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.

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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.

 

 

Logan’s Run

1970’s futuristic sci-fi movie. That’s all it takes for me to watch.

Sometime in the 23rd century… the survivors of war, overpopulation, and pollution are living in a great domed city, sealed away from the forgotten world outside. Here, in an ecologically balanced world, mankind lives only for pleasure, freed by the servo-mechanisms which provide everything. There’s just one catch: Life must end at thirty unless reborn in the fiery ritual of Carousel.

And so begins this movie from 1976.

A future society living in a dome and everything is run by a computer. Everyone is under 30 because when you turn 30 you are killed in the Carousel ceremony. Logan and Jessica try to escape and after nearly being killed, they find an old man outside the dome who tells them how life used to be many years ago. it’s a bit more complicated than that but a good sci-fi movie to watch.

The Cast is Micheal York, Jenny Agutter, Richard Jordan, Roscoe Lee Browne (Voice only), Peter Ustinov and a brief appearance by Farrah Fawcett.

Peter Ustinov is great in this movie as the old man… He keeps this movie grounded and he is my favorite character in the movie.

I like the special effects for its time period. You can tell it was made in the disco era and this was pre-Star Wars. Some of the set looks huge and they mix them with miniatures. I wish I could have a room like Logan’s.

Jenny Agutter is beautiful in this movie and there is a small appearance by Farrah Fawcett.

I’m very surprised that there hasn’t been a remake since everything else has been remade to death.

Roger Ebert’s review in 1976

“Logan’s Run” is a vast, silly extravaganza that delivers a certain amount of fun, once it stops taking itself seriously. That happens about an hour into the film, but even the first half isn’t bad if you’re a fan (as I am) of special effects and cities of the future and ray guns and monorails whizzing overhead. The movie was made on a very large budget – the figure $9 million has been whispered about Hollywood – and it looks it. “2001” it’s not, but it has class. The plot is fairly routine stuff, by science-fiction standards; It seems to be a cross between Arthur C. Clarke’s “The City and the Stars” and elements of “Planet of the Apes” (1968). It’s about another one of those monolithic, self-perpetuating domed cities we’re all scheduled to start living in 300 or 400 years hence. 

People wear the regulation futurist leotards and miniskirts, and glide around enormous interior spaces that look like modern buildings in Texas (these scenes were shot on location in modern buildings in Texas). They don’t seem to eat anything, although they drink stuff that’s apparently nutritious, and when they feel like sex they just plug themselves into a cross between a teleporter and a computer dating service and materialize in each other’s bedrooms. 

The only catch in this idyllic existence is that nobody’s allowed to live more than 30 years. On the appointed last day, they ascend heavenward in a “carousel” that incinerates them while their friends applaud. In theory, if you get to the top of the carousel without being zapped, you can continue to live. But there are no old people in the city . . . 

Our hero is Logan, played by Michael York with a certain intelligence (meditate on how some of his dialog would sound coming from anyone else and you’ll see what I mean). He’s a “sandman,” assigned to intercept “runners” who attempt to escape their society. Most people start to run just as they’re approaching their 30th birthdays – Logan’s world is just like ours. One day, after being double-crossed by the computer-mind of the city, Logan runs, too. And the beautiful Jessica (Jenny Agutter) runs with him. 

It’s here that the movie gets to be fun. Logan and Jessica float through an irrigation system, are trapped on an elevator, get into fights with other sandmen (during which we reflect that everyone’s death rays are terribly inefficient), walk through an ice tunnel populated by Roscoe Lee Brown playing a computerized Tin Man and finally emerge into a largely abandoned Washington, DC. This flight is not unaccompanied by laughter on our part. The audience seemed to laugh a lot, indeed, but it was mostly tolerant laughter. Maybe the moviemakers themselves even knew some scenes would be funny, as when, Jessica and Logan, dripping wet in the ice tunnel, get out of their wet clothes and into some dry animal skins and then immediately, inexplicably, put their wet clothes back on again. There are the obligatory shots of the man and woman confronting the brave new world with their arms about each other, and then a truly marvelous confrontation with the lone survivor of Washington (played by Peter Ustinov with a twinkle in his eye and, I swear, in his voice, his beard and his toes as well). After a knockdown fight borrowed from old Westerns, the movie’s ending is unabashed cornball utopian. But “Logan’s Run” has wit enough to work on such a level; even while we’re chuckling at such an audacious use of cliche, we’re having fun.

 

 

Dear Boy: The Life Of Keith Moon

I didn’t think I would ever see an extensive book (nearly 600 pages) on Keith Moon. Tony Fletcher wrote this book and he thoroughly researched Keith and he had been a fan since his teenage years. As a teenager, he actually met Keith before he died. I’ll post what happened at the end of the blog from Tony’s website.

