The Kids Are Alright Documentary…Desert Island Music Films

We wrapped up Hanspostcard’s album draft…100 albums in 100 days. We are going into extra innings and extending three more picks from these categories… favorite Soundtracks, Greatest Hits, and a music related movie. This is my pick for a music related movie: The Who in The Kids Are Alright.

2020 ALBUM DRAFT- ROUND 13 PICK 5- BADFINGER20 SELECTS- THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT

I acquired a VHS copy of this in the mid-eighties. It wasn’t a great copy but my friends and I wore it out. One of them worked at a small cable station. The station was in a small county that usually aired farm reports and advertisements. Basically, it was a very small building in the middle of nowhere. All they would do there is broadcast videos.

We had the tape in hand and wanted to see it so we went there one afternoon. He popped it in the VHS player and played it. He had no idea but it was going out live all over the region. Near the end of the film, he took a phone call from his boss. I didn’t think anyone ever watched that station…but it turns out they did and they were not fans of The Who. He didn’t get fired but they took his key for the door for a little while. It was a big subject the next day at school as some teenagers loved it but their parents didn’t appreciate their farm reports being interrupted by My Generation and Keith Moon in bondage.

I’ve seen this film so many times I can almost quote it while it’s playing. The Who albums made me a huge fan of their music…this film made me a huge fan of band.

This film covers the original Who and being such a Who fan I’m glad Jeff Stein (director) was so persistent in doing this because many of the tapes he was able to borrow probably would have been erased and used again by the BBC as was their policy.

Jeff was a fan of the band and pestered them until they let him do this. He had no prior experience in filmmaking but this was the 1970s and he got the gig. His timing was eerily perfect. He caught the original band at the very end of their tenure with Keith Moon.

He searched high and low for clips of the band in earlier years. Stein keeps the appearance mostly in order. There is sadness in this. You see the band through the years from 1964 to 1978… you see all of them gradually age of course but Keith Moon ages faster than any of them. I’ve read where it hit him hard while watching the rough cut right before he died. His lifestyle had taken its toll on him. He saw himself as a young energetic kid that looked like Paul McCartney’s younger brother to a man who was 32 and looked like he was in his 40s at least.

This may be the first or one of the first film bios on a major rock band. Led Zeppelin had The Song Remains the Same but it focused on one concert in New York… The Beatles had Let It Be but those films didn’t show their history like The Kids Are Alright.

The Who - Wikipedia

In this film you see a band that is fun… unlike their peers Zeppelin and Sabbath the Who were more open to their audience and didn’t have a dark mystique hanging over them. They would crack jokes from the stage…Moon and Townshend treated it like a High School talent show until they started to play…then they got serious.

You see film segments that were fun like the video of Happy Jack, the interview on the Russell Harty Show, Keith with Ringo, and Keith and Pete sharing a joke that only they could understand. One of my favorite segments is The Who playing Barbara Ann with Keith singing and the band having a good time. They also played I Saw Her Standing There but it didn’t make the final cut…you can watch it in the outtakes. I can’t imagine the big bands of that time doing Barbara Ann and goofing for the camera.

The Who did a couple of live shows for the film besides being interviewed. Stein mostly used old clips but he convinced the band to do a couple of free concerts in May of 1978 where he could get a definitive version of Won’t Get Fooled Again… which personally I think is the greatest live performance song live you will ever hear. You see Keith’s last performance as he is looking pudgy, older, and slower but still pulls it off. Pete wasn’t too thrilled about doing the concerts for the film but it turned out good. They ended up only using a version Won’t Get Fooled Again and Baba O’Riley from the 78 live show.

Keith died a few months before The Kids Are Alright debuted on June 15, 1979. The film showed The Who at it’s best. Kenney Jones from the Faces replaced him but it was never the same. You cannot replace Moon…he was the engine that drove the Who. Later on in the 90s Zak Starkey…who was Ringo’s son and Keith’s God son played drums for the Who and still does.

If you haven’t watched the film…stop what you are doing and watch it. It still holds up as one of the best music documentaries that rock has produced.

Zak Starkey and Keith Moon

Pin på Drums & Drummers

The Festival Express

Transcontinental Pop Festival… better known as the Festival Express. Great idea on paper… rounding up musicians in 1970 and placing them on a train going across Canada and stopping along the way to play festivals. What could go wrong? Actually, I would have loved to have been on that train.

The lineup:

The Band

The Grateful Dead

Janis Joplin

Buddy Guy Blues Band

The Fly Burrito Brothers

Sha Na Na

Delaney & Bonnie & Friends

There were artists that were not in the film like Traffic, Ten Years After, Tom Rush, Ian & Sylvia, Mountain and more.

A DVD was released of this in 2004. All these musicians on a train full of liquor and an assortment of drugs… liquor was the popular choice among the musicians on this ride. The tour was to have events in Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary, and Vancouver. The Montreal event was canceled as was Vancouver. In Toronto, protesters were saying the festival promoters were price gouging so The Grateful Dead played a free concert in a park nearby to ease tensions with the protesters.

There are some very good performances on the film. My favorite is Buddy Guy and Janis Joplin’s performance. I also like the Dead’s “Don’t Ease Me In” with Pigpen on blues harp. The festival lost money and the film was thought lost for over 30 years. Janis would be gone a few months after this but her performance of Cry Baby is electrifying.

The train was where the fun was at. They actually stopped at a liquor store and bought out the complete store…including the giant display bottles. The Dead’s crew even dosed some of the liquor…and cake with LSD as you will see below… on board. When watching the film you can see the performers are having a ball jamming with each other because they didn’t get a lot of chances to do that on the road.

