Wednesday, December 30, 2015

VIDEOWAVE MONITOR: Video Reviews [from 1983]

Text by Alan Abramowitz / © FFanzeen fanzine, 1983
Introduction © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 2015
Images from the Internet

This review was originally printed in FFanzeen, issue #13, dated 1983. It was written by Alan Abramowitz, who produced the cable access show Videowave. You can see many clips of the show from over the years on YouTube. Occasionally it is still taping. They had so many amazing guests over the years that it is hard to pick just a few. The show’s slogan was “Before you heard about it, it was on Videowave.” And for good reason.

Note that Alan was given free reign over what he wanted to write about, and our tastes overlap, but are definitely different.  The videos are included where available, usually from YouTube. We own no rights to the music or video, and we do not advertise on our site, so this is merely promotional, for you into legalese.  – RBF, 2015

I dare you to watch MTV, Friday Night Videos, Hot Tracks, Top-40 Videos, etc. What started out as a good idea is like most successes – it’s getting abused or Velvet Jones-ed to death [reference to an Eddie Murphy character on Saturday Night Live that was overplayed; now they would say he “jumped the shark.” – RBF, 2015]. I really can’t believe they’re still pushing “Billy Jean” [Michael Jackson – RBF, 2015] on Hot Tracks. Find some other “black” videos for goodness sake. Put on Tyrone Brunson or some other ignored video.

Leave it to “Big Business” to screw up. The land of music videos. They’re spitting out mediocre-to-miserable videos faster than Ford could assemble a Model-T. The Almighty Dollar (the real symbol of America) is being looked up to in reverence (God, liberty, ideals, fun, cheese in dog food) while the quality of good music videos are deteriorating rapidly. These crummy videos are pervading video shows. They show evidence of being made merely to attract the eye; commercial style with bad sit-com plots.

Meanwhile, the British videos, which have captured the eyes of youthful music TV pioneers, are being ignored. There, more quality is paid to how it’s done, obviously, in a time span lengthier than American videos. But in the rush to sell albums, American record companies have been turning out MOR, heavy metal, and new wave disco videos at an alarming pace, without regard to plot, viewer intellect, song/video compatibility, originality, etc. But does America make good videos? Sometimes. Underground band sand video artists are making videos that are fun to watch, even after the 15th viewing. The following are a sampling of American, British, and independent music videos.

Billy & the ButtonsWhole Fam Damly (independent)
Here are two videos in a row done in an amateur way with amateur, but courageous techniques (video directors in NY & LA take note!). “WFD” is a tale of a girl bringing home a boy to meet her family. Good editing tells the story well. A plain song/video tactic that’s so rare, that this is refreshing. Good punchline, too.

Billy & the ButtonsWant Want (independent)
This shows us to what lengths a guy will go to get his girl back. This looney-gooney video betrays its roots. Pop images with backyard humor: dogs with police hats, the suitor in a Pythonesque priest costume, and the cat-impersonation (love it!) make this a garage band’s garage video. It’s irreverence for the final product makes this funny without Hollywood pretense.

Jim Carroll BandSweet Jane (Danspak Co-Directions)
Travel the Game of Life with the Jim Carroll Band. Obviously, Jim Carroll, being an anti-video rock’n’roller, only settles for the very best when making a music video. Like “Imitations,” by Strange Party (see below), this one is by Merrill Aldighieri and Joe Tripician [they were also interviewed on Videwave – RBF 2015]. And like that one, it is unjustly under-publicized. Quick-paced editing (always a plus) with pixilation move the video at a breathtaking pace. Performance shots were done at CBGB’s. Lou Reed also does a special cameo appearance. [This is a Lou Reed cover, for those few who don’t know; also noteworthy is Lenny Kaye, front and off-center, whose own underrated band, The Lenny Kaye Connection, backed Carroll – RBF, 2015].

