The Year of Rock – Part 1

At the recommendation of my dad and another friend, I am planning to rectify the gap in my musical movie/documentary viewing history. I will be watching at least a dozen movies or documentaries about rock music this year. I will be blogging about these as I go. The plan is to watch one per month, but that won’t always happen.

The Doors

This is an Oliver Stone movie made in 1991 and starring Val Kilmer as The Doors’ frontman Jim Morrison. I was never much a fan of The Doors. Their hits are great, but all in all their catalog doesn’t do a lot for me. While this movie is called The Doors, it really appears to be much more about Jim Morrison than the band itself. The history of the band is just touched on a bit, and the movie skips ahead to many key Morrison moments.

There were some nuggets I learned, including the reason The Doors were not invited to to play Woodstock: Morrison’s penchant for committing indecent exposure violations. One would presume that anyone that dies at age 27 of a drug overdose would be a little messed up all the time, I was a bit surprised by how it never seemed to end with Morrison, until his untimely death.

The film on it’s own is OK. Kevin Dillon (a.k.a. Johnny Drama) plays the drummer. Kyle MacLachlan of Melrose Place, Showgirls and Desperate Housewives plays the keyboardist. Meg Ryan plays Morrison’s girlfriend. Kathleen Quinlan plays his other girlfriend. Michael Madsen and Billy Idol play his friends. I definitely learned something, but overall the movie wasn’t all that great. I am sure my indifference towards The Doors themselves contributes to this.

The Kids Are Alright

A documentary from 1979 about my favorite “classic” rock band of all-time, The Who. The documentary is mostly comprised of concert/television performances, almost all entire songs. There are also other TV appearances with interviews. The documentary doesn’t serve as any sort of history of the band. The interviews mostly involve guitarist Pete Townsend and drummer Keith Moon, with very little words from Roger Daltrey or John Entwistle.

The quality of the footage is very good, as is the audio, most of which from what I understand, is the original audio. Although the documentary was completed shortly after Keith Moon’s death, this incident is not discussed at all. Some of the clips of Moon and Ringo Starr doing an interview together are possibly the highlight of the film.

Although I was aware Moon was a immature/silly/crazy, I didn’t realize how much Townsend was as well. He cracks jokes throughout most of the clips and has some very solid moments of dead pan humor. Moon, who I later read had put on weight before his death, looked much older than the other three members despite the fact that he was indeed the youngest.

This was a very good documentary. The footage covers the peak career of the band and it’s entertaining and well made. It would have been nice to have dates or descriptions along with some of the clips, but it didn’t take away much from how good it is. It seems like a perfect 90 minutes for someone who doesn’t know the music/personality of The Who, but are interested to see it. This is the clubhouse leader for my favorite of the year, and will be tough to top.

The Song Remains the Same

Shot in 1973, this film consists mostly of concert footage for a few Led Zeppelin concerts. Interspersed within are several “fantasy” sequences, which are weird and strange and remind me of the film Easy Rider. They seem to represent some weird sort of out of body experiences that no doubt are meant to be experienced along with some sort of “herbal” enhancement.

The film does a nice job of showing Led Zeppelin playing in their glory days. Unlike The Who, Zeppelin formed in the late 1960s and thus were at the peak of their popularity in 1973. They strung together four amazing albums in their first few years, and this film contains most of the hits. Jimmy Page is one of the most iconic guitarists of all-time, and The Song Remains the Same includes several of his signature items, including the double neck guitar and playing the guitar with a bow at one point.

Robert Plant has some of the most distinctive sounds in the history of rock, and he belts out some amazing shots in this one. And of course nothing Led Zeppelin would be complete without a ridiculous drum solo by John Bonham. Included in Bonham’s dedicated sequence, were shots of his son Jason drumming as small child. Jason would go on to replace his father on Led Zeppelin tours after his father’s death.

The video and audio quality of this concert is excellent. And although another DVD exists, this one is basically of one concert, which always creates a different feel like spread out content fit together like the previously discussed The Kids Are Alright. It’s likely that all Led Zeppelin fans have seen this already, but for those who haven’t, or for those fans of rock and roll who missed this one, it’s definitely worth checking out.