Bill Kreutzmann (drummer for the Dead) from his book “Deal”

We celebrated Janis Joplin’s birthday at the last stop the traditional way: with birthday cake. In keeping with our own kind of tradition, somebody—within our ranks, I would imagine—had secretly infused the cake with a decent amount of LSD. So it quickly became an electric birthday celebration. Allegedly, some generous pieces of that birthday cake made it to the hands and mouths of the local police who were working the show. “Let them eat cake!” (To be fair, I didn’t have anything to do with that … I was just another cake-eating birthday reveler, that night.)
And that was it for the Festival Express. It was a wonderful time and I think what really made it great was the level of interaction and camaraderie among the musicians, day and night, as we were all trapped on this train careening across the great north. It probably helped that we were all trashed the entire time. Whiskey was in the conductor’s seat on that ride.

I would recommend getting the DVD of this event. It’s a great time capsule of that time in music and culture.

Toronto Rock and Roll Revival 1969

Since I posted Paul McCartney’s Concert for Kampuchea yesterday I thought I would concentrate on the festival John Lennon popped up at in 1969… The Toronto Rock and Roll Revival. Unlike Kampuchea which was spread out on multiple days and nights, this festival was held on one day September 13, 1969.

John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band just played fifties songs plus John’s new song that Beatles rejected…Cold Turkey. The reason for the fifties’ songs was because the band had limited time to rehearse and they wanted to do songs they all knew.

It was a great festival lineup but it’s remembered mostly by John Lennon’s participation. The Doors were the headliners and John only agreed to do it

The concert was conceived by promoters John Brower and Ken Walker with financial backing from Eaton’s department store but stymied by poor ticket sales, the venture began to lose support. The festival was almost canceled but Brower called Apple Records in the UK to ask John Lennon to emcee the concert. Lennon agreed to appear on the condition he would be allowed to perform.

The Lennons flew in from England with a makeshift band that included Eric Clapton, Klaus Voormann, Alan White, and Yoko. They arrived at the backstage area at about 10 p.m, while Cat Mother and the All Night Newsboys were singing Good Old Rock ‘n’ Roll to an audience of about 20,000.

Lennon was quoted as saying “I threw up for hours until I went on” because it had been three years since he played live in a concert setting. The band went on and did a good job…ragged but it was a hastily assembled band with only a rehearsal on the plane ride and backstage.

John Lennon:  “The ridiculous thing was that I didn’t know any of the lyrics. When we did Money and Dizzy, I just made up the words as I went along. The band was bashing it out like hell behind me. Yoko came on stage with us, but she wasn’t going to do her bit until we’d done our five songs….Then after Money there was a stop, and I turned to Eric and said, ‘What’s next?’ He didn’t know either, so I just screamed out ‘C’mon!’ and started into something else.”

Little Richard: “I remember the show that people were throwing bottles at Yoko Ono. They were throwing everything at her. Finally, she had to run off the stage. Oh, boy, it was very bad.”

John Lennon: And we tried to put it out on Capitol, and Capitol didn’t want to put it out. They said, ‘This is garbage; we’re not going to put it out with her screaming on one side and you doing this sort of live stuff. And they just refused to put it out. But we finally persuaded them that, you know, people might buy this. Of course it went gold the next day.”

John Lennon and Yoko’s setlist

  • Blue Suede Shoes.
  • Money (That’s What I Want)
  • Dizzy Miss Lizzy.
  • Yer Blues.
  • Cold Turkey.
  • Give Peace a Chance.
  • Don’t Worry Kyoko (Mummy’s Only Looking for Her Hand in the Snow)
  • John John (Let’s Hope for Peace)

Performers 

John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band

Whiskey Howl

Bo Diddley

Chicago

Junior Walker and the All Stars

Tony Joe White

Alice Cooper

Chuck Berry

Cat Mother and the All Night News Boys

Jerry Lee Lewis

Gene Vincent

Little Richard

Doug Kershaw

The Doors

Kim Fowley The Master of Ceremonies

Screaming Lord Sutch

Concert for Kampuchea

When I posted a Rockpile song last week… I heard from Sharon E. Cathcart talking about this concert. A few days later Val mentioned this concert on a Little Richard post. I haven’t thought of this concert in years so I thought it would be a great subject.

I did see a copy of this in the 80s at some point. I’ve watched it the last few nights and it is really good. A few facts about the show…The Pretenders debut album was released the day before they played, this was John Bonham’s last appearance on stage in England, and the Wings last concert appearance.

Concert for the People of Kampuchea was a series of concerts in 1979 featuring Queen, The Clash, The Pretenders, Rockpile, The Who, Elvis Costello, Wings, and many more artists. I’ll post the entire lineup at the bottom. These concerts had a great amount of British talent that would not be rivaled until Live Aid in 1985. The proceeds would be directed to the emergency relief work of the U.N. agencies for the civilians in Kampuchea.

The concerts were held at the Hammersmith Odeon in London over 4 days from 26-29 December 1979 to raise money for the victims of war-torn Cambodia (then called Kampuchea). The event was organized by former Beatle Paul McCartney and Kurt Waldheim (who was then Secretary-General of the UN, later Austrian president).

