Rock and Roll Movies
* Recommended Titles
Includes musicals, concert films, documentaries, biographies and fictional subject matter (where singers and groups appear as musical interludes.)
* Woodstock (1970) Oscar-winning documentary of the infamous Woodstock Music Festival held for three days in August 1969. Various performers not only captured in their prime but several audience members, policeman, workers and townspeople are also frankly interviewed. Not all of the acts made it to the film (Janis Joplin) but those that did give outstanding performances. The highlights not to be missed include Jimi Hendrix, Ten Years After, Santana, Joe Cocker and The Who. Others include Joan Baez, Crosby, Stills and Nash (their first public appearance together), Jefferson Airplane, Sly and the Family Stone, Country Joe and the Fish (with the famous "Fish" cheer), John Sebastion, Sha Na Na and Arlo Guthrie.
* Let It Be (1970) John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono, George Martin, Mal Evans, Derek Taylor, Linda McCartney, Heather McCartney. Uneven Beatles documentary is saved when the group moves to the roof of their Apple studio to perform four songs in what is ultimately their last concert together. You also get to hear the full version of Dig It in the studio along with the group rocking out on improvised versions of Shake, Rattle and Roll, Kansas City, You Really Got a Hold On Me, Besame Mucho and others Billy Preston plays keyboards on Get Back. [Filmed 1/30/69 and originally double billed in most U.S. theatres with the Italian western, The Mercenary starring Jack Palance. Esquire called it "a sad and fascinating Apple home movie."]
* Elvis: That's the Way It Is (1970) Flattering look at Elvis onstage and off culminating with opening night Las Vegas performance -- his first live appearance since 1957. Everybody should see Elvis in his prime at least once in their lives, especially in his leather suit. Features James Burton on guitar and cameos by Sammy Davis and Cary Grant.
* Message to Love: The Isle of Wight Festival (1970) Known as "Britain's Woodstock", this little gem by Murray Lerner sat on the shelf for 26 years before it's commercial release in 1996. Bootlegs have been available for years though. It is most noted for the final stage appearances of Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison and also features The Who, Bob Dylan, Moody Blues, Donovan, Joan Baez, Miles Davis, Tiny Tim, Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell. The concert was an artistic success but financial disaster. Also check out Jimi Hendrix: Live at the Isle of Wight, which was released in 1999.
Groupies (1970) An interesting documentary on rock groupies, including Cynthia Plaster Caster, Pamela Des Barres, Patty Cakes, Andrea Feldman and Miss Harlow. Also features musical performances by Ten Years After, Terry Reid, Spooky Tooth, Joe Cocker and Cat Mother.
Sympathy for the Devil (1970) Strange and uneven film of the recording of the Rolling Stones hit song is interspersed with scenes of demonstrators in Paris. Definitely worth watching but fast forward through the non-Stones stuff for your own good. Also known as One Plus One.
Popcorn (1970) Jimi Hendrix, Rolling Stones, Otis Redding, Bee Gees, Joe Cocker, Beach Boys, the Fifth Dimension, the Spencer Davis Group, Vanilla Fudge. Documentary of the sixties is fair but at least the Stones do a rare version of 2000 Light Years from Home.
Midsummer Rock (1970) Documentary of the Cincinnati Pop Music Festival on June 13, 1970 at Crosley Field. The Stooges, Alice Cooper, Traffic, Mountain, Grand Funk Railroad. Also Bob Seger, Mott the Hoople, Ten Years After, Bloodrock, Savage Grace, Brownsville Station, Zephyr, Damnation of Adam Blessing, Mighty Quick.
Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970) Dolly Read, Cynthia Myers, Marsha McBroom, Edy Williams, Erika Gavin, John Lazar, Phyllis Davis, Michael Blodgett. Exploitive Russ Meyer film noted for being the first X-rated feature movie in history (but only for soft-core nudity). Story revolves around a female rock group's try at stardom in Hollywood. Better than expected and now a cult classic, with an appearance by the Strawberry Alarmclock (at the first party). [British born Dolly Read was Playboys Playmate of the Month May 66. Myers was Playmate of the Month December 68. Williams was married to Russ Meyer for a while. Co-writers Meyer and Roger Ebert were hired a few years later to work on the ill-fated Sex Pistols movie called "Who Killed Bambi?"]
Musical Mutiny (1970) Iron Butterfly, New Society Band, Grit. Director Barry Mahon got together a bunch of local groups for a Florida theme park concert with a lame story about a pirate woven in. Terrible movie but the Butterfly does perform four songs (all lip-synced) including the only filmed version of the long version in In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida. [Mahaon made notoriously bad movies. Prior to that he was a WWII flying war hero and then became personal assistant to Errol Flynn.]
