A SUMMER RE-RUN “CLASSIC”

Now that we’ve entering the so-called “dog days” of summer, this would be an ideal time to dip into the ol’ Accessibly Live Off-Line archive to revive an article that you may have missed.

We are bringing this article back using the traditional “summer re-run” ploy that the TV networks used during the months of July and August when folks were more likely to venture in the great outdoors instead of staying in watching TV.

So with this being said, we looked for an article to bring back that was amusing, if not timely, to revive. So we present an article originally published in ALOL-Vol. 11-No. 32-Week of August 7th, 2006. -Enjoy…

ARE WE HAVING FUN YET..?

August means lots of things to lots of people. It’s the start of the summer “dog days’” where things tend to drag on because of the heat and humidity. August means the start of state or county fairs where one can see everything from livestock (smell included) to entertainment that ranges from locals to one-time big name stars that aren’t so big names anymore! (Of course, there are state/county fair food staples from cotton candy to corn dogs. Not part of a healthy diet, but what the hey–it’s summertime!) August means summer vacations, where folks will take off somewhere for a week, a weekend, or perhaps just for the day to “get away from it all”! August means it’s the “beginning of the end” of summertime, where school will get back in session soon. And for the rest of those same folks, August means it’s just another month on the calendar!

But with the usual antics that summer has to offer (from big-deal summertime blockbuster movies to the aforementioned heat and humidity), the question of the moment is–are you having your fun yet? Yes, summer is the time to have that fun in the sun, but is it really fun? It’s stated above that summertime is the moment where many of us (or some of us) have loads of good times. For many folks, summertime is that–summertime. It’s a lot warmer in the summer than the fall, winter, and spring. But what’s so special about summertime?

According to a very unscientific research project consisting of yours truly asking people about their favorite time of year, summer ranks number one. In spite of the 100+ degree weather that took place last month, people like warmer weather days than cooler ones. So even in southern California where winters are not that cold compared to, let’s say, Minneapolis, summertime is the time to be and to live!

But what about the fun part? Yes, one can assume that people are having fun, but they are also going through their own personal stress. Such stress has nothing to do with the season. It just occurs regardless of time ‘o year it is! This article won’t get into the kinds of stress that’s common in current domestic surroundings (that’s a whole other article as it stands), but the notation that one is suppose to have fun is just a vague suggestion.

Also to keep in mind, what can be fun to one person can be misery to another! Digging a ditch can be fun! So can whipping up a chocolate cake! To the rest, who wants to dig a ditch or even turn on a stove? That’s not fun, that’s work! And work ain’t fun!\, so one can be told!

So call it what you will. If you, the reader, are having a great time this summer, that’s wonderful. if not…well, that’s the way it goes! But nevertheless, before one knows it, summer will be dead and gone (until next year anyway), and to state that one should have had fun is another whole story as it is! The whole notion is to have a time that one can appreciate, even if it’s not “fun”. After all, where’s all the fun in that?

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Popular music and movies have been working together since soundtracks were added to films. From its early days, it started with Ragtime Jazz. Then came Swing music, to be filled in by the Big Bands, eventually moving toward the vocalists that populated the hit parade. In the 1950’s, another form of popular music was making its way to the public. This was a type of music that the “youngsters” got into while the adults despised it. It was something called “Rock and Roll”. It was big, loud, and sizzled with crazy lyrics set to a fast beat.

Hollywood as Hollywood is, knew that this was something to take advantage of. In order to introduce this type of music catering to the teenagers, MGM was releasing their feature The Blackboard Jungle in 1955 that dealt with a school teacher assigned to an inner city high school. For its opening musical number, Bill Haley and the Comet’s Rock Around The Clock played during its opening credits. The movie was a hit, and so was the music! Rock ‘n Roll was to stay in the movies from that point!

ROCK ON FILM: The Movies That Rocked the Big Screen (Running Press) written by Fred Goodman, a former editor of Rolling Stone magazine, focuses upon the movies that used Rock and Roll and all of its variations to express its sound and image in movies, both as fiction, non-fiction, and all points in between.

