Behold the “Summer Of Love” – when “flower power” met “free love” – and hordes of hippies boarded psychedelic buses that cross-crossed America looking for music festivals, so people could “drop out and turn on.”
It was a golden, innocent time when anything was possible – and then it turned ugly, and by the 90’s even alt rock bands couldn’t get along. How is that for forty years of music history?
Need to see more? Well, these “Rock Docs” will take care of the rest!
Festival Express! – 2003
Did you ever regret not living through the era of “flower power” – when bands like – well “The Band”, along with The Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin ruled music?
Well, you CAN go back in times thanks to this terrific documentary, using newly uncovered, unseen footage that documented the “trippiest” trip cross country ever!
In the summer of 1970, a chartered train crossed Canada carrying some of the world’s greatest rock bands. The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, The Band, Buddy Guy, and others lived (and partied) together for five days, stopping in major cities along the way to play live concerts.
Amazon.com has a great description of the DVD, which is a two-disc affair with lots of extra music and interviews! “The vintage concert footage alone makes Festival Express a memorable and worthwhile endeavor, offering scintillating performances by Janis Joplin, the Band (their rollicking version of “Slippin’ and Slidin'” is particularly mind-blowing), the Grateful Dead, Buddy Guy, and others.
In 1970, during the heyday of the rock festival, promoter Ken Walker decided to organize a traveling musical revue, bringing the mountain to Mohammed, as it were. In five days’ time, the festival played in three Canadian cities with the entire conglomeration traveling, playing, and getting smashed together the whole way. Nearly as rewarding as the live performances are the candid scenes of the train ride itself, an endless jam session and party during which musicians of all shapes and sizes let their hair down–musically and otherwise.
The contemporary interviews with Walker and some of the surviving musicians aren’t particularly noteworthy, except as a way to prove that it all actually happened. Walker comes off as a hero in the film: he treated the musicians like royalty and insisted that the train roll on even though he was losing his shirt. (His financial failure is a large reason why this material stayed in the vaults for so long.)
Perhaps the most remarkable scene is an off-the-cuff, LSD-fueled train jam featuring Joplin, the Band’s Rick Danko, and the Dead’s Jerry Garcia playing the old chestnut “Ain’t No More Cane.” Danko is so obliterated that even Janis has to ask him if he’s OK–when Janis is worried about your state of mind, you must be pretty messed up.”
There is even a scene where the train stops to clean a small town out of all of their booze!
Some great trivia, courtesy of IMDB:
Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter wrote the song “Might As Well” about the Festival Express train trip. This song, performed over the years by The Grateful Dead, has lots of lyrics referencing this trip: “Long train running from coast to coast/bringing long the party where they need it the most” and “Never had such a good time/in my life before/I’d like to have it one time more/One good ride from start to end/I’d like to take that ride again.”
There were two bands, Traffic and Ten Years After, that were on the Festival Express tour but are not seen in the movie. The producers of the film could not get the musical rights.
In the “C.C. Rider” jam scene, Jerry Garcia can be seen playing the famous rosewood Fender Telecaster played by George Harrison in the last public performance of The Beatles, on the roof of Apple Headquarters. It was loaned to Garcia by Delaney Bramlett; the two can be seen on-stage together during the jam. Harrison had given it to Bramlett after they toured together briefly.
A terrific look at a bygone era of music and innocence!
DIG! – 2004
What a fantastic musical chronicle…when The Dandy Warhols and The Brian Jonestown Massacre were the best of friends – until musical success for one caused a rift.
Meet the Dandy Warhols, shown above. And now meet The Brian Jonestown Massacre, below.
“DIG!” tracks the tumultuous rise of two talented musicians, Anton Newcombe, leader of the Brian Jonestown Massacre; and Courtney Taylor, leader of the Dandy Warhols; dissecting their star-crossed friendship and bitter rivalry.
Both are hell-bent on staging a self-proclaimed revolution of the music industry. Through their loves and obsessions, gigs and recordings, arrests and death threats, uppers and downers–and ultimately to their chance at a piece of the profit-driven music business–how each handles his stab at success is where the relationship frays and burns.
For BJM, leader Anton Newcombe was very mercurial: “You fucking broke my sitar, motherfucker!”
Anton Newcombe: “The artist is going to create a sound for his concise purpose, using a modular synthesizing apparatus… from radio shack. ”
Peter Holmstrom: There’s no way to have a revolution if you stay underground. The fuck’s the point of that? The whole point was for him to get above ground as well, and then he could have a revolution.