The book is huge and Fletcher talks to everyone of importance in Keith’s life. The only disappointing thing for me and for Fletcher himself is he had to debunk some of the myths about Keith. The great story of him driving a car in the pool of a Flint Michigan Holiday Inn…didnt happen… but the real story is just as interesting though.

The veil is drawn back on a lot of myths. It’s not a book full of Keith doing wild things like the book “Full Moon”. This one shows his ugly side also. Keith had one of the most dangerous traits you could have…the ability not to be embarrassed. Think about that…that keeps us in check at times. With Keith, anything could happen at any time.

Keith was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and elements of schizophrenia…add that with alcohol and drug abuse and it’s a wonder he lived as long as he did… In his first and only marriage, he was terrible to his wife Kim who finally had enough and left him for Ian McLagan and Keith never recovered from that. Kim would say he would dress up and be Hitler one day, a Pirate the next and Noel Coward at other times…not only dress up but BE those people all day.

The book also concentrates on his drumming and the influence he was to so many. The author wanted to show it was more to Keith than the Moon the Loon image…and it was. He was fantastic to fans and his friends. He would play with friends kids…like Ringo’s son Zak and Larry Hagman’s child for hours but yet basically ignore his daughter Mandy. It also touched on his relationship with each member of the band and his love of the Beach Boys and friendship with The Beatles.

He would go to schools and talk to unruly kids and explain to them that they need to settle down. He could get by with bad things because he was a pop star but they would get thrown in jail.

He became a caricature of his self at the end. He tried to live up to the image that he created. Many people have said that during the last few months of his life he was trying to settle down and even started to write an autobiography so he could put to bed the Moon the Loon image. He was trying to stop drinking but he would go into seizures because his body craved alcohol so bad.

A doctor gave him Heminevrin to ease the withdrawal symptoms from alcohol and he took too many and overdosed. Heminevrin should not have been given to him, it should have only been administered in a hospital but he was a rock star and so the doctor looked the other way. He kept waking up through the night and taking more…32 tablets were found in his system.

The book covers everything about the man and information about The Who I never knew. You can’t help but laugh at some of the things he did. At the same time, it’s sad knowing the man was mentally unstable. That probably helped his drumming on the edge but the price was too high.

There is just too much in the book to cover in a blog. It is an interesting read… The first line says it all… How do you attempt to capture an exploding time bomb? These were the first words put to me by one of the vast number of people I talked to while researching the life of Keith Moon.

From Tony Fletcher’s iJammin! website…  http://www.ijamming.net/Moon/ChasingTheMoon.html

On August 1, 1978, an exhibition of Who memorabilia curated by the group’s fans opened at the Institute Of Contemporary Arts on The Mall, near Buckingham Palace in London.

It was perhaps inevitable that members of the band would turn up to the opening. Their presence brought the process full circle: if the Who meant so much to their fans that the audience should mount an exhibition, then it followed that the fans meant so much to the Who that the band would want to see it.

So it came about that both Pete Townshend and Keith Moon immersed themselves among the hundreds of diehard Who worshippers that first day of ‘Who’s Who’ to make their way around the exhibition, pausing to talk with the audience along the way.

To a fourteen-year old fanzine writer, who had identified with the Who since first discovering pop music, and had attended the group’s last London stadium show as an excited twelve-year old, being in the same room as Pete and Keith was a significant moment. Like many others throwing nervous glances his heroes’ way, he respected them enough to grant them their privacy, but still he wanted an autograph, a chance to talk. While studying a bizarre life-size hologram of Keith Moon at the drums, the boy turned to find the real thing standing next to him. Keith looked shorter in real life, and somewhat chubbier. But it was unmistakably him: the hologram had obviously been based on a recent picture or film. The boy made a comment about the surreal situation, looking at an illusion while standing next to the real thing, and the rock star, quietly, in contrast to his larger-than-life reputation, said something in agreement. The boy then seized his moment. He pulled from his sports bag a lone copy of the fanzine he produced and asked Keith Moon to autograph a basic biography on the Who he had written for it.

The drummer looked at the cheaply produced fanzine, checked the cover to register the name — Jamming! — examined the boy’s face, and said, “I don’t think I’ve seen this one.”

You wouldn’t have, thought the boy, given that there were only one hundred copies in existence, and those mainly sold at his school. “It’s my own magazine,” he said aloud.

“I’d like to read this article some time,” said the rock star with evident sincerity.

“You can keep it if you want,” replied the boy, eager to please.

“No, you want it autographed,” said Moon, signing his name across the page with a flourish. “Tell you what, though.” He produced a slip of paper from an inside pocket and scribbled an address in Mayfair on it. “Here’s where I live,” he said as he handed it to the incredulous fourteen year old. “Come and see me. Bring a copy of your magazine with you. Any time’s fine by me.”