Gas-s-s-s (1970) Bud Cort, Cindy Williams, Robert Corff, Ben Vereen, Talia Shire, Elaine Giftos. Roger Corman quickie about a mysterious nerve gas that kills everyone over the age of 25. It's better than it sounds with lots of songs by Country Joe and the Fish. Corff, Gourmet's Delight and Johnny and the Tornadoes also perform. Country Joe plays the AM radio disc jockey. Also known as Gas-s-s-s or, it May Become Necessary to Destroy the World in Order to Save it. This was Cormans second-last film as a director.
The Phynx (1970) Michael Ansara, George Tobias, Joan Blondell, Martha Raye, Pat McCormick. A rock band is put together to go to Albania to find celebrity hostages held by communists in a remote castle. Two of the band members: Dennis Larden was a member of Every Mother's Son ("Come on Down to My Boat"); Lonny Stevens wrote songs for Motown. Too numerous to mention, but some of the celebrities appearing as themselves include Rhona Barrett, James Brown, Edgar Bergen, Dick Clark, Xavier Cugat, Andy Devine, Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall, George Jessel, Ruby Keeler, Dorothy Lamour, Guy Lombardo, Trini Lopez, Joe Louis, Marilyn Maxwell, Butterfly McQueen, Pat OBrien, Maureen O'Sullivan, Richard Pryor, Colonel Sanders, Jay Silverheels, Ed Sullivan, Rudy Vallee, Clint Walker and Johnny Weissmuller. So bad that Warner Brothers refused to release it.
* Medicine Ball Caravan (1971) B.B. King, Alice Cooper, Delaney and Bonnie, Doug Kershaw, David Peel. A 150-member hippie troupe traveled from San Francisco to the East Coast playing music and preaching love and peace. Well worth seeing if only for the ultra-rare appearance of David Peel, one of the original NYC hippies.
Rainbow Bridge (1971) A documentary of a commune in Hawaii culminates in a Jimi Hendrix concert on the island of Maui. Fast-forward to Hendrix and you'll be all right. Features interviews with Jimi as well. This was his last U.S. concert appearance. The band (Hendrix with Mitch Mitchell and Billy Cox) play their set atop Hawaii's Haleakawa Volcano.
Love and Music (1971) Documentary of the Holland Pop Festival of June 26-28, 1970 in Rotterdam Woods, The Netherlands featuring the Jefferson Airplane, Country Joe McDonald, Canned Heat, Santana, Its a Beautiful Day, Family, The Byrds, Dr. John, Pink Floyd, Al Stewart, T-Rex, Soft Machine, The Flock and several Dutch bands. Most of the bands here, like Heat, Byrds, Beautiful Day, Family, T-Rex and Machine, it was their only film appearance. It also marked the last filmed appearance of Alan Wilson with Canned Heat. He would commit suicide two months after this performance.
Zachariah (1971) John Rubinstein, Pat Quinn, Don Johnson, Dick Van Patten, Elvin Jones. Performances by Country Joe and the Fish, the James Gang, Doug Kershaw, the New York Rock Ensemble, White Lightnin. A satirical rock western co-written by the Firesign Theatre (although their original script was terribly edited). Worth a look but certainly not for all tastes.
Joe Cocker: Mad Dogs and Englishmen (1971) Joe Cocker, Leon Russell, Chris Stainton, Carl Radle, John Price, Bobby Keys, Rita Coolidge, Claudia Linnear. Good documentary of Cocker's 1970 US tour. Also known as Mad Dogs and Englishmen.
Celebration at Big Sur (1971) Joan Baez, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Joni Mitchell, John Sebastion, Mimi Farina, Dorothy Morrison, the Combs Sisters. Documentary of 1969 Big Sur Folk Festival worth seeing for the good music but production level is low.
A Well Spent Life (1971) Documentary of Texas blues singer-guitarist Mance Lipscomb (1895-1976). He released many albums of blues, ragtime, Tin Pan Alley and folk music while accompanying himself on acoustic guitar.
Dynamite Chicken (1971) Joan Baez, Linda Boyce, Jim Buckley, Ron Carey, Leonard Cohen, Marshall Efron, Jay Garner, Paul Krassner, John Lennon, Ondine, Yoko Ono, Richard Pryor, Lisa Ryan, Andy Warhol, Lenny Bruce, Al Goldstein, Allen Ginsberg, Jimi Hendrix, B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Charley Manna. A variety of short skits, film clips and musical performances loosely tied into the peace movement.
200 Motels (1971) Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, Tony Palmer, Theordore Bikel, Ringo Starr, Keith Moon, the Royal Symphony Orchestra. Bizarre film that only Zappa could make loosely based on the Zappa quote, "Touring makes you crazy." Has its moments but is too haphazard to sustain interest for even 98 minutes. The Mothers lineup included Zappa, Ian Underwood, Mark Volman, Howard Kaylan, George Duke, Aynsley Dunbar, Don Preston, Jim Pons and Jimmy Carl Black (as Lonesome Cowboy Burt). Also note the video companion piece, The True Story of Frank Zappas 200 Motels (1988).
Taking Off (1971) Linnea Heacock, Lynn Carlin, Buck Henry, Georgia Engel, Audra Lindley Ike and Tina Turner, Carly Simon. Parents search for their runaway daughter and rediscover life as they once knew it.
