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I'm the co-host of THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO with Dana & Carl (Sunday nights, 9 to Midnight Eastern, www.westcottradio.org).  As a freelance writer, I contributed to Goldmine magazine from 1986-2006, wrote liner notes for Rhino Records' compilation CD Poptopia!  Power Pop Classics Of The '90s, and for releases by The Flashcubes, The Finkers, Screen Test, 1.4.5., and Jack "Penetrator" Lipton.  I contributed to the books Bubblegum Music Is The Naked Truth, Shake Some Action, Lost In The Grooves, and MusicHound Rock, and to DISCoveries, Amazing Heroes, The Comics Buyer's Guide, Yeah Yeah Yeah, Comics Collector, The Buffalo News, and The Syracuse New Times.  I also wrote the liner notes for the four THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO compilation CDs, because, well, who could stop me?  My standing offer to write liner notes for a Bay City Rollers compilation has remained criminally ignored.  Still intend to write and sell a Batman story someday.

Friday, August 12, 2016

From 1999: An Outdated (But FUN!) Rock 'n' Roll DVD Wish LIst


The January 1, 1999 issue of Goldmine included my article "DVD Killed The Video Star: 25 Essential Rock 'n' Roll DVDs." But the piece was originally written as a two-parter, with the unpublished second part discussing DVDs that should be released. Many of these have, indeed, been released since then--I'm currently enjoying the Blu-ray boxed set of The Monkees TV series--but I still like to preserve my unpublished work, so...pretend it's still 1999, and we're still waiting on digital releases of The Monkees and The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Let It Be...well, we are still waiting on that one, aren't we?


1. AMERICAN HOT WAX.  Okay, so the real Alan Freed was likely not anywhere near as innocent a figure as the sanitized, cinematic Freed portrayed in this 1976 biopic.  So it's just about impossible to sufficiently suspend your disbelief and buy the notion of Chuck Berry willingly playing a show for free.  So no one should have to expect any credibility from a rock movie that co-stars Jay Leno and Fran Drescher (the latter's appearance in This Is Spinal Tap notwithstanding).  So what?  This film nonetheless conveys the power of early rock 'n' roll convincingly and effectively, and renders all of the above objections irrelevant. 

2. THE BEACH BOYS:  ENDLESS HARMONY.  This 1998 retrospective provides the best-ever summation of the Beach Boys story, far better than 1985's leaden The Beach Boys:  An American Band.  It makes note of some of the demons that haunted (and some say destroyed) the band, but the music rightfully takes center stage, shown here in a terrific series of rare clips.


4. BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS.  No less an authority than singer/songwriter/pop guy/Hollywood Rock editor Marshall Crenshaw called this 1970 sexploitation flick "perhaps the greatest movie ever made."  Riiiiiiiiiiiiiight.  It's flat-out terrible, but in a fascinating, car-crash kind of way.  Roger Ebert's nonsensical script offers up lots of sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll and violence, the fictional all-girl band The Carrie Nations offer up lots of pulchritude and pseudo rock music (including "Look Up (At The Bottom)," a tune much later covered by Redd Kross) and the whole thing ends up as a giddy, stoopid time capsule of the end of the '60s.  Of course, you should see it!

5.  CHUCK BERRY:  HAIL!  HAIL!  ROCK 'N' ROLL.  Loaded with guest stars, but the key guests in this 1987 concert film are musical director Keith Richards and Berry's former piano player Johnny Johnson, whose combined ass-kicking capability compel the mercurial Chuck Berry to give his most coherent and commanding performance in decades.

6. D.O.A.  The definitive documentary of '70s punk, with The Sex Pistols' ill-fated American tour as its centerpiece. 

7.  DON KIRSHNER'S ROCK CONCERT.  This show became a joke in the '70s, especially when Paul Shaffer's Saturday Night Live impression of Kirshner caught on.  But, at various points in its history, the show delivered the goods when it came to capturing live rock 'n' roll--The Ramones' appearance on Kirshner is one of the most exciting live rock 'n' roll performances I've ever seen on TV.  This cries out for a series of single-artist DVD issues, similar to what The King Biscuit Flower Hour has been doing in the past few years on CD.

8. THE GIRL CAN'T HELP IT.  The first great rock 'n' roll movie, still one of the greatest rock 'n' roll movies of all time, with a steady barrage of rock 'nĂ­'roll luminaries (Eddie Cochran!  Fats Domino!  Gene freakin' Vincent!  The Platters!  Julie London...?!), highlighted by simply incandescent turns by the right Reverend Richard Penneman.  Little Richard belting out the title tune during the film's opening is nothing short of rock 'n' roll history boppin' on before your very eyes (and tappin' feet).

9. GIRL GROUPS:  THE STORY OF A SOUND.  Fascinating retrospective of the girl group era, inspired by Alan Betrock's book of the same name.

10. THE GO-GO'S:  TOTALLY GO-GO'S!  This was originally a laserdisc-only release of a live Go-Go's show, and it shows the distaff pop-rockers putting on a frequently ragged but entertaining show.  Long overdue for a VHS release, it should certainly be preserved in the new format as well.

11. HAVING A WILD WEEKEND (aka CATCH US IF YOU CAN).  This 1965 starring vehicle for the relatively clean-cut Dave Clark Five might have been more appropriate for the anti-establishment Rolling Stones, as its surprisingly downbeat tale confounds preconceptions about what to expect of a '60s pop star flick.  (It certainly must have confused many who bought it on VHS, since the video packaging goes to great lengths to make this film look like a frothy predecessor of That Thing You Do!).