A week or so after meeting his hero, the fourteen-year old boy made his way nervously to a plush apartment building in London’s Mayfair. He carried the star’s address in his pocket: Flat 9, 12 Curzon Place, London W1. He did not know if he possessed the courage. It didn’t make sense his being invited around like that; it was hardly as if someone so popular could be lonely for company. With no security to stop him, he made his way to the fourth floor. His heart in his mouth, he approached Flat 9 with his magazine under his arm and knocked quietly. He thought he could hear music, yet from which apartment he was not sure. He knocked again, a little louder this time. But there was no reply. He slipped the magazine under the door along with an appreciative note bearing his own phone number and address. He didn’t really expect to hear back from his hero.
And he never did. Just a couple of weeks later, Keith Moon died in that same Mayfair apartment.

I cried when I learned of Keith Moon’s death: on Capital Radio at 9pm, at the start of Nicky Horne’s show, as I vividly recall it being, late that Thursday evening of September 7. (At 10pm every night, I would turn religiously to John Peel on Radio 1.) It was the first time anybody’s death had ever hit me personally, and it affected me in much deeper ways than I believe my family could understand at the time. To them he was just another alcoholic rock star, pissing away his limited talent and excess wealth, and indeed there was an ugly scene at a cousin’s communion shortly thereafter, when an aunt dared to insult the dead drummer for his general debauchery and lack of morals as she had read about in a middle-class tabloid and I jumped passionately to my dead hero’s defense. For me, Keith Moon had been more than just a world-famous rock star, more than simply a brilliant drummer, more even than the most irrepressible and carefree character of rock’n’roll’s last (and British rock’s first) fifteen years. He had been a human being, an approachable, affable man who had never forgotten what it was like to be a fan or a dreamer. More than that, for those few minutes that August on The Mall, he had been as a friend.

This website has stories from Jeff Beck, Alice Cooper, and Dave Edmunds about Keith. If you have the time check them out.

The night before he died.

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Roller Skating and Music

In the mid-seventies, my big sister would take me to the skating rink. I would go in as a little kid and trade my shoes for skates. I never understood why my sister went there and hardly ever skated. She would be in the corner with her girlfriends talking to guys while I was out there falling down. There was not a lot to do in a small town so this was a lot of fun.

I remember being exposed to a lot of music while skating. Someone would say over the intercom “All Skate” and they would blast a song at ear-splitting volume. Songs like “Juniors Farm”, “Sally G”, “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love”, “Rocky Mountain Way” and Free’s “All Right Now” would play while I learned how to skate decent soaking up the atmosphere.

They would play the 4 corners. You would skate until the music stopped. You would then go to a corner and they would call a corner number and those people in that corner were eliminated. This would go on till there was only one person left.  I won one time. The song that was playing and then stopped as I went to my corner on that night was Frankenstein. What I won was a single by Wings called Silly Love Songs. It was the first thing I ever won…I earned that single and still have it today and also bugged my Mom till she bought me the Wings at the Speed of Sound album…not Pauls best to say the least but it brings back too many good memories to be that bad.

In the seventies skating and going to rinks was huge. It was a place to gather and have fun with your friends. No texting or emails or blogs…Some were great at skating backward, doing tricks, and sabotaging other skaters…I was just a simple skater…As time went by I would find my own way down to the rink…as I got older I was the one that hung with friends and wanted to talk to girls instead of skating. I kept going to the rink until I was around 15 and then all of my friends and me just stopped at once. We had moved on to other things by then.

I did go again after my son was born in 2000…we had fun but the music sucked…no loud guitar music at all…just programmed electronic dance music… I guess you really can’t go back home.

I’ll never forget my friends and the music in that period of my life…That is why music is so important…it can transport you back through time and you are at that place again.

 

 

Wait Til Your Father Gets Home

An adult primetime cartoon in the early seventies. The father is voiced by Tom Bosley who is better known as Mr. C or Mr. Cunningham. In this show, he voices Harry Boyle.

This program was about the Boyle family who had a common-sense father, a loyal wife (Irma), a lazy hippie son (Chet), a progressive thinking daughter (Alice) and a younger more conservative son (Jaime) who predated Michael J Fox on Family Ties.

Harry has conservative views from the fifties but he is not overboard while his two oldest children have no intention of following the rules and morals of their father’s generation. The youngest son is just out for money.

The show also features an ultra-right winged conspiracy-minded McCarthy influenced neighbor (Ralph Kane) who resembled Richard Nixon (to me anyway) and he is always thinking the communists are out to get him and his neighbors.

The show ran 3 seasons from 1972-1974 with a total of 48 episodes.

If you lived in the seventies or if you are a student of the seventies… you might enjoy it. What I remember most about it was the theme song. I was too young to get the references…I just remember, hey it’s a cartoon and it’s not Saturday morning or a Disney special.