* Fillmore (1972) Bill Graham, The Grateful Dead, Santana, Jefferson Airplane, Elvin Bishop, Hot Tuna, Quicksilver Messenger Service, It's a Beautiful Day, Cold Blood, Lamb, Boz Scaggs, The Rowan Brothers. Documentary about the legendary Fillmore West concert hall's final days. Included is footage of founder and owner Graham and several rare performances of the big West Coast groups as well as the smaller ones.
* Elvis on Tour (1972) Follows Elvis through several stops on his 1971 U.S. tour along with a rehearsal session and a classic clip from one of his first Ed Sullivan appearances. This was his last film. Tagline: MGM presents a very different motion picture that captures all the excitement of ELVIS LIVE!
* The Concert for Bangla Desh (1972) George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan, Billy Preston, Leon Russell, Klaus Voorman, Ravi Shankar. The famous August 1, 1971 Madison Square Garden concert where proceeds went to feed the starving children of India.
* The Harder They Come (1972) Jimmy Cliff, Janet Barkley, Carl Bradshaw, Ras Daniel Hartman, Bobby Charlton, Winston Stona. Cult film of criminal-turned singer Ivan Martin (Cliff) fighting corruption in the music business helped launch the popularity of reggae music. Definitely worth a look, and a must if you're a fan of the music.
Sunbury Rock Festival (1972) An account of the most important, but not the first Australian rock festival. Topping the bill was Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs and Max Merritt and the Meteors. Also, appearances by Southern Contemporary Rock Assembly, Michael Turner in Session, Phil Manning, Wild Cherries, Chain and Piranha. Also features Australian rock journalist and rock critic Ian (who later became known as "Molly") Meldrum. Directed by Ray Wagstaff.
Eat the Document (1972) Bob Dylan, Richard Manuel, Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, Garth Hudson, John Lennon, Johnny Cash. Hard to find documentary of Dylans historic 1966 tour of Europe with the Band - the one where he was again booed for going electric. Shows Dylan and the Band onstage and off but the editing is below average, sometimes confusing the viewer. [The Royal Albert Hall album was recorded on this tour.]
Imagine (1972) John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Daniel Richter, the Plastic Ono Band. Various clips and home movies of John and Yoko. Well worth seeing but mostly for John and Beatles fans. Fred Astaire and Jack Palance have cameos.
Journey Through the Past (1972) Neil Young, David Crosby, Steven Stills, Graham Nash, Buffalo Springfield, Carrie Snodgrass, Jack Nitzsche. Young's story up to this point in time suffers from amateurish filming and script but the music is great. Directed by Bernard Shakey who is really Neil Young.
Cisco Pike (1972) Kris Kristofferson, Karen Black, Gene Hackman. Ex-rock star strung out on drugs.
Cocksucker Blues (1973) Unreleased documentary shot during the 1972 Exile on Main St. tour. Some concert footage, but mostly shows the indulgences and boredom of life on the road: orgies and drugs, etc. Ladies and Gentlemen: The Rolling Stones was released instead.
* Ladies and Gentleman, the Rolling Stones (1973) Excellent documentary of the Stones' 1972 U.S. Exile on Main St. tour originally recorded with quadraphonic sound. The Stones lineup included Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman, Mick Taylor (guitar), Nicky Hopkins (piano), Bobby Keys (saxophone), Jim Price (trumpet) and Ian Stewart (roadie). This is when the Stones were at their peak and is probably an even better representation of their sound than Gimme Shelter. The Taylor-era (1969-1974) is their best musically. All the solos from the Chuck Berry tunes were Keiths however, a strong devotee of Berry. From four dates in Houston and Ft. Worth Texas.
* Let the Good Times Roll (1973) Chuck Berry, Chubby Checker, Bo Didley, Little Richard, the Five Stains, the Coasters, the Shirelles, Bill Haley and the Comets, Shirley and Lee. Old-time rock and roll acts perform in Madison Square Garden revival show in between footage of 1950s life. Outstanding performances, especially by Berry and Didley.
* Jimi Hendrix (1973) Decent biography of arguably the world's greatest rock guitarist. Told in documentary style, the film features highlights from his concerts, TV interviews and interviews with family and friends. Noel Redding, Mitch Mitchell, Billy Cox, Buddy Miles. Also appearing Eric Clapton, Al Hendrix, Mick Jagger, Little Richard, Lou Reed, Pete Townsend and long-time girlfriend Fayne Pridgon.
* That'll Be the Day (1973) David Essex, Ringo Starr, Rosemary Leach, James Booth, Rosalind Ayres, Billy Fury, Keith Moon. Fine story of a British working-class youngster Jim MacLaine growing up in 1950s Liverpool wanting to be a rock and roll star. Followed by a believable sequel, Stardust, both of which are loaded with great oldies on the soundtrack. The original end music, "That'll Be The Day", was replaced for the American release by "Rock On", which had just been released by Essex. [Fury, a successful pop star in England, played the part of a singer called Stormy Tempest, which was based on Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, a popular Liverpool group back when the Beatles were starting out.]