[cut to Anton]
Anton Newcombe: There has been a revolution. Do you hear the White Stripes on the fucking radio? There’s a big difference. Because when I started it was Pearl Jam. Obviously, the revolution happened. How many people are imitating Pearl Jam right now? Not that many. How many imitators do I have? I played a part in opening that up. Why don’t they tell people who influenced them. They don’t because they’re self-serving fucking bastards.
Anton Newcombe: I’ll just say what I got to say. I’m here to destroy this fucked up system. I will do it. That’s why I got the job. I said let it be me; I said use my hands. I will use our strength. Let’s fuckin’ burn it to the ground!
As The Dandy Warhols achieve success, the friendship between the bands turned to a heated rivalry – all captured beautifully in this documentary.
How true was it? Who really knows – In 2009, Taylor-Taylor and Warhols drummer Brent “Fathead” DeBoer revealed their true feelings on the film.
“It’s a good thing to have gone away because it was a very dishonest experience,” Taylor-Taylor says. “It’s not a very true movie. There’s a lot of acting and a lot of ‘Well, we don’t have a story. Let’s make one up.'” One of the band’s biggest gripes is with the timeline of the movie — the Warhols were recorded for eight years while BJM was filmed for 10 months, yet they claim everything was depicted as happening concurrently. “It’s a fantastically compelling movie because it’s all about awfulness and on a Jerry Springer level, it really works,” Taylor-Taylor says. “I was very uncomfortable during that time because I had to play along and I didn’t know what to say in interviews. You can’t say ‘Look, it’s not true’ because it was this big documentary, ‘the best rock and roll documentary ever.'” Taylor-Taylor isn’t exaggerating the film’s hype and acclaim — it won the Documentary Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance festival in 2004.
A great documentary, especially in light of the comments above…
A ROLLING STONES DOUBLE BILL!
Gimme Shelter / Cocksucker Blues – 1970 / 1972
Two Rolling Stones documentaries – one is the most acclaimed rock doc ever, the other notorious and notoriously lost to history – almost but not quite!
First, the authorized documentary, directed by the legendary Maysles Brothers. “Gimme Shelter”: In December of 1969, four months after Woodstock, the Rolling Stones and Jefferson Airplane gave a free concert in Northern California, east of Oakland at Altamont Speedway. About 300,000 people came, and the organizers put Hell’s Angels in charge of security around the stage.
Armed with pool cues and knifes, Angels spent the concert beating up spectators, killing at least one. The film intercuts performances, violence, Grace Slick and Mick Jagger’s attempts to cool things down, close-ups of young listeners (dancing, drugged, or suffering Angel shock), and a look at the Stones later as they watch concert footage and reflect on what happened.
Yes, this is when the “Summer Of Love” officially ended – and the ugly reality of the 70’s set in…
According to filmmaker Albert Maysles, George Lucas was one of the cameramen for this shoot. Unfortunately his camera jammed after shooting about 100 feet of film that night. All of his footage was deemed unacceptable and wasn’t used in any version of the final product.
After viewing footage of the stabbing of Meredith Hunter police identified Alan Passaro, a local Hell’s Angel, as the man who did the stabbing, arrested him and charged him with murder. At his trial, however, closer examination of the footage showed that Hunter had pulled a gun before Passaro pulled his knife. Passaro was acquitted on grounds of self-defense.
This is a terrific, unsettling look at a polarizing time in music, and in our history…
Now, the “unofficial” Rolling Stones documentary: “Cocksucker Blues”
“Cocksucker Blues” is the legendary, unreleased documentary film directed by the noted still photographer Robert Frank chronicling The Rolling Stones’ North American tour in 1972 in support of their album “Exile on Main St.” It is notorious for many reason, which we will get into here…
After the documentary was finished, The Rolling Stones refused to release the final product, and you can see why: there are many shots of the band in the midst of things that – well, show what it like to be on the road with the greatest rock-n-roll band in the world at the time: when the road was filled with sex, drugs, rock-n-roll – and more sex and drugs.
“Cocksucker Blues” is also the commonly recognized name of a Rolling Stones song (officially called “Schoolboy Blues”), recorded in 1970, that Mick Jagger wrote to be the Stones’ final single for Decca Records.
The Rolling Stones were upset by the film’s portrayal of them and sued to prevent its release. The film is under a court order that only allows it to be shown once a year with director Robert Frank present in person.
There are places online that will sell copies – I cannot attest to whether this is a legal practice or not, but when you see the candid, authentic scenes backstage, you can understand why it isn’t on Netflix – most legendary is a scene when Keith Richards is dozing off backstage – and you don’t need to be a great Detective to understand WHY he’s “nodding off” –
Also shown are scenes of the rest of the entourage enjoying the fruits of the band’s success – this is rock at its rawest…
If you chance upon it, it’s worth a look – not a great movie, but a fascinating one…
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