Chesterfield Kings99th Floor (Living Eye Productions)
Well done independent video. I love the psychedelic graphics, the go-go girl, the film animation (along with cut-outs of band members!), all cut between a lip-synch performance. The black & white images evoke clips from Shindig or Hullaballoo. Imagine if they were signed to a major label! [This is a cover by the garage band The Moving Sidewalks – RBF, 2015]

Chesterfield KingsShe Told Me Lies (Living Eye Productions)
If they showed this on MTV, they would be besieged by calls. A lot of work went into this. This video is made up entirely of sequential pixilations of photographs – some colored, some not. It’s heavily influenced by the Beatles movies directed by Richard Lester. See it if you can!

Dead Or AliveThat’s the Way (I Like It) (Epic)
Yes, it’s the KC & the Sunshine Band song, done in an entirely new interpretation. Filmed in the locker room of London’s Arsenal Football (Soccer) Club, it features the British Body Building Association’s female weightlifting champs in this performance of sex reversal and androgyny. The sensual, long-haired singer [transgender Pete Burns – RBF, 2015] starts out by losing an arm wrestle with a demure young lad. Extolling the beauty of female bodybuilders alongside the unisex a la Boy George, it shows sexuality isn’t restricted to Victorian sex role models. Dead Or Alive evokes a macho version of the male/female depolarization that Culture Club first brought to America last year.

Heaven 17Temptation (Arista)
This one should be nominated for best performance by a group in a video. Ditto for improvisation. While 3 Ministers (Heaven 17) warn us of the evils of temptation, a na├»ve girl (played by Karol Kenyon) is lured into a new decadent identity by a sleazy character (Glen Gregory of the band). Angled shots, theatrical sets, and lighting symbolically represent the struggle in all of us between good and evil deeds. Kenyon’s beautiful soul vocals make this a video, again, under-publicized.
[Many life versions available, but the only music video as Alan describes is shown backwards – RBF, 2015]

LederknockenAmok (Island)
This really should not be categorized as a music video. It’s an avant-garde film posing as a music video. However, it’s distributed as one, therefore I’ll review it. This vide0/film is a montage with etched-in optical effects. If I knew German I could tell you what the words mean. From West Germany, it deals with chaos (punk chaos). A general rebellion against standardized forms. It ridicules society’s values and contradictions, which explain the porn images. And the girl barking to “Shake Your Booty.”

Psychedelic FursThe Ghost in You (Columbia)
Once again the video has nothing to do with the song. Lead singer (Richard) Butler poses in front of a mirror and performs with his band while some animation resembling Mirage video animation is superimposed over the band. Great care has gone into this performance. Muted colors are used in the colored ball (Mirage imitations). What it has to do with the song, I’ll never know, even though I like the song.

Bruce SpringsteenDancing in the Dark (Sire)
It’s a freak! [That’s a reference to an SCTV sketch – RBF, 2015] Here’s a performance video by someone they were calling Uncle Brucie a couple of years ago. True, he’s an apostle of rock’n’roll, but I never cared for the likes of songwriters who can’t sing (e.g., Dylan, Knopfler). When I first heard Springsteen’s “Born to Run,” I felt it was good, but I don’t like it. Ditto for “Born in the U.S.A.”; except for “Dancing in the Dark.” Why I like the song probably has to do with the fact that I was enthralled by the video first. It’s a Brian DePalma production that didn’t rip off Hitchcock or anyone else (it’s too simple to do). Its driving beat guides the song. Springsteen’s facial expression and paced movements tell us the song. He’s narrating the dilemma. DePalma’s editing pace never lets our attention drop. Every scene shows everyone hang a good time listening (grooving) to this tale of identity crisis in a young man. When he picks a girl [Courtney Cox in the role that first made her famous – RBF, 2015] out of the audience, it seems farthest from the actuality of being staged (I recognized the girl from a NYNEX commercial). Zoom back to see Springsteen and the girl dancing. An excellent (so what if it was staged) video that may actually compel me to go out and buy a Springsteen record (the single, of course). And that’s what it’s all about.