O Lucky Man! (1973) Malcolm McDowell, Rachel Roberts, Arthur Lowe, Ralph Richardson, Alan Price, Lindsay Anderson, Helen Mirren, Mona Washbourne. Story of coffee salesman's ups and downs relies heavily on symbolism and outrageous (at times) surrealism to make its point. Well casted and acted with a very good soundtrack by ex-Animals keyboard player Price. Definitely worth viewing but might not be for all tastes. McDowell was fresh off his controversial Clockwork Orange role.
Glastonbury Fayre (1973) David Allen and Gong, Arthur Brown, Fairport Convention, Family, Linda Lewis, Magic Michael, Melanie, Quintessence, Terry Reid, Traffic. Documents the 1971 Glastonbury rock festival with many rare performances. Unfortunately, David Bowie, Marc Bolan and Pete Townshend's sets were cut because of contractual problems.
London Rock and Roll Show (1973) Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Bill Haley and His Comets, Heinz and the Houseshakers, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Screaming Lord Sutch. Unusual concert in Wembley Arena features both Teddy Boys (50s wannabees) and hippies in the audience and a rare appearance by Lord Sutch. Bill Haley is the highlight. [Sutch was a pre-Beatle long hair in London and, although he never had a hit song, was always in the news for some kind of outrageous behavior-- on stage and off. He was kind of a poor man's Screamin' Jay Hawkins.]
Wattstax (1973) The Bar-Kays, the Dramatics, the Emotions, Isaac Hayes, Albert King, Little Milton, Mel and Tim, the Staple Singers, Johnny Taylor, Carla Thomas, Rufus Thomas, Kim Weston and others. Richard Pryor hosts the benefit concert for the Watts riot neighborhood in Los Angeles. [The Bar-Kays was the second edition of the original band wiped out in the December 1967 plane crash that also killed Otis Redding. Their big hit was Soul Finger that year.]
* Janis (1974) Authorized biography of Janis Joplin put together after her death in 1970. Included are her performances with Big Brother and the Holding Company, the Full Tilt Boogie Band and the Kozmic Blues Band and several interviews. Definitely worth seeing. The film was directed by Howard Alk with assistance from Albert Grossman, Janis' manager.
Phantom of the Paradise (1974) Paul Williams, William Finley, Jessica Harper, George Memmoli, Gerrit Graham. Rock version of Phantom of the Opera is surprisingly good. Story is changed a bit but revenge is still the motive. Film originally flopped but has found a cult following in recent years. Music by Paul Williams is ok but nothing special.
Flame (1974) Slade, Tom Conti, Kenneth Colley, Alan Lake, Rosco, Johnny Shannon, Tommy Vance. British band Slade star in their own story about a band trying to make it despite unfeeling management. The group actually acts well and plays several rocking numbers that are quite good. Check it out.
The Last Free Ride (1974) Joe Tate & the Red Legs. Documentary of the free floating community of old lifeboats, sailboats and houseboats in Sausalito California. Eventually, city officials and police battled to evict them. The film follows Tate and his band, the Red Legs, through their daily lives through the police intervention.
Catch My Soul (1974) Richie Havens, Lance Le Gault, Season Hubley, Tony Joe White, Susan Tyrell, Delaney and Bonnie. Rock opera based on Shakespeare's Othello is pretty bad save for a couple of good tunes. Needless to say, changing the title to Santa Fe Satan (!) did not help.
* Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick, Meatloaf, Richard O'Brien, Jonathon Adams, Little Nell, Charles Gray. The ultimate midnight movie spices up the tired plot of young couple stranded in a Transylvania castle with outrageous characters and lots of rock music. Film has huge cult following but the sequel, Shock Treatment, was a disappointment. Let's do the time warp again instead. [Sarandon refused to appear nude in the picture.]
* Stardust (1975) David Essex, Adam Faith, Larry Hagman, Rosalind Ayres, Marty Wilde, Keith Moon, Dave Edmunds, Ines Des Longchamps, Edd Byrnes, the Stray Cats. Excellent sequel to That'll Be the Day follows dramatic rise of rock group, the leader of which is very John Lennon-like. The soundtrack is chock full of oldies too.
* Tommy (1975) Roger Daltry, Ann-Margaret, Oliver Reed, Elton John, Eric Clapton, Keith Moon, Robert Powell, Tina Turner, Jack Nicholson, Pete Townshend, John Entwhistle, Paul Nicholas, Arthur Brown. The Who's rock opera about a blind deaf-mute who becomes a pinball star. Quadraphonic soundtrack loses impact on TV but most of the clips paved the way for MTV videos of the future. Not for all tastes. Directed by Ken Russell.
