Song of the Week – Rock Music in Concert Films

Ignored           Obscured            Restored

The Rock Music in Films series continues this week.  Today I explore concert films, but I don’t think there will be any surprises.

The first great rock show that was released as a concert film was the T.A.M.I. Show (1964).  It was filmed at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium over two nights in October 1964.  The integrated cast of performers included The Beach Boys, Chuck Berry, James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Jan and Dean, The Rolling Stones, and The Supremes.  The Wrecking Crew served as the house band!

The Rolling Stones had to follow that!  Keith Richards has been known to admit that choosing to follow Brown on the bill was the worst career decision of his life.

The June 1967 “summer of love” led the San Francisco flower-power set to descend on Monterey for the first Monterey Pop Festival.  The festival launched the careers of Janis Joplin, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, and Otis Redding.  And there is a concert film to document it!

While Redding was already popular with Black audiences, he had not yet crossed over to the pop (white) market.  But Monterey Pop changed that.  Just weeks after the festival, while still in the Bay area, he was staying in a houseboat in Sausalito and began to write his signature song, “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay.”  Just a few months later (December 1967) he died in a plane crash outside of Madison, Wisconsin.

But the granddaddy of all concert films at least in terms of box office success – is Woodstock.  The concert was in mid-August, 1969 and the film and soundtrack were released a year later.  The 3 disc album sold very well and super-charged the careers of several of the acts (Santana, Ten Years After).  Those that rejected offers to perform at Woodstock or refused to allow their performances to be in the film and on the soundtrack regretted that decision (Procol Harum, Sweetwater, Burt Sommer).

One of my favorite performances in the set was by Joe Cocker, covering The Beatles’ “With a Little Help From My Friends.”

By the mid ‘70s, The Band was hanging it up and filmed their farewell performance on Thanksgiving Day 1976 at San Francisco’s Winterland theater.  The star-studded event was directed by Martin Scorcese who also had an editing role in Woodstock.  The Band called their concert and film The Last Waltz and also released a 3-disc soundtrack.

Many of the guest performances with The Band as their “house band” were stellar, but I’m going to stick with a song by The Band themselves.  “The Shape I’m In” was originally on Stage Fright and has always been a favorite.

I just spent sixty days in the jailhouse
For the crime of having no dough, no, no
Now, here I am, back out on the street
For the crime of having nowhere to go

Almost a decade later, Talking Heads released Stop Making Sense, the concert film and soundtrack, shot over four nights at the Pantages Theater in Hollywood, from their Speaking In Tongues tour.

Let’s take a listen to “Slippery People.”

It is a wonderful blend of David Byrne’s art rock blended with Funkadelic style funk.  He even had Bernie Worrell on keys to amp up the P-Funk aspect.

Enjoy… until next week.