Strange PartyImitators (Danspak Co-Productions)
Probably the best independent video I’ve seen this year. Film and film animation transferred onto video and edited with squeeze-zoom-type effects. Makes this surrealistic video one Salvador Dali would be proud of. Ann Magnuson and Joey Arias [both of whom were interviewed individually on Videowave – RBF, 2015] recreate their pop image performance as Edie Sedgwick and Andy Warhol. Kudos to Go-Directions for a video that Music Television missed again (can Twisted Sister really be American’s answer to music?).


The The  This is the Day (Epic)
Keying is the key. The video uses the elementary special effect of keying over of images. You can’t tell whether the person in the scene is actually part of it or was simply superimposed over it. Advances in video technology have eliminated the familiar video noise surrounding keyed images. Vocalist Matt Johnson walks from one scene to the next, fading out from time to time, while his accompanying accordionist follows him when his cue is up. Never has a simple effect been used imaginatively without being Velvet Jones-ed to death. [Could it be said that Alan is Velvet Jones-ing the Velvet Jones reference? – RBF, 2015]

T-Venus Dragging the Bottom (Independent)
Julia Heyward [yes, also interviewed at some point on Videowave – RBF, 2015] certainly doesn’t drag the bottom in this metaphorical tale of love caught in the undertow. Underwater shots of wildlife, Julia, Pat Irwin (of the Raybeats fame), organic forms of trees, ferns present a fun post-30 search for serious love. A great song underscores this great music video. Dissolves and keying make this watery tale of mud so much fun to watch. I especially love the last scene in which Julia supers her lips over a still image of herself.

X-Teens  Change Gotta Come (Dolphin)
This video received “light rotation” (if at all) from MTV. My eyes lift up to heaven in wonderment for this one. It’s a great spoof of Raiders of the Lost Ark and other serial adventure shows (e.g., Hope & Crosby road movies). However, the song concerns a cry for the lost morals of the ‘60s (“What ever happened to the Love Generations?!”). My test for a great video is if it gets better with repeated viewings. This passes. MTV deep-sixed it. Why? Why?!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Interview: Night of THE TROGGS [1978]

Text by Todd Abramson / FFanzeen fanzine, 1978
Introduction © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 2015
Images from the Internet

This interview was originally printed in FFanzeen, issue #3, dated Winter / Spring 1978-79. It was written by Todd Abramson, who published the Young, Fast and Scientific fanzine. Todd was pretty young when he wrote this piece, and I’m going to guess that his tastes are a bit wider, though I haven’t talked to him since the early ‘80s. He also went on to book some clubs, and become part owner / booker of the late and missed Maxwell’s, in Hoboken, N.J. He now books Jersey City’s White Eagle Hall, and is also a radio DJ at WFMU, the coolest radio station in, well, anywhere.

When The Troggs played Max’s Kansas City in 1978, as Todd describes below, it was an amazing show. The Fast were the opening act, and they were both in top form. While the band had many hits, “Wild Thing” is probably with what is most identified, and at one time, there was hardly a band that did not start off by learning that song. But Todd does a great job explaining their history, so I’ll leave it to him. The Troggs lead singer, Reg Presley, died in February, 2013, at age 71.

This interview is listed as “Continued next issue,” but for some reason I no longer remember, it was not. – RBF, 2015

Due to the enormous amount of the great music made in the 1960s, both here and abroad, a tremendous number of fab gear ravers did not get the recognition / riches they deserved. The Troggs fared better than most in this respect, making great music and coming up with some legendary world-wide smashes (you know the ones) at the same time.

What separates The Troggs from other great ‘60s bands is pretty clear: most of the great American punk bands of the ‘60s ended up dissolving for various reasons (the major one being disregard by their fans who turned into Sgt. Pepper’s zombies or something). Their last recorded work usually doubles as their worst (Elevators, Sonics, etc.). Even the immortal Trashmen ended up in the disposal bin.