Nashville (1975) Keith Carradine, Henry Gibson, Karen Black, Ronee Blakely, Geraldine Chapman, Lily Tomlin, Michael Murphy, Barbara Harris, Allen Garfield, Ned Beatty, Barbara Baxley, Shelly Duvall, Keenan Wynn, Scott Glenn, Jeff Goldblum, Gwen Welles, Bert Remsen, Robert Doqui. About a Nashville political rally with a lot of music played throughout. Carradine's song, "I'm Easy," won an Oscar that year. Elliot Gould and Julie Christie appear as themselves.
Lisztomania (1975) Roger Daltry, Sara Kestelman, Paul Nicholas, Fiona Lewis, Ringo Starr, Rick Wakeman. Ken Russell's outrageous "biography" of classic composer Franz Liszt portrays him as the #1 pop star and sex symbol of his era. Serves as bizarre escapist entertainment but is not for all tastes. Tagline: The erotic, exotic electrifying rock fantasy. Oliver reed has a cameo.
Never Too Young To Rock (1975) Freddie Jones, Peter Denyer, John Clive, Joe Lynch, Peter Noone, Sally James. A British TV station auditions new rock bands. Performers include the Glitter Band, Mud, the Rubettes and Slick.
* Bound for Glory (1976) David Carradine, Ronny Cox, Melinda Dillon, Gail Strickland, Randy Quaid. Biography of legendary folk singer Woody Guthrie who was the main inspiration for Bob Dylan among others. Film concentrates mostly on 1936-1940 when Guthrie traveled the country via boxcars during the Great Depression. Oscars won for the cinematography and for the best score. [Arlo Guthrie is Woodys son.]
* Leadbelly (1976) Roger E. Mosley, Paul Benjamin, Madge Sinclair. Story of the legendary blues/folk singer/guitarist, Walter Huddie Ledbetter, the guy who influenced many of the early country singers and rockers with songs like Rock Island Line and Goodnight Irene. The movie covers his mastering of the 12-string guitar as well as his two prison terms but ends just as he's released in 1934. From there he was recorded by the Lomax brothers and became well known, eventually performing at Carnegie Hall. Art Evans plays Blind Lemon Jefferson whom Leadbelly played with for a while. HiTide Harris dubbed the vocals. Takes the usual liberties but well worth watching.
A Star is Born (1976) Barbra Streisand, Kris Kristofferson, Paul Mazursky, Gary Busey, Martha Heflin, Oliver Clark, Venetta Fields. Third telling of classic female-on-the-rise -male-on-the-skids story-- this time with a rock theme. These people are not rock and rollers and neither is the music. Strictly for Streisand fans.
Sparkle (1976) Michael Thomas, Irene Cara, Lonette McKee, Dwan Smith, Mary Alice. Low budget story of the rise of a female singing group from Harlem not unlike the Supremes. Curtis Mayfield does the soundtrack.
* Saturday Night Fever (1977) John Travolta, Karen Lynn Gorney, Barry Miller, Joseph Cali, Donna Pescow. Blockbuster film (at the time) of Brooklyn youth Tony Manero finding fame on the disco dance floor. Great score by the Bee Gees still holds up today. Followed by less appealing sequel, Staying Alive. [This was Travolta's film debut.]
The Grateful Dead (1977) Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Mickey Hart, Bill Kruetzman, Keith Godchaux, Donna Godchaux. The Dead perform live at Winterland in San Francisco, October 1974.
Banjoman (1977) Joan Baez, David Bromberg, the Byrds, Ramblin' Jack Elliot, Tracy Nelson, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Earl Scruggs Review, Doc and Merle Watson. This Earl Scruggs tribute concert is a must-see for Bluegrass and C&W fans. Great music and some rare film appearances.
* The Buddy Holly Story (1978) Gary Busey, Charles Martin Smith, Don Stroud, Maria Richwine, Amy Johnston, Conrad Janis, Dick O'Neill, William Jordan, Will Jordan, Fred Travalena. Busey's performance and Joe Renzetti's Oscar-winning score, even though the script seems a stretch at times, highlight one of the best rock biographies ever. Busey, Smith and Stroud actually played their instruments live which greatly adds to the viewing experience as does Will Jordan's Ed Sullivan routine. Unfortunately, the movie takes various liberties with Holleys life. The best book on his life is Rave On: The Biography of Buddy Holley by Philip Norman.
* The Last Waltz (1978) The Band, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Ringo Starr, Muddy Waters, Dr. John, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Eric Clapton, Neil Diamond, Emmylou Harris, Paul Butterfield, The Staples, Ronnie Hawkins, Ron Wood, Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Excellent documentary about The Band's farewell concert, Thanksgiving Day 1976 at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco. Director Martin Scorcese's strange interview with Robbie Robertson inspired Rob Reiner to do the same in This Is Spinal Tap.
* American Hot Wax (1978) Tim McIntire, Fran Drescher, Jay Leno, John Lehne, Laraine Newman, Jeff Altman. Performances by Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, the Chesterfields, the Delights, the Planotones, Timmy and the Tangerines. The story of disc jockey Alan Freed recreates the mood of the 1950s very well. Remake of Mr. Rock and Roll. Another attempt was the so-so TV-movie Mr. Rock 'n' Roll: The Alan Freed Story (1999).