Waldheim initially approached McCartney, hoping his current band Wings would participate. But he also discussed a performance with George Harrison, and then the gossip wheel started turning. The Beatle reunion rumors started to overtake the press for the show itself. Paul had to completely deny it of course. He was quoted saying: “The Beatles are over and finished with,”  “None of us is even interested in doing it. There’s lots of reasons. Imagine if we came back and did a big show that wasn’t good. What a drag.” None of the ex Beatles showed…except Paul

An album and EP were released in 1981, and the best of the concerts was released as a film, Concert for Kampuchea in 1980. The album wasn’t released until 1981 and it peaked at #36 and the song Little Sister by Rockpile and Robert Plant peaked at #8.

When Wings’ main set was complete on the last night, McCartney invited a Who’s Who assemblage of British rockers to the stage to play four songs as an encore as the “Rockestra”. The list included three members of Led Zeppelin (Plant, John Bonham and John Paul Jones), Townshend, former Small Faces/Faces bandmates Ronnie Lane and Kenney Jones, Procol Harum’s Gary Brooker, Wings, plus members of Rockpile and the Pretenders, among others.

Here is a complete list.

  • Piano: Paul McCartney
  • Keyboards: Linda McCartney, Tony Ashton, Gary Brooker
  • Guitars: Denny Laine, Laurence Juber, James Honeyman-Scott, Dave Edmunds, Billy Bremner, Pete Townshend, Robert Plant
  • Bass: Paul McCartney, Bruce Thomas, Ronnie Lane, John Paul Jones
  • Drums, Percussion: Steve Holley, Kenney Jones, Tony Carr, Morris Pert, Speedy Acquaye, John Bonham
  • Horns: Howie Casey, Steve Howard, Thaddeus Richard, Tony Dorsey
  • Vocals: Paul McCartney, Linda McCartney, John Paul Jones, Ronnie Lane, Bruce Thomas, Robert Plant

That is a talented bunch.

McCartney did assemble the above musicians with some more like David Gilmour to record a couple of songs on the Wings Back To The Egg album…So Glad to See You Here and Rockestra Theme.

Here is the complete list of acts who played during the concerts.

The Blockheads
The Clash
Elvis Costello
Ian Dury
The Pretenders
Matumbi
Robert Plant
Queen
Rockpile
The Specials
Wings
The Who

December 26

  • Queen

December 27

  • Ian Dury and the Blockheads (with guest Mick Jones on “Sweet Gene Vincent”)
  • Matumbi
  • The Clash

December 28

  • The Pretenders
  • The Specials
  • The Who

December 29

  • Elvis Costello & The Attractions
  • Rockpile (with guest Robert Plant on “Little Sister”)
  • Wings
  • Rockestra

Selected setlists

Queen

  1. Jailhouse Rock
  2. We Will Rock You (fast version)
  3. Let Me Entertain You
  4. Somebody to Love
  5. If You Can’t Beat Them
  6. Mustapha
  7. Death on Two Legs
  8. Killer Queen
  9. I’m in Love with My Car
  10. Get Down, Make Love
  11. You’re My Best Friend
  12. Save Me
  13. Now I’m Here
  14. Don’t Stop Me Now
  15. Spread Your Wings
  16. Love of My Life
  17. ’39
  18. Keep Yourself Alive
  19. Drums solo
  20. Guitar solo with parts of Silent Night
  21. Brighton Rock reprise
  22. Crazy Little Thing Called Love
  23. Bohemian Rhapsody
  24. Tie Your Mother Down
  25. Sheer Heart Attack
  26. We Will Rock You
  27. We Are the Champions
  28. God Save the Queen (tape)

Ian Dury & The Blockheads

  1. Clevor Trevor
  2. Inbetweenies
  3. Don’t Ask Me
  4. Reasons To Be Cheerful
  5. Sink My Boats
  6. Waiting For Your Taxi
  7. This Is What We Find
  8. Mischief
  9. What A Waste
  10. Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick
  11. Sweet Gene Vincent

The Clash

  1. Clash City Rockers
  2. Brand New Cadillac
  3. Safe European Home
  4. Jimmy Jazz
  5. Clampdown
  6. The Guns of Brixton
  7. Train in Vain
  8. Wrong ‘Em Boyo
  9. Koka Kola
  10. (White Man) In Hammersmith Palais
  11. Stay Free
  12. Bankrobber
  13. Janie Jones
  14. Complete Control
  15. Armagideon Time
  16. London Calling

The Specials

  1. (Dawning Of a) New Era
  2. Do The Dog
  3. Monkey Man
  4. Concrete Jungle
  5. Too Hot
  6. Doesn’t Make It Alright
  7. Too Much Too Young
  8. Guns Of Navarone
  9. Little Bitch
  10. A Message To You Rudy
  11. Nite Club
  12. Gangsters
  13. Longshot Kick The Bucket
  14. Skinhead Moonstomp
  15. Madness

The Who

  1. Substitute
  2. I Can’t Explain
  3. Baba O’Riley
  4. The Punk and the Godfather
  5. My Wife
  6. Sister Disco
  7. Behind Blue Eyes
  8. Music Must Change
  9. Drowned
  10. Who Are You
  11. 5.15
  12. Pinball Wizard
  13. See Me Feel Me
  14. Long Live Rock
  15. My Generation
  16. I’m a Man
  17. Hoochie Coochie Man
  18. Sparks
  19. I Can See for Miles
  20. I Don’t Want To Be an Old Man
  21. Won’t Get Fooled Again
  22. Summertime Blues
  23. Dancing In The Streets
  24. Dance It Away
  25. The Real Me