One thing that struck me about this show was the minimalist animation. The backgrounds were simple but effective.

The show is topical just like the show that inspired it…All In The Family but All In The Family is classic…this is not.

It is a fun time capsule. It is not for everyone.

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Testimony

The autobiography of Robbie Robertson. I read this right after My Cross To Bear by Gregg Allman. The only surprising part is it stops at 1976 and doesn’t cover Robbie’s solo career.

Robbie is 33 when the book ends. It ends at a recording session where only Robbie shows up after The Last Waltz.

If you have read Levon Helm’s This Wheels on Fire you know that Levon was pretty hard on Robbie. He rips him for songwriting credits and The Last Waltz. Robbie takes the high road in his book. He talks about the brotherhood they all shared. He mentions that Levon was his best friend he ever had in his life.

Robbie was in the middle of musical history throughout the book. He talks about joining Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks and befriending Levon…they eventually picked up Richard Manuel, Rick Danko, and Garth Hudson. After they split with Ronnie they get busted and gigged at various bars while meeting music legends Sonny Boy Williamson II, Paul Butterfield, Mike Bloomfield and then Bob Dylan. After meeting Dylan they start backing him on his first electric tour.

They are in the middle of the chaos of Dylan’s electric tour…Levon quits a few shows into it because of the booing and the people that surround Dylan. The rest of the Band (still called the Hawks) continue to back Dylan around the world. Along the way, they make friends with Brian Jones, The Beatles, Johnny Cash and eventually Jimi Hendrix (Jimmy James at the time).

He also mentions about living at the Chelsea Hotel, Big Pink, Levon coming back, living in Woodstock, playing Woodstock, and being friends with Dylan. This is one book that gives you a side of Dylan you never read much about. Robbie humanizes him while keeping respect. The Band much like the Allman Brothers valued brotherhood. They stuck together and got along really well until heroin started to enter the picture.

He goes into his songwriting and where he got the ideas. A lot of his ideas came from hanging out with Levon at Levon’s home in Arkansas. Robbie enjoyed the area and the southern culture that surrounded him.

Robbie is big foreign film buff who read many screenplays and would have people to pick them up when going through New York. After reading those he said it helped him to express what he felt in lyrics.

You get such a mix of personalities in the book… Edie Sedgwick, Carly Simon, Eric Clapton, George Harrison, to smoking pot with John Lennon in the sixties with John’s special made “cigarettes.”

All of the Band had street smarts and mixed with killers, thieves and mafia members before they made it. They were without money at one point and Robbie and Levon were actually going to wear masks and hold up a high stakes poker game. It’s a wonder one of them wasn’t killed before the band met Dylan.

I’ve read both Levon’s and Robbie’s books. I liked them both. Robbie is more consistent in his telling. There is a reason Robbie wanted to get off the road. Richard Manuel was not in good shape…even on The Last Waltz and Robbie was no angel himself. The road brought temptations that were hard for them to resist.

If you are a Band fan and/or Dylan fan…get it. I would place this book up there with Keith Richard’s book Life. That is about the highest praise I can give…

 

 

Free As A Bird

In the 1990s I kept reading about the Beatles Anthology coming out and the three surviving Beatles getting back together to release old never heard before music as well as new. They were going to take a John Lennon demo and add something to it. This was beyond exciting for me. I was too young to remember a new Beatles song coming out.

It had an older feel but sounded modern at the same time. George Harrison’s distorted slide guitar playing brought an edge to it. It even had the strange ending like some of their other songs.

I got an early release of the Anthology CD from a friend of mine that worked in a record store and he said…don’t tell anyone. I sat glued to Free As a Bird because for once I was listening to a new Beatles song… I was one-year-old in1968 so I missed them when they were originally out. I liked the song and still do. I have talked to Beatles fans who don’t really like it that much but the song has stuck with me. Real Love…the second release didn’t do as much for me because it was basically a solo John Lennon song.

Was Free As a Bird the best song in the Beatles catalog? No not even close but just to hear something new was fantastic. The Anthology videos and CDs jump-started their popularity all over again…and it hasn’t stopped since then. I had cousins who were teenagers at the time who never had an interest in them until Anthology came out. All I could say to them was…I’ve told you for years.

The video of Free As a Bird is fantastic and still one of my favorite music videos. It told their history through the different eras of their career. Every time I watch it I always notice something I didn’t notice before.

Little did he know that day in1977 when John made a demo of a song idea on a cheap cassette recorder… it would be a future Beatle song. Not to even mention that the tape itself would be part of the song.

It did win a Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal…

After reading the mixed reactions one thing dawned on me. The Beatles did the right thing by not reuniting when John was alive. There is no way they could have made anything that would have lived up to the expectations of everyone…You cannot compete against a memory because you lose every time… But yea… I still would have loved to hear it.