Like so many movie biographies, the facts get distorted for reasons of brevity, dramatics or ignorance. Freed originally got his idea of playing R&B while working at WAKR in Akron. He met Cleveland record store owner Leo Mintz of Record Rendezvous who told him that the teens were buying R&B. In July 11, 1951, he joined WJW radio in Cleveland on a midnight radio program sponsored by Main Line, the RCA Distributor and Record Rendezvous. That is when Freed started playing these records and talking a more hip language on his "Moondog" show. He then became known as "The King of the Moondoggers" using an instrumental called "Moondog Symphony" that had been recorded by New York street musician Louis T. Hardin as his theme song. Later that year, he promoted his first dance (along with local concert promoter Lew Platt), The Moondog Coronation Ball, on March 21, 1952 at the Cleveland Arena generally accepted as the first rock and roll concert. Overflow crowds caused a riot outside and the concert was shut down right after the first act by fire marshals. Paul "Hucklebuck" Williams has just completed his set when the power was turned off. Screaming Jay Hawkins began his set with no amplification but the show was then stopped. In 1954, Freed moved to WINS in New York City.
Dead Man's Curve (1978) Richard Hatch, Bruce Davison, Pamela Bellwood, Susan Sullivan, Wolfman Jack. TV-movie about the ill-fated career of surf-rockers Jan & Dean. Jan Berry was critically injured in an automobile accident in 1966 and never could quite make it back. Their last hit, Popsicle, was released two months later. Title of the movie taken from their 1964 hit of the same name. The Beach Boys Mike Love and Bruce Johnston appear as themselves as does Dick Clark. Worth seeing.
I Wanna Hold Your Hand (1978) Nancy Allen, Debbie DiCicco, Marc McClure, Susan Kendall Newman, Theresa Saldana, Eddie Deezen, Wendie Jo Sperber, Will Jordan. A group of 1963 teenagers go to great lengths to see the Beatles live on The Ed Sullivan Show. Don't take it too seriously and you'll have a lot of fun with it and might even watch it twice. Jordan reprises his Sullivan impersonation. [Saldana was viciously attacked by a stalker in 1982 when he became obsessed with her after he saw her in Raging Bull. She recovered to play the wife in The Commish.]
The Rutles (1978) Conceived by Monty Python's Eric Idle, this TV-movie is a parody of the Beatles career and stars Idle, Neil Innes, Ricky Fataar and John Halsey as Dirk, Nasty, Stig and Barry. Michael Palin, Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, George Harrison, Mick Jagger, Bill Murray, Gilda Radner, Bianca Jagger, Ron Wood, Al Franken and Paul Simon also appear. Has its moments and is worth a look. Released in USA as All You Need Is Cash. Lorne Michaels executive produced and also has a cameo. Innes wrote the music.
Rockers (1978) Leroy Wallace, Richard Hall, Monica Craig, Jacob Miller, Big Youth, Erroll Brown, Dillinger. Jamaican movie revolves around the drummer of a band's efforts to raise money to make it in the business. The performances and the score features most of the top Reggae bands of the time including Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, Burning Spear, Third World, the Heptones and Gregory Isaacs.
Renaldo and Clara (1978) Bob Dylan, Sara Dylan, Sam Shepard, Ronee Blakley, Ronnie Hawkins, Joni Mitchell, Harry Dean Stanton, Arlo Guthrie, Bob Neuwirth, Joan Baez, Allen Ginsberg, Mick Ronson, Roberta Flack. Fictional account of Dylans Rolling Thunder Review is not very good. The music is ok but Hawkins plays Dylan. A memorable scene is when Baez storms into the room and denounces Dylan, totally unscripted but left in the film. Roger McGuinn, Jack Elliott, Peter Orlovsky and David Blue have cameos.
Grease (1978) John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John, Stockard Channing, Jeff Conaway, Barry Pearl, Michael Tucci, Kelly Ward, Didi Conn, Jamie Donnelly, Dinah Manoff, Eve Arden. Frankie Avalon, Joan Blondell, Edd Byrnes, Sid Caesar, Alice Ghostley, Dody Goodman, Lorenzo Lamas, Fannie Flagg, Dick Patterson, Ellen Travolta have cameos. Decent conversion to film of long-running Broadway musical hit about life in the 50s. Many old-timers pop up in cameos but the songs are forgettable. Followed by a terrible sequel.
Performance (1978) Mick Jagger, Nicholas Roeg, James Fox, Anita Pallenberg, Michele Breton, Ann Sidney, John Burdon. Jagger plays a rock star (known only as Turner) harboring a criminal on the loose. Unusual film has its moments but moves in strange directions and is not for all tastes. Pallenberg was married to Keith Richards at the time.