Rockpile

  1. Three Time Loser
  2. Crawling From The Wreckage
  3. Little Sister

Wings

  1. Got to Get You into My Life
  2. Getting Closer
  3. Every Night
  4. Again And Again And Again
  5. I’ve Had Enough
  6. No Words
  7. Cook Of The House
  8. Old Siam, Sir
  9. Maybe I’m Amazed
  10. The Fool on the Hill
  11. Hot As Sun
  12. Spin It On
  13. Twenty Flight Rock
  14. Go Now
  15. Arrow Through Me
  16. Coming Up
  17. Goodnight Tonight
  18. Yesterday
  19. Mull of Kintyre
  20. Band on the Run

Rockestra

  1. Rockestra Theme
  2. Let It Be
  3. Lucille
  4. Rockestra Theme (reprise)

 

The Endless Summer

This is a great documentary by Bruce Brown on surfing. I live in Tennessee and there are no beaches in sight but this 1966 documentary held my attention all the way through. Brown narrates this and keeps it tight and the pacing is good.

If you like surfing or not it doesn’t matter. This documentary will hold your interest as Brown goes around the world with surfers looking for the perfect wave. Brown filmed in Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti, Hawaii, and California. The characters that surrounded the sport in that era are worth watching.

Bruce put up $50, 000 of his own money to make the film and it ended up making 30 million.

He would follow up with Endless Summer part II in 1994. I’ve watched both but I like1964 film better because of the people who followed the sport at the time. The 94 version has better camera action but I like the characters more in this one.

A few years later Bruce would work with Steve McQueen and make the documentary “On Any Sunday”  about the impact of motorcycles in our culture.

The Searcher… Elvis Presley

Whenever I start reading about someone (In this case Elvis Presley) I usually dive deep into them. I’ve watched a few documentaries on youtube and the Comeback Special.

Last week Slightly Charming (I highly recommend checking out her blog) recommended this documentary on Elvis and it is the best one I’ve watched about him. It’s an HBO production with commentary by Priscilla Presley, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Robbie Robertson, and many others.

It is a two-part documentary around 3 hours long both combined. Much like the Peter Guralnick books I’ve been reading it is very even-handed but it doesn’t pull any punches.

Elvis was an interesting person. A poor southern boy who gained fame and fortune quickly and handled it well considering what he was going through until his mother passed away. After that came the Army stint in Germany and from there while his fortune and fame grew his artistic credibility went down. In the mid-sixties, while The Beatles, Dylan, and the Stones dominated the charts…Elvis, a big influence to all three was stuck in a cycle of bad movies and bad soundtracks that he didn’t want to do.

The documentary goes over Colonel Tom Parker his manager, The infamous Memphis Mafia, Las Vegas, and the failed marriage to Priscilla.

The one thing this film does is concentrate on his music and not the parody he turned into at the end of his life. I found myself rooting for him during the 1968 Comeback Special. He had the spark back again and his voice was the Elvis we heard in the fifties. After the dismal movie soundtracks, he made this great comeback special but then it slowly started to go down. There was still good music to come but the end was in sight.

This great documentary is worth the time to check out.

 

 

The Unknown Chaplin

A three-part documentary based on unseen footage from Charlie Chaplin. Chaplin ordered all of his outtakes burned but some did survive. This gives us a glimpse of how he constructed a story. He relied on inspiration and rarely had anything planned out in advance and that lead to classic scenes.

He would rearrange sets and actors and if a good mistake happened he would act on it and stretch it out. This was a good way to waste thousands of dollars worth of film but it also made him a comedy genius. Chaplin said he would build sets without an idea in his head but would be inspired.

Below is an outtake he never used in his feature “City Lights” which It would have been interesting if he would have kept it in. He takes the simplest prop…a piece of wood and works a scene around it in a grate.

The documentary was in three parts.

My Happiest Years – This part is mostly on his early Mutual shorts years in 1916-1917

The Great Director – Actresses and Actors talk about working on Chaplin’s films.

Hidden Treasures – A look at a variety of informal, private or salvaged pieces of film by or relating to Chaplin, including home movie footage, visitors to his studios, and several sequences that were edited out of his final films.

Like the Buster Keaton biography A Hard Act To Follow this was produced by Kevin Brownlow and David Gill. It’s worth chasing these down or click on this link in youtube. 

 

 

Buster Keaton: A Hard Act To Follow

This is a three-part documentary made in 1987. It is one of the best documentaries I have ever seen…not just about Buster but anyone.  Each part is almost an hour long. Kevin Brownlow and David Gill wrote and directed this mini-series. This documentary is interesting for fans and non-fans alike. I have watched it multiple times and showed it to friends to didn’t have much interest in silent movies and they ended up liking it.

Brownlow also worked on “Hollywood” (a 13 part history of the silent era that later I’ll review), The Unknown Chaplin, and Harold Lloyd: The Third Genius.

This is in my top 5 of documentaries to recommend to people…I just wish it was easier to get. I had to order it from Europe to get a DVD copy of this.  You can watch all of them on Youtube...below

Buster Keaton was not only a great comedian but a great filmmaker. Some of his special effects in Sherlock Jr and other movies stand up today. I always thought that while Chaplin had the best comedy character…Keaton was the better filmmaker.

Part One (From Vaudeville to Movies)

Covers his vaudeville childhood with his parents. Because of child labor laws, his parents would claim that Buster was an adult actor. They would dress Buster to look old. This part goes through Vaudeville and up until Buster meets Roscoe Arbuckle and starts his career in movies.