On the other hand, the great U.K. ‘60s groups for the most part continued on in one form or another. None of them, however, stayed true to their roots, and while some of their later recorded work is quite good, none of it comes close to their original fire; and a lot of it is trash (don’t pick it up). The worst offenders in this group are pretty obvious – The Stooges, Beatles, The Who, Kinks, Pretty Things, and Small Faces, via the Faces and Humble Pie.

The Troggs stand apart as never having sacrificed any of their original vitality. If you saw them on Bowie’s Midnight Special (in ’73 or so [November 16, 1973 – RBF, 2015]), you know what I’m talking about. “Strange Movies,” a 45 released in 1972, is the equal of any of their previous work and the two LPs from ’75 and ’76 (The Troggs and The Trogg Tapes, respectively) are much better than almost anything else released at the time, especially the former, which included the great “Summertime,” an original in the classic Troggs tradition (i.e., it’s full of sex).

In June of 1978, the Troggs came back to America for some gigs, included some at Max’s Kansas City. Recordings were made for a “Live at Max’s LP, which may or may not come out [it was released in 1981 – RBF, 2015]. They were still better than 95% of the bands playing Max’s and their set included “Strange Movies,” “Wild Thing,” “I Can’t Control Myself,” “Feels Like a Woman,” and a fantastic “Louie, Louie,” which undoubtedly proved The Troggs were still up there among the best.

This interview was done between the first and second sets, their second night in New York. For anyone interested in The Troggs (which should be everybody with a copy of this mag), Sire has a great Vintage Years sampler, a two-record set with all their hits and many rare cuts, which can be purchased for $4 or so.

Go, man, go and start boppin’ and shakin’! After all – The Troggs make everything groovy!!!

FFanzeen: Were you guys into Chuck Berry, et al., before The Stones came around?
Reg Presley (vocals): We got all the old R&B records from Slim Harpo and those guys, and we were doin’ them, but The Stones took off about a year, two years before we did. Shame, we might’ve beat ‘em to it. Shame really [laughter]. First come, first served.

FFanzeen: What do you think of the modern day Stones and Kinks?
Reg: I haven’t actually seen them in a long time, so I can’t voice any opinion, but I’m beginning to like The Stones’ new record, though I haven’t heard it much here [referring to Some Girls – TA, 1978]. They’ll probably go on forever.

FFanzeen: Do you know why The Troggs are so popular in South Africa?
Reg: Because we’ve had hits there that were banned in England. A long time ago when The Beatles said they were bigger than God, y’know, had a bigger following than Jesus Christ, which at the time they may have been right [laughter], but at the time, the South Africans took offense of that and they just banned all Beatle records. At that time, we were pretty strong in there, and they took over. When we released albums, they took numbers from our albums, and one of our numbers that we thought was a pile of shit, called “Little Red Donkey,” went Number One in South Africa for seventeen weeks. They actually had to change the chart system because it kept on going and nobody else got a turn.

FFanzeen: What was the first song The Troggs played together?
Reg: The first was a number called “Lost Girl.”

FFanzeen: Was the Bowie Midnight Special with your performance ever telecast outside the U.S. (great versions of “Wild Thing,” “I Can’t Control Myself “and “Strange Movies”)?
Reg: No, I didn’t see the finished show. Bowie asked us to do the show and he was all day doin’ his five numbers and he left us an hour at the end to do three numbers. We had to do these three numbers in an hour; God, it was a nightmare, y’know.

FFanzeen: Do you like any of the bands considered to be “New Wave”?
Reg: Ya know, they don’t get played too much on English radio. BBC again. So I buy records I haven’t heard. Now my kids are starting to buy them. Still, they’re learning my kids how to swear properly [laughter].