FM (1978) Michael Brandon, Martin Mull, Eileen Brennan, Cleavon Little, Cassie Yates, Alex Karras, Norman Lloyd, James Keach. Comedy about the trials and tribulations of a (WKRP-like) radio station. Mull's film debut. Features performances by Linda Ronstadt, Jimmy Buffett, Tom Petty and REO Speedwagon.
Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Dark (1978) Peter Kriss, Ace Frehley, Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Anthony Zerbe, Carmine Caridi, Deborah Ryan, Terry Webster. TV-movie starring outrageous rock group Kiss and their attempts to prevent a mad scientist's attempt to clone them for evil purposes. For Kiss fans only.
Ringo (1978) Ringo Starr, Art Carney, Angie Dickinson, Carrie Fisher, Vincent Price, John Ritter, Hank Jones. TV-movie about Ringos life as a rock star. He gets fed up with the hassle and changes places with a lookalike. Cameos by George Harrison, Mike Douglas, Dr. John, Keith Allison. Worth seeing as a curiosity only.
Jubilee (1978) Jenny Runacre, Little Nell, Hermine Demoriane, Ian Charleton, Toyah Wilcox, Neil Kennedy, Adam Ant. British fantasy film about Queen Elizabeth I joining a punk-rock band. Punkers will like it for the various British bands featured but they would be the only ones.
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band (1978) Peter Frampton, The Bee Gees, George Burns, Frankie Howard, Donald Pleasence, Sandy Farina, Dianne Steinberg, Billy Preston, Steve Martin, Earth, Wind & Fire, Aerosmith, Alice Cooper, Robin Gibb. Hard to believe a movie with this title could be sooo bad. Don't waste your time.
* Elvis (1979) Kurt Russell, Shelly Winters, Pat Hingle, Season Hubley, Bing Russell, Ed Begley Jr., Robert Gray, Joe Mantegna. Excellent TV-movie telling the Elvis story from youth to his comeback as live performer (although Colonel Tom Parker and Elvis' drug problems are conspicuously absent). Russell is outstanding as Elvis, as is country singer Ronnie McDowell who dubbed the singing. Many musicians who played with Elvis in real life like Charlie McCoy and the Jordanaires also appear. Will Jordan again does his Ed Sullivan thing.
* The Kids are Alright (1979) Energetic documentary of the Who's career with several great songs, old film clips and interviews with the band. Many highlights including A Quick One While He's Away from the Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus. Ringo Starr, Steve Martin and Tom Smothers have cameos.
* Birth of the Beatles (1979) Stephen MacKenna, Rod Culbertson, John Altman, Ray Ashcroft, Ryan Mitchell, David Wilkinson, Brian Johnson, Nigel Havers. TV-movie about the Fab Four early days in Hamburg as well as original drummer Pete Best and manager Brian Epstein. Not bad considering they were casting for look-alikes rather than acting ability and musical talent. Spotty editing as they try to cover a lot of ground in only 90 minutes so some scenes were glossed over and other events not mentioned at all. Lots of historical inaccuracies as well as poor lighting. Still, it has its moments, especially the second half. The group Rain performs the hit songs. [Pete Best was the story consultant so it was told from partly his viewpoint.]
More American Graffiti (1979) Ron Howard, Paul Le Mat, Charles Martin Smith, Cindy Williams, Candy Clark, Bo Hopkins, Mackenzie Phillips, Anna Bjorn, Richard Bradford, John Brent, Country Joe McDonald. Also appearing Ken Place, Mary Kay Place, Tom Ruben, Doug Sahm, Country Joe & the Fish, Manuel Padilla Jr., Wolfman Jack, Rosanna Arquette. Sequel to American Graffiti that takes place during the hippie/Viet Nam era.
Baby Snakes (1979) Frank Zappa, Ron Delsener, Johnny Psychotic, Donna U. Wanna, Diva. Filmed at the Felt Forum Halloween shows in New York 1977 with Bruce Bedford's clay animation added. Better seen in its original 3-hour version, rather than the 90-minute version Zappa re-edited in 1984.
Rock 'n' Roll High School (1979) P.J. Soles, Vincent Van Patten, Clint Howard, Dey Young, Paul Bartel, Mary Woronov, the Ramones. Students rebel against strict principal and go to a Ramones concert. Not too bad if you don't take it seriously. The excellent soundtrack is what makes film worth checking out. Followed by less appealing sequel in 1991.
Quadrophenia (1979) Phil Daniels, Mark Wingett, Phillip Davis, Leslie Ash, Garry Cooper, Sting. Solid drama of British teenage gangs inspired by the Who's record album of the same title. Sting's acting debut is very good. Taglines: Hell On Wheels! and The Year Was 1964, and The Battle Was Just Beginning!
Cocaine Cowboys (1979) Jack Palance, Tom Sullivan, Andy Warhol. A rock band on the verge of stardom gets mixed up with drugs and the mob.