Related image

Part Two (Star Without a Studio):

Part Two sums up his great silent movies. He did not work in the studio system…Buster had free reign with his movies in most of the 1920s working for Independent film executive Joe Schenck. Part two shows some of the best scenes from his silent movies until he had to join a studio (MGM) that along with his drinking helped ruin his career.

Related image

Part Three (Genius Recognized):

This part is the downfall and the comeback. Buster worked through the early thirties in some successful talkies but soon by the end of the 30s he was working as a gag writer. He was soon largely forgotten until he appeared in “Sunset Boulevard”, commercials and TV. Buster was in a movie with Chaplin called Limelight in 1952. He began to be praised by historians, critics, and fans alike before he passed away in 1966.

 

Image result for buster keaton 1965

There is a new Buster documentary out called ‘The Great Buster: A Celebration’ by Peter Bogdanovich that I have yet to see. I plan to track it down soon. Either way, this one will be hard to beat.

 

Below is Buster Keaton: A Hard Act to Follow…the complete series.

 

 

 

On Any Sunday

Great documentary about motorcycle racing of all kinds.

I’ve love documentaries but I wasn’t sure this one would interest me…but it did. I’m not a motorcycle guy and I only rode some when I was a teenager but this 1971 documentary kept me watching. I would recommend this to anyone young or old. The longer I watched the more I got hooked.

Steve McQueen is in this film and he helped finance it because he believed in it so much. It was made by Bruce Brown, the same filmmaker that made “Endless Summer” an excellent documentary about Surfing. Again I’m not a surfer by any means but it was also very interesting.

This film follows about every kind of motorbike competition you can think of…  it centers on off-road competition rather than road riding.

While Steve McQueen was the draw and provided a lot of the backing to the film the two main motorcyclists they follow are today leaders in their field. The two were Mert Lawwill and Malcolm Smith.

Mert was one of the early pioneers in the off-road bicycling world, having introduced the first production mountain bike. He also developed prosthetic limbs for amputees.

Malcolm owns a dealership and runs Malcolm Smith Racing, a producer of off-road rider equipment. Smith was inducted into the Off-road Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1978, the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 1996 and the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1998.

I gained a lot of respect for these men who gave their lives to this sport they loved. They traveled around the country with broken vehicles, raced with broken arms and backs to do something they loved without much pay.

This documentary helped change the image of motorcyclists. There was a “sequel” to this documentary called On Any Sunday: The Next Chapter in 2014.

After watching it I wanted a motorcycle really bad…but I let the thought pass by.

Hail! Hail! Rock ‘N’ Roll 1987

This documentary starts off in 1986 with Chuck Berry reminiscing about the Cosmopolitan Club where he played in the earlier days.

The film is centered around Chuck Berry’s 60th birthday and Keith Richards assembling an All-Star Band to support Chuck in concert. Chuck had been touring since the 60s by traveling town to town and playing with any pickup band he found…all he brought was his guitar. He would get paid with cash in a paper bag in many places. That was his motivation more than playing with a good band. Chuck could be very sloppy playing live.

Chuck could also be difficult, to say the least. Keith was determined that Chuck was going to be backed by a great band for this concert… Chuck was Keith’s idol but Chuck seemed to want to give Keith as much trouble as possible. Richards says in the documentary that Chuck was the only man that hit him that he didn’t hit back. During the rehearsals for the song “Carol”, you can feel the tension in the air between the two.

Seeing Keith’s reaction to Chuck at times is worth the price of admission and I’m glad Keith was persistent and patient and got this done. It’s great footage of Chuck playing his classics.

The concert at the Fox Theatre ended up a success. Chuck sounded great and so did the band.

During the documentary, there are some great comments by Little Richard, Bo Diddley, Bruce Springsteen, Jerry Lee Lewis, Willie Dixon and more.

Little Richard, Bo Diddley, and Chuck have a very interesting conversation about how hard it was to get played on the radio because of being African American in the 50s. They also talk about payola and Alan Freed.

The band was incredible… Keith Richards, Robert Cray, the great Johnnie Johnson (Chuck’s original piano player), Steve Jordan, Bobby Keys, Chuck Leavell and Eric Clapton guests on a few songs.

Some of the artists that came on and sang were Etta James, Linda Ronstadt, and Julian Lennon.

Chuck was a complicated man but he was a poet as well. I can’t recommend this documentary enough. If you are a music fan you should like it. Chuck Berry may have influenced Rock and Roll more than anyone else…

My favorite story is from Bruce Springsteen. Bruce and the E Street Band volunteered to back up Chuck Berry for a show in the early seventies. Being Chuck’s temporarily pickup band must have been nerve-wracking for musicians. Chuck didn’t tell them what songs he was playing or what key…this is Bruce’s quote “About five minutes before the show was timed to start, the back door opens and he comes in. He’s by himself. He’s got a guitar case, and that was it,” Springsteen said. “[I said] ‘Chuck, what songs are we going to do?’ He says, ‘Well, we’re going to do some Chuck Berry songs.’ That was all he said!”

Below is the video…not extremely clear but watchable.

 

The “Compleat” Beatles 1982

This is what Beatle fans had until the Anthology came out in 1995 and turned a new generation onto the Beatles. I wore out the recorded VHS copy my cousin gave me. It is a two hour documentary of the Beatles. It was narrated by actor Malcolm McDowell (Clockwork Orange) and was well done. I remember watching this and “The Kids Are Alright” in the 80s. It was nice seeing the footage that was not as available as today.