FFanzeen: Maybe your kids’ records’ll be banned too, someday. Was Bo Diddley a big influence?
Reg: Well, anybody that was there before ’62; all the old R&B had a big impression. All the acts: The Kinks, The Stones, even The Beatles I think, but not so much, and I know they had a big effect on me. The first time I was introduced to R&B, that was it, I knew it was the music.

FFanzeen: Can you guys get airplay on the BBC now?
Reg: We could, but we’d have to make such a pretty, pretty number for them; we wouldn’t want to do it anyhow, and every time we do something that’s raw and meaty and has a bit of lyrical meaning of today [? – TA, 1978], ya know, they ban it.

FFanzeen: Was “Love is All Around” written ‘cause that’s the way you felt at the time?
Reg: Well, the San Francisco love power, y’know, flower power and everything had come. It was a feeling at the time; I mean everybody all through time had gone through these feelings and it hit us just the same. It just came out. In fact, watching a religious program. Not intentionally, but on a Sunday afternoon in England, it just came to me. I wrote that in about ten minutes. It’s unbelievable. All the very big hits I’ve written, very quick, and the ones that took three months to write… nowhere.

FFanzeen: Whaddya think of the Vintage Years compilation? Were you pleased with the tracks they put on it?
Reg: Um, Yeah, I think it was a good overall picture; the thing I like even better than that came out on DJM with all the numbers on the first LP.

FFanzeen: Contrasts?
Reg: That had all the heavies on one side and the light stuff on the other side.

FFanzeen: I can never decide which is better (The Troggs rockers or ballads). Whichever sort of mood you’re in, I guess.
Reg: It all depends what climate you’re in, too.




Thursday, December 10, 2015

DVD Review: Ian Hunter Band feat. Mick Ronson, Live at Rockpalast 1980

Text © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 2015
Images from the Internet

Ian Hunter Band feat. Mick Ronson, Live at Rockpalast 1980
Directed by Christian Wagner
74 min, 1980 / 2011 / 2012

Call me crazy, but I always thought of Ian Hunter’s infamous Mott the Hoople as the British version of the MC5. After he left the band, well, if you’ve ever had the chance to hear Mott, you know just how sorely he was missed. I saw Mott open for Sparks at Avery Fischer Hall in the mid-1970s and, well, it’s not a good memory.

Guitarist extraordinaire Mick Ronson, who died in 1993 of cancer, first came to the consciousness of the US through his work with Bowie’s Spiders of Mars. I still remember seeing the ginormous billboard promote his solo LP, Slaughter on 10th Avenue in Times Square in the ‘70s (I have a picture of it somewhere). When he joined up with Mott, both he and Hunter soon left to live in New York City and continue their collaboration.

When introduced by the emcee for this performance at Grugahalle, in Essen, Germany, on April 20, 1980 (Adolph’s birthday, FYI), I find it kind of funny that these two Brits are invoked as a New York band. This is part of the same tour that gave the world Hunter’s Welcome to the Club live double LP; in fact, the playlist is extremely similar. The one major difference, I’m sorry to say, is that there is no Ellen Foley, who often backed up Hunter and Ronson. Other than that, the band is the same.

After a brief instrumental of “F.B.I.”, Hunter strolls out with his guitar and after saying hello in German, the band lays into ”Once Bitten, Twice Shy,” a hit from his eponymous first solo release. They show they are there to take care of business. As with many of his songs of the period, they are a bit rough and yet poppy, and have enormous hooks that are just shy of stadium rock stature.

Hunter never had a “perfect” voice, which makes it all the more charming in its uniqueness. You can recognize it instantly, and not just because of the ever present accent. He also seems quite at ease on the stage as he continues on covering key songs from his solo LPs and some – but not much – Hoople material.

A stand-out song right at the beginning is the underrated Sonny Bono sans-Cher song, “Laugh at Me.” It’s the first time Ronson joins in with his vocals, as he shares a mic with Hunter for the first few stanzas of the instantly identifiable, round-chording of the eventually Republican Scientologist Bono (d. 1998; he would have been 80 this year).

