies this time, of course, in this 25-year reunion of sorts between the Stones and filmmaker Albert Maysles, one of the co-directors of 1969’s “Gimme Shelter” film, which ended up documenting the Altamont mayhem.
Featuring individual interviews set in a rehearsal studio, the new half-hour (directed by Kathy Dougherty and Susan Froemke with Maysles, with off-camera interviewing by Kurt Loder) is interesting puffery, hardly long enough to be more than anecdotal but full of intriguing irascibility anyway.
What do we learn? That Jagger didn’t care much when Bill Wyman quit the group (“It never worried me at all. I just saw it as an opportunity to get a good new bass player. I mean, it’s not the most difficult job in the world.”). That Charlie Watts would much rather listen to Louis Armstrong than the Stones, and hasn’t even cracked the shrink-wrap on their latest album. That Keith Richards, despite looking legendarily like death warmed over, claims to not yet have been afflicted by the aches and pains everyone warns him about.
There’s just enough here for armchair psychoanalysts to start chewing on: Jagger as the raconteur who can’t quite completely disguise his contempt for certain questions, even as they launch him and his goofy bad-boy grin into funny stories; Richards as the man who would be casual; Wood as still the baby of the family, happily along for the ride and afraid to publicly admit Jagger and Richards don’t get along or , worse, that they do; Watts as the reluctant millionaire who’d rather be thumping le jazz hot , if not required in Wyman’s absence to remain on as resident stoic.
* “Conversations With the Rolling Stones” airs at 7 and 10:30 tonight on VH-1, with “Gimme Shelter” airing at 5 p.m.