I do remember some small frustrating parts of it. I think it was  “Hey Jude” about to begin (David Frost Show) and whoever cut the film placed a George Martin voice over during some of the performance. Remember this was a time when you couldn’t just go on youtube and see performances. Overall it was very well made. I still have a copy of it somewhere. Paul McCartney bought out the negative rights to the film in the 1990s to clear the way for Anthology and below is that story from Wikipedia.

The Compleat Beatles was initially released as a PBS documentary in the United States, and then on VHS, Betamax, CED and Laserdisc that same year on the MGM/UA Home Video label. The 1982 Laserdisc was released in both Analogue and Stereo versions, as well as being released in Japan and England (in PAL format) in 1983.[3]

The film did very well, and in 1984 Delilah Films and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer arranged for it to be released theatrically in the U.S. by a small distributor named Teleculture. This contributed to its continuing to be a best seller on VHS. Some years later, when Paul McCartney was preparing The Beatles Anthology, he bought the negative and all the rights to the film from Delilah to get it off of the market and clear the way for his production. That, according to the film’s director Patrick Montgomery, is why it is not available on DVD or any newer formats and “probably never will be.”

If you find a copy somewhere buy it…it is worth it. Even if you already have Anthology. The Beatles Anthology is far superior but it does make a good companion piece.

This is from Rolling Stone magazine. It went over the other documentaries of the band. They make a good case for The Compleat Beatles. The link to the page is:

Again nothing has compared to the Anthology but The Compleat Beatles was very well done.

https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-features/the-compleat-beatles-10-takeaways-from-great-overlooked-fab-four-doc-121193/

But one Beatles doc you might not know – and its cause has not been helped by not having an authorized DVD release yet – is 1982’s The Compleat Beatles, written by David Silver, directed by Patrick Montgomery, and narrated by Malcolm McDowell, chief droog from Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. Clocking in at two hours – and titled in the spirit of The Compleat Angler, England’s definitive book on fishing, from 1653 – The Compleat Beatles tells the band’s entire story, from pre-fame days, with checkpoints at each album, right up through the breakup. It’s brimming with keen musical analysis, and a coterie of voices you normally don’t get with a Beatles documentary.

For a long time, in the VHS era, it was a staple of high-school music teachers, starting 35 years ago in the summer and fall of ’82. If you were lucky enough to have had the TV set wheeled in by a Beatles-mad instructor, you know this is a special film.

Here are 10 reasons to check out this overlooked masterwork of the Beatles’ cinematic canon.

1. Writer David Silver had a pitch-perfect understanding of the Beatles’ career arc – and importance in their time and beyond.
“Poets of a generation, heroes of an era,” The Compleat Beatles begins, with Malcolm McDowell reciting Silver’s lines with Shakespearean gravity. This is to be a proper assessment of a band that was so much more than a rock & roll collective, something we’re made to feel immediately. “Like all poets and heroes, they reflected the spirt of their times.” The early sequences in the film present footage of a bygone Liverpool, which looks pretty grim, as if nothing mercurial could emerge from this seaport. When the opening chords of the Beatles’ cover of Chuck Berry’s “Rock and Roll Music” kick in, the film itself seems to pop with possibility, as if infused with Beatle-esque spirit. There was nothing the band couldn’t do, and now there will be nothing this movie can’t do.

2. Gerry Marsden was an ace witness to what the Beatles were doing.
The leader of Gerry and the Pacemakers, perpetual Liverpudlian also-rans, Gerry Marsden was always broad-spirited when it came to talking about the band that so outpaced his own, but you don’t get to hear him very much on film. Here he explains how the Liverpool acts were able to transform skiffle into something far grittier from what he terms the “ackky dacky” sounds of Lonnie Donegan. First he whips out a guitar to show how Donegan would play “Jambalaya,” before remarking “we’d get the record and we’d rock it up a little bit,” entering forth into a cool little demonstration. It’s a great primer for how the Northern bands were able to develop their own sound from what was a reductive, chipper genre in skiffle.

3. Early manager Allan Williams was quite the character.
Williams liked his tall tales, and the Beatles basically screwed the guy over after he hooked them up with Hamburg and they jumped ship for Brian Epstein, but Williams clearly loved reminiscing about his relationship with the band, which would continue on for a while still. (And resurface later when the legality of the Hamburg Star Club tapes was in dispute.) He describes a letter from Howie Casey of Derry and the Seniors begging him not to send “that bum group the Beatles” over to Hamburg, for fear that this would mess up everyone else’s good thing. Williams then goes on to (accurately) describe the style of then-drummer Pete Best as not very clever. Hardly a feeling-sparer, which is probably why the likes of John Lennon liked him – at least for a while.

4. George Harrison’s mom deserves serious props. The Compleat Beatles does an excellent job of synthesizing how the Beatles came together in their pre-fame years (complete with an image of John Lennon’s report card decrying his “insolence”), with a clear, concise chronology, and valuable insight directed towards the subject of George Harrison and his mother. Most Beatles studies focus, in terms of maternal subjects, on Lennon and his mother, Julia, and Paul McCartney and his late mother, Mary, but Mrs. Harrison knew a thing or two about rocking out. “To his classmates, George Harrison was the boy whose father drove the bus they all rode to school,” McDowell states. “His mother sat up with him night after night as he taught himself how to play Buddy Holly songs,” with his inclusion in the Quarrymen assured because “his mother could tolerate their noisy rehearsals.” Way to go, Mrs. H.