After the ballad “Irene Wilde” where Hunter trade his guitar for a piano, he hooks up again to cover the Hoople’s grinder, “I Wish I Was Your Mother,” with Ronson on mandolin. On this one, Hunter has a sort of Dylan-esque patter to his voice.

But he picks it up again with the rousing jailhouse themed “Just Another Night,” including a stint of standing in the audience – next of a seemingly very nervous cameraman – as the crowd chants the title over and over, fed by the band holding up the words in German. This is followed by the first song that sounds like the ‘80s, “We Gotta Get Out of Here,” as it is drenched in a synth sound; it’s a tone I’m not particularly fond of, but the upbeat pace saves it on some level.

They redeem themselves with the lengthy, hard-hitting and mean spirited “Bastard,” which always reminded me of the song “For the Hell of It” from Phantom of the Paradise (1974). Also, they return to form with “All the Way from Memphis,” a rousing Hoople number where Hunter and Ronson trade complimentary guitar licks. I also find it amusing that the song “Cleveland Rocks” had such a strong second life with The Drew Carey Show. It really is a fun piece of fluff, and the band here rocks it up with no mercy.

For the encore, we get treated to the two leads’ biggest hits, Hunter’s “All the Young Dudes” and Ronson’s instrumental “Slaughter on 10th Avenue.” For me, these were possibly the least fave songs on the DVD, because, well, I’ve never been a fan of those two particular numbers. So much of the other material here is far superior. In my meager opinion, the only reason “Dudes” was as popular as it was is because it was written by the Thin White Duke, rather than the quality of the actual song.

The sound here, as with most of this series, is quite crisp, as is the visuals. However, there is some visual “noise” occasionally, seen as lines across the screen that crop up here and there. It’s a common effect from transferring from PAL to a non-European format. Still, it’s (a) not often or intrusive enough to ruin the experience, and (b) the quality of the music makes it worth it. The only extras are some 30-second trailers of other Rockpalast releases, the song list, a really nice booklet filled with black and white photos of the show, and technical information (i.e., credits). Note that this is also available as a CD, and I’m going to venture to guess it’s also obtainable in digital form.

Most of the band is dressed in stage clothes that represent more of the New Wave, with guitarist Tom Morrongiello’s curly mullet and black and white tiger-striped top (and sunglasses, of course), or another member in a black leather jacket that’s more Michael Jackson than Ramones, all of which would be outdated very shortly. Hunter, of course, wears what has become his signature outfit: white shoes, gray suit and white shirt with extended collars and loosened tie, sunglasses, and his big perm (which I’d have to be convinced that it’s not a wig).

As over-indulgent music grabbed hold of the ‘80s, many British vocalists would strike out on their own and have overbloated hits, such as Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” or Phil Collins’…well, everything. Just about the only one who rose above all that clamor, in my humble opinion, was Hunter with his “All of the Good Ones Are Taken,” which is sadly not included here because it would not be released for another three years after this show.

For a guy who is 41 years old at the time this was recorded (he’s 76 now), Hunter put together a great show for this concert. And we, the audience, are the lucky for it.

Ian Hunter: vox / guitar / keyboards
Mick Ronson: guitar / vox
Tom Morrongiello: guitar
Martin Briley: bass
George Meyer: keyboards / saxophone
Tom Mandel: keyboards
Eric Parker: drums

Song List:
Once Bitten Twice Shy
Laugh at Me
Irene Wilde
I Wish I Was Your Mother
Just Another Night
We Gotta Get Out of Here
All the Way from Memphis
Cleveland Rocks
All the Young Dude
Slaughter on 10th Avenue


Bonus No. 1 unconnected video:

Bonus No. 2 unconnected video:

Friday, December 4, 2015

DVD Review: Brian Wilson – Songwriter 1969-1982

Text © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 2015
Images from the Internet