Blue Suede Shoes (1979) Eddie Cochran, Bill Haley, Cliff Richard, Tommy Steele, Gene Vincent, Crazy Cavan and the Flying Saucers. Documentary of 50s dress and dance is interspersed with clips from the performers.
Hair (1979) John Savage, Treat Williams, Beverly D'Angelo, Annie Golden, Dorsey Wright. Story of straight arrow falling in with New York hippies has its musical moments but is definitely dated. Based on the Broadway hit.
The Rose (1979) Bette Midler, Alan Bates, Frederic Forrest, Harry Dean Stanton, Barry Primus, David Keith. Midler gives inspired performance of a rock star's problems dealing with fame and touring. The character was loosely based on Janis Joplin but the story doesn't seem to have direction and lackluster music doesn't help either. Still worth a look though.
Americathon (1979) Harvey Korman, John Ritter, Nancy Morgan, Peter Riegert, Fred Willard, Zane Busby, Richard Schaal, Elvis Costello, Chief Dan George, Tommy Lasorda, Jay Leno, Peter Marshall, Meat Loaf, Howard Hesseman. Performances by Elvis Costello and Eddie Money. Talented lineup is wasted with a poor script that is supposed to be funny. Premise is good about a telethon to raise money for the country but the jokes just aren't there. George Carlin narrates.
Other Concert Movies
It's Your Thing (1970) The Isley Brothers, Brooklyn Bridge, the Five Stairsteps, the Edwin Hawkins Singers, Moms Mabley, Ike and Tina Turner, the Clara Ward Singers, Judy White, the Winstons, the Young Gents, Patti Austin. Filmed at Yankee Stadium in New York City. The only people who have this movie are 1.) The Isley Brothers themselves 2.) The American Film Institute 3.) The UCLA Film Archive
Reggae (1970) Footage from the Caribbean Music Festival I 1970.
Pink Floyd at Pompeii (1971) Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Nick Mason, Richard Wright. Filmed at the Roman Amphitheater. Also included is studio footage from the Dark side of the Moon sessions and interviews with the band. A must for fans and rockers alike. Also known as Pink Floyd.
Soul to Soul (1971) Roberta Flack, Eddie Harris, Les McCann, Wilson Pickett, Santana, the Staple Singers, Ike and Tina Turner. Filmed at the Ghana music festival.
Pictures at an Exhibition (1972) Emerson, Lake and Palmer.
Bird on a Wire (1972) Leonard Cohen in concert and on the streets of Europe.
Born to Boogie (1972) Marc Bolan, Elton John, Ringo Starr, Chelita Secunda. Documentary about T-Rex includes concert footage and staged sequences directed by Starr.
Yessongs (1973) Steve Howe, Jon Anderson, Alan White, Chris Squire, Rick Wakeman. Yes filmed at the Rainbow in London from their 1973 Close to the Edge tour. [White replaced Bill Bruford on drums during the tour.]
Save the Children (1973) Cannonball Adderly, Jerry Butler, Sammy Davis Jr., Roberta Flack, Marvin Gaye, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Curtis Mayfield, the Ramsey Lewis Trio, the O'Jays, the Temptations, Nancy Wilson, Bill Withers. Benefit for Jesse Jackson's PUSH (People United to Save Humanity).
Sing Sing Thanksgiving (1974) Joan Baez, Mimi Farina, B.B. King, Joe Williams, Jimmie Walker. Thanksgiving Day concert at the New York state prison.
The Song Remains the Same (1976) Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Bonham, John Paul Jones, Peter Grant, Derek Skilton, Colin Rigdon, Richard Cole, Roy Harper. Documentary of Led Zeppelin's 1973 Madison Square Garden concert interspersed with each of the band member's personal fantasies.
The Grateful Dead (1977) Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Keith Godchaux, Donna Godchaux. They perform live at Winterland in San Francisco in October 1974 and are also interviewed before and after the show. Best captures the Dead experience as well as any other concert film. Also for Dead fans on video: Ticket to New Year's Eve Concert (1987), Downhill From Here (1989), From Anthem to Beauty (1997).
Abba -- The Movie (1977) Anni-Frid Lyngstad, Benny Andersson, Bjorn Ulvaeus, Agnetha Faltskog, Robert Hughes, Tom Oliver, Bruce Barry, Stikkan Andersson. Film of their 1977 Australia tour also containing back-stage footage and a sub-plot of a young disc-jockey trying to get an interview with the band. For Abba fans only.
Roots Rock Reggae (1977) Documentary of the origins of Jamaican music featuring Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Toots and the Maytals, the Mighty Diamonds.
Bob Marley and the Wailers Live! (1978) Bob Marley at the height of his fame singing all his hits.
Rust Never Sleeps (1979) Neil Young in concert during his My My Hey Hey and Star Wars phase. Pretty good stuff. Once again, the ubiquitous Bernard Shakey (aka Neil Young) directs.
Rock Show (1979) Decent film of Paul McCartney and Wings 1976 Seattle concert. Not bad but pretty much what you'd expect from the ex-Beatle. Also known as: Wings Over the World (1979).