5. Reeperbahn mainstay Horst Fascher was one badass MF.
The Compleat Beatlesmakes commendable use of the underrated Star Club material to soundtrack several scenes, and it’s a delight when self-professed Beatles protector Horst Fascher turns up on camera. He made sure that they didn’t get in too much distress on their first Reeperbahn forays, or, as he puts it in the film, “If you are in trouble with some girls who are prostitutes, and you don’t know the girls are prostitutes, and the pimps find out, you can get in a lot of trouble,” which made Horst the guy to seek out to cure your ills and keep your ass intact, given that he was a former boxer who had been booted from competition for killing a sailor in a street fight. Ah, Hamburg.

6. The Litherland Town Hall show from December 27th, 1960, was the watershed gig of the Beatles’ career.The film also features a number of segments with Bill Harry, a friend of the band who was instrumental in spreading the good word about them in Liverpool – even before they deserved it – with his Mersey Beatmagazine, which documented the comings and goings of life on the local beat scene. Harry gives the backstory for the gig that would change the Beatles’ career. “They came back from Hamburg still as an unknown band,” Harry remembers, but he promoted they hell out of them, “because they were close friends of mine.” This got a promoter to book them at Litherland Town Hall, shortly following Christmas in 1960. Allan Williams was there, too. “The moment the Beatles struck up and did their stomping, every kid froze, and then they ran to the stage and started screaming.” That would be the gist of a lot of what was to follow.

7. According to George Martin, “Yesterday” was the crucial pivot point for the band’s sonic development.
Martin is eloquent throughout The Compleat Beatles: erudite, dapper, utterly sure of himself, being interviewed in a recording studio by his console, with no Beatles intruding with misremembered bits of info, something that dogged the Anthology. It’s just Martin, holding a master class in what it was like from his end to work with these guys. “They always wanted to have new ideas and sounds coming through. I found that they were almost more inquisitive than I was. In fact, in the end, it kind of exhausted me. Sometimes they knew what they wanted to do, but more often than not, they didn’t,” coming across like Yoda both frustrated and blown away by the gifts of Luke Skywalker. Regarding “Yesterday”: “It isn’t really a Beatles song,” Martin remembers saying to McCartney, then goes through how he made his pitch for the Beatles to forsake their standard drum-bass-guitar attack, which would become, through various methods, the mode of the future.

8. The doc features the coolest, trippiest, most cost-effective visual evocation of “Tomorrow Never Knows” ever filmed.
McDowell’s narration intones that “Two of John’s songs ‘She Said She Said’ and ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ were the results of his recent experiments with drugs” – fair enough – as a quick tour of Revolver begins, but what follows is brilliant: Using only the cover of the album, director Montgomery, through a series of sweeps, pans and fast dissolves, gives us something of a visual acid trip, as “Tomorrow Never Knows” blasts from the soundtrack. Once you see the effect, it’s hard to disgorge it from your mind each time going forward that you hear that mindblower of a track.

9. The band’s final world tour was pure terror, and no film better evokes it.With a collage of on-the-street interviews, footage from Beatles record burnings and people getting hurt at shows as frantic MCs plead for calm, The Compleat Beatlesprovides a strong sense of why touring had to stop for the band. As the footage unfurls, there’s a low droning figure in the soundtrack, sort of like the protracted hum of the final chord on the Sgt. Pepperalbum stretched out for several minutes. We also get a self-righteous cop in Minneapolis who goes on at some length about how much he hates the Beatles: “As far as Beatle music, I could care about it not one bit personally … one of their group, with the British accent, told us they would never come back to Minneapolis, and I told him that would be too soon for me.”

 10. In Martin’s view, the Beatles were fated to become huge. George Martin has a lot of key lines regarding his four upstarts and their career. At one point he states, “Without Brian Epstein, the Beatles wouldn’t have existed,” by which he means that success would not have come to them and they would not be the galvanic entity we all know. But Martin is in downright Socratic mode, though, when he ventures towards a larger explanation for that success. “I think that the great thing about the Beatles was that they were of their time, their timing was right. They didn’t choose it – someone chose it for them. But the timing was right, and they left their mark in history because of it.”

Ronnie Lane: The Passing Show

I didn’t know much about Ronnie Lane when I watched this documentary. It covers his childhood through his tragic death and the period after he left the Faces. He was loved by his peers and a talented musician and songwriter.

Ronnie’s mom had Multiple Sclerosis and Ronnie was in denial about himself until he was diagnosed with it. I didn’t know about the documentary until I ran across it on youtube.

I would recommend this to any music fan.

Ronnie Lane was a Britsh songwriter and bass player. He started with the Small Faces as the bass player and he and Steve Marriott wrote most of bands songs. The Small Faces never toured America so they never really broke out big. They did have 11 top twenty hits in the UK but only one in America with Itchycoo Park charting at #16.

Steve Mariott left the Small Faces in 1968 and Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood joined Ronnie Lane, Kenney Jones, and Ian McLagan to start The Faces. The Faces released four albums between 1970-1973… First Step, Long Player, A Nod is as Good as a Wink…to a Blind Horse and Ooh La La. They were one of the top grossing touring bands.

After Rod Stewart’s solo career took off his interest in the band began to wane and in 1973 Ronnie Lane quit. After Ronnie left the Faces, they made no more studio albums.

Ronnie started his own folk-country band named “Slim Chance” and released a surprise hit single “Come On” in 1973 and it went to #11 in the UK. Ronnie had a unique idea of touring. His tour was called “The Passing Show” which toured the countryside with a circus tent and included a ringmaster and clowns.