Brian Wilson: Songwriter 1969-1982 (aka Brian Wilson: The Next Stage­)
Executive Producer: Rob Johnstone
Narrated by Thomas Arnold
Sexy Intellectual Films / Prism Films / Chrome Dreams Media
134 minutes, 2012

One could argue that by 1968, Brian Wilson, the genius behind the Beach Boys, Jan & Dean, and many others, was finished as a driving force., For example, he was in a series of recurring mental distress situations, his masterpiece Smile LP didn’t see the light of day for decades, and the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band had (allegedly) stolen the thunder of the creativity of that album by coming up with their own version of the studio-as-musician technical centerpiece – and that one was while the Beach Boy’s Capitol Records wouldn’t even acknowledge Smile (though bootleg versions were plentiful, especially to other musicians).

This British documentary, put out by the Chrome Dreams organization, focuses its laser beam on some of the darker years of Wilson’s career as a first-wave Beach Boy, which is good because other than a true Wilson devotee, the casual fan (such as myself) is most likely not familiar with this period. The earlier companion documentary to this, Brian Wilson: Songwriter 1962-1968, had previously been reviewed in this blog HERE.

After a very brief introduction to the Beach Boys (BB) to help the viewer catch up, it starts in earnest with the pressures Brian was under in the mid-‘60s, including constant pressure from Capitol to produce hits, and from the BB to not vary much from the formula – especially from co-vocalist/songwriter Mike Love, who was both important and a bit toxic (in my opinion) to the band, and to Brian specifically. His constant demand for the same-old-same-old caused Brian’s mid-1960s writing partner, Van Dyke Parks, to leave. Brian was interested in art; the band, with Love as its spokesperson, wanted them to be an “entertainer,” according to the film. All of it, including some heavy drug use, affected Brian to where he infamously retreated to his bed. For years.

Yet, he still managed to get his feet enough to help after a couple of disastrous LPs without him. “Let’s Do It Again,” as the film points out, is a mixture of the old BB sound and the vibe of “now” with compressed drum sounds and studio work by chief engineer Stephen Desper, who would support them in1968-71.This is a role Brian had done, mostly, and now Desper added some freshness.

Building a studio inside Brian’s house didn’t even bring him to the production table, as it were. Carl became in-charge as far as head of the studio production, which lead to a song which was a hit more in Europe than in the US, and is still one of my faves of the BB in general, “I Can Head Music.” Now, what irked me in the film is that the credit for the song is given to Phil Spector. Scuze me, but that is totally inaccurate. Yes, Spector got his name on the writing credit through his studio work, and greed to make money as co-author (this was a common trick dating back as far as the origins of rock and roll). But I have no doubt in my mind that this is an Ellie Greenwich song, written with her then-hubby, Jeff “Who Put the Bomp” Barry. While they mention Spector here, Barry/Greenwich are left on the roadside. That’s like saying the first issue of Punk magazine was written by Lou Reed.

There are a lot of interesting tidbits (of course I won’t say most of them, so no spoilers, per se, even though it is history rather than fiction), such has their connection with Brother Records after Capitol gave up on them, which is no surprise since they (a) were not selling as much product, and (b) the BB had sued the company for royalties. Twice.

As I said earlier, as a casual fan, there was so much from this period of which I was ignorant, such as Brian’s beautiful collaborations with poet Stephen Kalinich. While these recordings didn’t go anywhere, it did get him reconnected with the BB, when they signed with Reprise. This mix led to both hits and disappointments.

The films digests some of Brian’s songs by breaking down meaning in both lyric and music, sometimes fought against by both the record company and co-BB members.

Almost half way through is when the story really goes into a black hole of information for me, and I found it most refreshing for details, including his collaborations with the likes of the group American Spring and Randy Newman.

