Ignored Obscured Restored
This next installment of Rock in Films covers the late ‘60s psychedelic films.
By the late 60s, filmmakers began to incorporate rock music into their movies’ soundtracks and plots. Director Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow Up (1966) was one of the best and first to utilize rock effectively. The story takes place in “Swinging London” where a photographer inadvertently captures a murder on film and uses his images to try to solve the crime.
The film’s soundtrack was scored by Herbie Hancock, but there is a club scene that features a live performance by The Yardbirds, with Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck on guitars, doing “Stroll On” (better known as “Train Kept A Rollin’”).
Riot on Sunset Strip (1067) is a cheesy film that attempts to convey the essence of the LA/Hollywood scene around the time of the ’66 LA riot. It has all the clichés of the day, including a film portrayal of an LSD trip. But it also has numerous club scenes that feature some of the best garage/psych bands of the time, including The Standells, Chocolate Watchband and The Enemies (a band that featured Cory Wells, later of Three Dog Night).
Psych-Out (1968) was a movie starring Jack Nicholson, Bruce Dern and Susan Strasberg. Susan’s character arrives in SF looking for her brother. Although deaf, she is befriended by a hippie commune. Again, there is film portrayal of an LSD trip. The soundtrack includes music by The Seeds and Strawberry Alarm Clock. There’s a ballroom scene where Nicholson’s band, Mumblin’ Jim, performs. In reality, it is the Strawberry Alarm Clock with Nicholson pretending to be part of the group.
Nicholson wrote the screenplay for The Trip (1967), a film that portrays a television commercial director’s experience with – you guessed it – an LSD trip! The movie stars Dern, Strasberg, Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper. Of course, Fonda, Hopper and Nicholson would be back at it a couple of years later to film the much higher quality Easy Rider, but that’s a subject for another post.
The film’s music was provided by Mike Bloomfield and the Electric Flag, with only one on-screen performance that I don’t think was the Flag. It may have been Gram Parsons’ International Submarine Band (did they have a lefty guitarist?) who were originally tapped to provide the soundtrack before getting replaced by Bloomfield. Here’s the psychedelic club scene of the band playing “Fine Jug Thing,” complete with strobe lights, and painted women.
The Monkees decided to upend their squeaky clean, pre-fab four TV image through a film vehicle called Head (1968). Nicholson was involved in this project too, as co-writer and co-producer with Bob Rafelson. Though the flick has an incomprehensible plot, it does have a few gems on the soundtrack including “The Porpoise Song,” and “Circle Sky” that was performed in a concert scene for Head.
More on Rock in films to come in future posts.
Enjoy… until next week.