12. HULLABALOO/SHINDIG!/READY, STEADY, GO!/WHERE THE ACTION IS!  In a perfect world, all mid-'60s rock 'n' roll TV shows would be readily available in all home video formats.  MPI released a multi-volume series of Hullabaloo tapes on VHS, Rhino did a few fine Shindig! samplers (including an absolutely essential Kinks set), Dave Clark did (I think) three volumes of Ready, Steady, Go! samplers and Dick Clark's Where The Action Is! is only available on bootlegs.  But we need all of this (and more!) out on DVD.  Whether a sizzling live performance or a cheesy lip-synch, we wanna see Marvin Gaye, Paul Revere and the Raiders, Dusty Springfield, The Yardbirds, The Standells, and all the other worthies who graced the small screen during that golden era of rockin' pop.

13. THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT/WHO'S BETTER, WHO'S BEST.  The 1979 Who retrospective The Kids Are Alright is a textbook example of how to put together such a retrospective for fans of a specific group, with lotsa clips and interviews.  Who's Better, Who's Best is a straight-forward clip compilation.

14. THE KNACK:  LIVE AT CARNEGIE HALL.  Another laserdisc-only release, and I've gotta confess I've never actually seen this one.  But what the heck--Rhino released a cool Knack retrospective CD in 1998, followed up by a terrific comeback album (Zoom) that topped my best-of list for that year.  Doesn't seem like much of a stretch for Rhino to acquire this and put it out on DVD.

15. LET IT BE.  Let It Be is to The Beatles almost what the Zapruder film is to JFK:  a messy, disturbing document of the end.  On the other hand, Let It Be does allow us to see The Beatles at work, culminating in the famous (or infamous) roof-top concert.  An expanded DVD release of Let It Be would have room for some of the unused footage from the original film; a straight reissue (NO!!) would at least put the otherwise-unavailable "When You Get To Suzy Parker's Everybody Gets Well Done" and the expanded "Dig It" into legit release, since both tracks were inexplicably omitted from the Beatles Anthology 3 CD.

16. LOVING YOU.  It's a coin toss whether Elvis Presley's best movie was Jailhouse Rock or this 1957 effort.  Loving You retains some of the gritty edge of Elvis' character in the earlier film, but also makes him a bit more likable without emasculating him.  If only the later movies could have done the same!

17. THE MONKEES.  Oh Lordy, where to begin?  TV's first made-to-order rock group left behind a treasure-trove of video goodies, from the TV series itself to a 1996 live performance on the World-Wide Web.  A collection of Monkees rarities would be nice (including the group's appearances on The Johnny Cash Show and The Glen Campbell Good-Time Hour), but let's start with a release of all 58 episodes of the TV show, the 1969 special 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee, the live webcast and the 1997 TV special, too.  Hello, Rhino?  Rhino...?

18. MONTEREY POP.  We can only presume this landmark concert film will be coming to DVD soon.  If the better-known but less-interesting Woodstock is already out in this format, there's no rational excuse for Monterey Pop not to join it on retail shelves.  Come to think of it, in addition to a DVD issue of the original concert film, why not give us additional single-artist sets of The Who and The Jimi Hendrix Experience, similar to the above-mentioned Otis Redding DVD?


20. THE ROLLING STONES' ROCK AND ROLL CIRCUS.  This aborted 1968 TV special was reportedly shelved because Mick Jagger thought the Stones' performance was lackluster.  Actually, the Stones are fine, although the doomed Brian Jones is visibly addled.  But they're simply upstaged by their special guests The Who, who rip through an incendiary "A Quick One (While He's Away)." The show is best remembered for the only appearance of The Dirty Macs, a supergroup consisting of John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, and Mitch Mitchell.

21. THE RUTLES:  ALL YOU NEED IS CASH.  The second-best Beatles parody of all time.  (The all-time best is the book Paperback Writer by Mark Shipper.)

22. THE T.A.M.I. SHOW.  Oh man--this 1965 show may be the greatest multi-artist rock 'n' roll concert ever filmed, and it's never even been properly reissued on VHS.  Someone has to do this job right, restoring all the oft-deleted footage (especially The Beach Boys' set), leading up to a James Brown performance that will cause your TV to explode.  The Rolling Stones had to follow that...?!  But follow they do, and they rise to the challenge. 

23. THAT THING YOU DO!  Scoff if you will at the notion of a Hollywood picture about the rise and fall of a fictitious '60s rock band being anything more than formula claptrap.  This movie is wonderful, and it captures the true essence of pre-psychedelia American garage bands in the perfect manner that only a work of fiction can achieve.  The moment where the band members hear their song on the radio for the first time is the single most effective distillation of the giddy joy of the rock 'n' roll experience ever captured on film.  Ever.

24. WE'RE OUTTA HERE!/LIFESTYLES OF THE RAMONES.  The former is a documentary of The Ramones' final show, supplemented by rare clips from throughout their career; the latter is a collection of Ramones promo videos.

25. YELLOW SUBMARINE. The Beatles in a cartoon!  Maybe my daughter will wanna join me at the DVD player after all!

2016 POSTSCRIPT: My daughter couldn't possibly be less interested in any of this. Sigh. Well, I'm gonna go check out some Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich clips on YouTube.