Another event that the documentary nails right on is the importance of the 1973 George Lucas film American Graffiti. This led to a wave of nostalgia for the early periods of rock and roll, including the play Grease and the television show “Happy Days.” Thanks to the wise move of their record company, the BB’s songs were compiled into an enormous selling two-record set of their hits called Endless Summer. I still remember how big it was when it came out (and yes, I have a copy that I got for a buck at a garage sale about 10 years later). This elevated the Beach Boys from trying to cope with the counterculture to becoming an All American Band and greatest hits live band. As one writer states in the film, the main set list was created at that point and remains to this day, with some exceptions (i.e., newer singles).

Under the care of Dr. Eugene Landy (d. 2006), Brian uncomfortably rejoined the BB on tour in the mid-‘70s. Landy’s influence on Brian is legendary, especially in part due to a cover story in Rolling Stone by David Felton, one of the few writers talking here that actually tells first-person anecdotes about Brian and his Landy relationship. This first time around, Landy didn’t last too long. The Landy Redux was another story.

After Landy I, Brian seemed to get better and put out what was basically a solo LP, The Beach Boys Love You, containing strange songs. While Brian kept up with some writing, his career as the preeminent Beach Boy creator was at an end by the 1980s, when the BB became associated with the Reagan administration due to their playing an infamous concert, and as the documentary points out, they were rebranded as “America’s Band.” The BB members had now reached the descriptor of middle aged white America.

The DVD leaves off with Landy II, when he comes back into the picture in the early ‘80s. As someone says here, “He saved Brian’s life, and then nearly killed him again.” What isn’t said is that the BB, sans Brian, would have a few more hits into the late ‘80s, including “Rock and Roll to the Rescue,” a cover of “California Dreaming” (in which John and Michelle Phillips appear in the song’s video), and the obnoxious (in my opinion) and omnipresent to this day “Kokomo,” all written in part by Mike Love.

The film has quite a few clips of their music (again, nothing longer than 30 seconds or so), but not much live. Sure, they’re shown on television shows, but mostly lip syncing; however, two of Brian’s infamous performances on Saturday Night Live in 1976 are shown (in part). This film is much more into the stills, BB as b-roll, and interviews with friends, co-workers (studio engineers, their manager for the early ‘70s Fred Vail, etc.), fellow musicians (amazing drummer Hal Blaine of the Wrecking Crew, who didn’t do much with the BB by the time period the doc starts) and collaborators (Kalinich), friends (Mark Volman, of the Turtles/Flo & Eddie), and the lone BB who appears, Bruce Johnston, to name a few. There are also the journalists who wrote bios of the band, who conjecture second-hand stories. Some of the people I would have loved to have seen would be Brian’s daughters Carnie and Wendy, Parks Van Dyke, and/or Carol Kaye (bassist for the Wrecking Crew; even though she despise that name, it does help shorthand a particular group)

Speaking of video clips, it’s interesting to watch Mike Love as he slowly turns over time from balding BB to a reaaaaally creepy looking Manson-like almost zombie, staring weirdly at the camera, especially in the early ‘70s segments. Brrrrrr.

The extras are some text about all the contributors (musicians, authors, etc.), and three featurettes (which are essentially interesting outtakes). The first one is the 5:11 “Philip Lambert Behind the Music.” Author / biographer Lambert discusses Brian’s technique via a piano on a couple of songs, such as “Do It Again,” a hit from the 20/20 album. The next is the 6:47 “Out of Bed: The Man Behind the Myth,” where a trio of his producers David Sandler, Earl Mankey and Stephen Desper, discuss how Brian was both creative and had a sense of humor “second only to Dennis.” The last is the 6:12 “Brian Goes Country! The Abandoned Fred Vail Album,” in which their ex-manager, talks about another lost Beach Boy albums, Cows Come Home to Pasture in 1970, before the Sunflower LP.

Part of Brian’s genius was that he was so wounded, which would, in the words of Monk, be a blessing, and a curse. This documentary covers that period pretty well. It could almost be part of their “Under Review” series, as the discussion leans towards not only Brian as a person, but an examinaiton detailing parts of his songs, and what makes them different from everything else; in other words, Brian’s genius.