In 1976 he owed a record company an album and he was in financial trouble. He asked Pete Townshend to help him record an album. The album was called “Rough Mix” and it was a very strong album with great reviews but the record company didn’t promote it and the sales were not great.

During the recording of “Rough Mix” Lane diagnosed with was Multiple Sclerosis. He still toured with Eric Clapton and others afterward and released an album in 1979 called “See Me.”

In 1983 Ronnie called some of his musician friends to do some charity concerts for the Research for Multiple Sclerosis. They were known as the ARMS (Action into Research for Multiple Sclerosis) Charity Concerts. Musicians such as Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Steve Winwood, Bill Wyman, Charlie Watts, and more came out to support Ronnie.

Ronnie Lane died of Pneumonia while in the final stages of Multiple Sclerosis in 1997

How Come

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The Kids Are Alright 1979

Besides the Beatles Anthology, this is my favorite rockumentary for the lack of a better word. Jeff Stein the director did a great job on this film about The Who.

Jeff was a fan of the band and pestered them until they let him do this. He had no prior experience in filmmaking but this was the 1970s and he got the gig. His timing was eerily perfect. He caught the original band at the very end of their tenure with the great Keith Moon.

He searched high and low for clips of the band in earlier years. Stein keeps the appearance mostly in order. There is sadness in this. You see the band through the years from 1964 to 1978… you see all of them gradually age of course but Keith Moon ages faster than any of them. I’ve read where it hit him hard while watching the rough cut right before he died. His drinking and drug taking had taken its toll on him. He saw a young energetic kid that looked like Paul McCartney’s younger brother to a man who was 32 and looked like he was in his 40s.

This may be the first or one of the first video bios on a major rock group. Led Zeppelin had The Song Remains the Same but it focused on one concert in New York… The Beatles had Let It Be but those films didn’t show their history like The Kids Are Alright.

It this film you see a band that is fun… unlike Zeppelin the Who were more open to their audience and didn’t have a dark mystique hanging over them. They would crack jokes from the stage and Moon treated it like a High School talent show until he started to play…then he got serious.

You see film segments that were fun like the video of Happy Jack, the interview on the Russell Harty show, Keith with Ringo, and Keith and Pete sharing a joke that only they could understand. One of my favorite segments is The Who playing Barbara Ann with Keith singing and the band having a good time. They also played I Saw Her Standing There but it didn’t make the film…you can watch it in the outtakes. I can’t imagine Zeppelin doing Barbara Ann and goofing for the camera.

The Who did a couple of live shows for the film besides being interviewed. Stein mostly used old clips but he convinced the band to do a couple of concerts where he could get a definitive version of Won’t Get Fooled Again… which personally I think is the greatest rock song live you will ever hear. You see Keith’s last performance as he is looking pudgy, older, and slower but still pulls it off. Pete wasn’t too thrilled about doing the concerts for the film but it turned out good. They ended up only using a version Won’t Get Fooled Again and Baba O’Riley.

Keith died a few months before The Kids Are Alright debuted. The film showed The Who at it’s best. Kenney Jones from the Faces replaced him but it was never the same. You cannot replace Moon…he was the engine that drove the Who. The only drummer that has worked well with the Who since Keith has been Keith’s Godson Zak Starkey…Ringo’s son.

zak.jpg

I acquired a VHS copy of this in the mid-eighties. It wasn’t a great copy but my friends and I wore it out. One of them worked at a small cable station. The station was in a small county that usually aired farm reports and advertisements. Basically, it was a very small building in the middle of nowhere. All they would do there is broadcast videos.

We had the tape in hand and wanted to see it so we went there one afternoon. He popped it in the VHS player and played it. He had no idea but it was going out live. Near the end of the film, he took a phone call from his boss. I didn’t think anyone ever watched that station…but it turns out they did and they were not fans of The Who. He didn’t get fired but they took his key for the door. It was a big subject the next day at school as some teenagers loved it but their parents didn’t appreciate their videos on farming being interrupted by My Generation and Keith Moon in bondage.

This film covers the original Who and being such a Who fan I’m glad Jeff Stein was so persistent in doing this because many of the tapes he was able to borrow probably would have been erased and used again by the BBC as was their policy.

 

 

Alone in the Wilderness

When someone brought a DVD of this for me to watch. I thought it was going to be boring. I ended up watching it twice in one sitting. It will draw you in.

A 50-year-old man named Dick Proenneke is in Twin Lakes Alaska in 1968 and films himself building a retirement cabin. He starts out by staying in a friends cabin. He starts gathering wood and making some of the tools he uses on the way.

This man…is a real man. if he needs a spoon…he starts carving himself out one. He builds this cabin and makes everything including wood hinges for the door. He gathers rocks from somewhere down the lake and brings them back…at then he starts building his chimney.

He is by himself and sets up the camera everywhere he goes. He goes out fishing when he is hungry and hunting for meat for the winter only taking what he needs.

He makes most every from scratch. He uses his tin canisters for different things. He buries one and covers for a refrigerator. The only help he receives is a pilot friend of his that lands every now and again to deliver supplies. He is a master craftsman, to say the least.

It doesn’t sound that special but I have watched it 2 more times since the night I watched it twice. He makes it look so easy.

He filmed enough to have a few more short documentaries which were released but nothing matches that first one. This man made me feel like a mouse. He is so talented and tough.

He ended up staying there until 1999 and then left to live with his brother at age 82. Dick passed away at 86 in 2003. The cabin is still there and is in the National Register of Historic Places.