It pinpoints upon the movies that used rock as its premise, first as “jukebox musicals” that were thin on plot but big on rock and the stars that made it happen. (Sam Katzman produced a lot of this “B”-type movies for Columbia Pictures.) The artists, from Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, Richie Valens, as well as the various “negro” doo-wop vocal groups performed their tunes as musicians but did very little acting. It wasn’t until 20th Century Fox released a western first entitled The Reno Brothers, later changing its name to Love Me Tender to accommodate for a young man that sang, played the guitar, and shook his hips a lot. Elvis Presley became rock’s first film star. And Hollywood had a great thing going!

In this book, Goodman presents essays of how this type of music came to movies from its lowly “B” status to films that captured the sound, sights, and the fury this musical genre presented to the world. There are studies of the documentaries of artists on stage playing their music for real, rather than “mouthing” their songs as first seen in the Sam Katzman vehicles. The known documentaries created in the 1960’s onward showcased the artists performing live on stage, from The T.A.M.I Show filmed from as live concert held in Santa Monica, California and its “cousin” The Big TNT Show, to Don’t Look Back where Bob Dylan, a folk singer by trade and played as a major influence to rockers then and those yet to come, is seen as a scrappy man that is as raw as his music. And there are what many call the “big three” of 1960‘s-era concerts: Monterey Pop, Woodstock, and Gimmie Shelter. The first two titles were celebrations, while the latter was a “beginning of an end”!

There are many other films that are examined in this book where rock, and its later variousness, are used as its focus. There are the bio films, such as La Bamba featuring Lou Diamond Phillips as Richie Valance and The Buddy Holly Story Story with Garry Busey as the title character. There are also movies where music on its soundtrack made film to what they became. (George Lucas’ American Graffiti introduced “oldies” to an audience that grew up with the music and to those discovering it for the first time!) And there are even titles where rock was even laughed at! Rob Reiner’s This is Spinal Tap is a “mockumentary” of a heavy metal headbanger band that never existed! (When the film became a hit, the band reemerged as for real through actual recordings and concerts.)

This book covers just nearly all musical genres that traditional rock and roll served as its launching pad; Blues, Folk, Rhythm & Blues, Soul, Punk, New Wave, Alternative Grunge, even Rap and Hip-Hop, a musical genre that ended the British Invasion genre in the 1990’s. (Hip-hop is just as popular in the U.K. as it is in the USA!) The only musical genre extracted from rock that is missing in this book is Country and its various formats. (Country & Western, Electric Country, Country Rock, etc.) Perhaps the reason for this omission is that very few feature length documentaries were ever created that showcase county artists in form (Elvis doesn’t count here), and only a handful of bio films of country stars were ever attempted. (Your Cheating Heart with George Hamilton as Hank Williams is “OK’ for what it is, while Coal Miner’s Daughter featuring Sissy Spacek as Loretta Lynn is a feature that is not to be missed!)

Along with the various write ups on the films it speaks for, there are notes and essays from such filmmaker such as Cameron Crow, Jim, Marmusch, Penelope Spheeris, Taylor Hackford, and John Waters that state upon their creative aspects to this musical culture and why it all matters. Michael Linsdsay-Hogg who worked with The Beatles provides the forward that sets the scene to rock, etc. as captured on film stock and its equivalents.

Turner Classic Movies (TCM) is behind this book title. That video source is an ideal place to possibly see many of these movies detailed in this book. Other titles are available for streaming or on home video. And there are some titles mentioned that are not available in any media–yet! Perhaps this book will be that wake-up call those those rights holders out there to offer their visual gems to their public again as they deserve to be seen for prosperity. To quote a moving image preservationist whose name has since been forgotten by this reviewer, “Preservation without access isn’t preservation!”

ROCK ON FILM: The Movies That Rocked the Big Screen is available at all leading book retailers, both as in-person and online.

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