Directed by Mike Figgis
Director Mike Figgis (Stormy Monday, Leaving Las Vegas, Time Code) joins musicians such as Van Morrison, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Tom Jones, performing and talking about the music of the early sixties British invasion that reintroduced the blues sound to America.
During the 1960s, the UK was the location for a vibrant social revolution. London, Liverpool, Birmingham, Manchester and Newcastle all had their own music scenes. Musicians from Belfast and Glasgow moved to London to be part of the club scene there.
The post-war traditional jazz and folk revival movements produced the fertile ground for a new kind of blues music — entirely influenced by the authentic black blues of the USA, and, for the most part, entirely ignored by the good citizens of the US. It was new in the sense that certain key musicians took the blues and molded it in an entirely personal way to fit the new awareness of the UK in the sixties. Importantly, for the most part they continued to pay homage to the originators of the music and to make a huge global audience aware of the likes of Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Freddie King, etc.
Mike Figgis’ film examines the circumstances of this vibrant period. Figgis himself participated, albeit in a minor way, in this period of history, playing in a blues band with Bryan Ferry, a band that was the nucleus for the first Roxy Music.
A series of musical interviews with the key players of the blues movement is augmented with a live session at the famous Abbey Road recording studios. Tom Jones, Jeff Beck, Van Morrison, and Lulu all improvise around some classic blues standards, accompanied by a superb band made up of younger and not-so-younger-musicians. The results are electrifying.
Says Figgis: “I’m interested in why there was such excitement about this black music among Europeans. To that end, I’ve put together a group of these musicians, augmenting the line-up with some younger talent as well. Hopefully the resulting recording session of some blues standards, and the discussions that follow, shine some light on why at a particular moment the blues was reinterpreted abroad and reintroduced in a new form that was universally embraced.”
Performances in Red, White & Blues
Big Bill Broonzy *
Alexis Korner *
Sonny Terry * & Brownie McGhee *
Rolling Stones *
Sister Rosetta Tharpe *
Muddy Waters *
Lead Belly *
*indicates archival performance
Interviews in Red, White & Blues
Directed by Richard Pearce
Written by Robert Gordon
Director Richard Pearce (The Long Walk Home, Leap of Faith, A Family Thing) traces the musical odyssey of blues legend B.B. King in a film that pays tribute to the city that gave birth to a new style of blues. Pearce’s homage to Memphis features original performances by B.B. King, Bobby Rush, Rosco Gordon and Ike Turner, as well as historical footage of Howlin’ Wolf and Rufus Thomas.
Says Pearce: “The Blues is a chance to celebrate one of the last truly indigenous American art forms, before it all but disappears, swallowed whole by the rock and roll generation it spawned. Hopefully we’ll get there before it’s too late.”
Performances in The Road to Memphis
Fats Domino *
Rosco Gordon *
Little Richard *
Howlin’ Wolf *
The Coasters *
*indicates archival performance
Interviews in The Road to Memphis
Chris Spindel (WDIA program officer)
Don Kern (WDIA Production Manager)
Dr. Louis Cannonball Cantor
Cato Walker III
Little Milton Campbell
Another mid-50’s rock n’ roll exploitation quickie, made famous because of the appearance of both Bill Haley and The Comets and Little Richard.
Interestingly, Bill Haley covers Little Richard’s “Rip It Up” in one sequence.
Also on hand are the Treniers who’s antics nearly steal the show.
Finally, for swing dancers, you get to see that ’50’s generation of pro Lindy Hop dancers doing that Smooth Style that they used often in these movies…even though real teenagers during the ’50’s did a much more simplified version…or versions of swing dancing, depending on where they lived. (For reference, check out “Rock Baby Rock It!” which is also on this channel.)
The plot? Rock n’ roll singer Alan Dale (Alan Dale…a Sinatra/Como type crooner?!) comes back to his home town and causes a stir when the teens want him to put on a show…while the “square” adults feel it all leads up to juvenile delinquency. “Ripped from today’s headlines!”, and yet, it was also the plot of many other rock n’ roll flicks made during this time.
The acting is wooden, but you really want to hear and see the other rock n’ roll acts, the swing dancers (including “The Winners of The Harvest Moon Contest Jimmy and Joveda Williams!”), and that oh so hot Jana Lund (who also was in “High School Hellcats” and Elvis’ “Loving You.”
One thing that is strange by our modern standards is the fact that even though most of the acts are African American, with the exception of the previously mentioned Williams dance couple…the whole audience is caucasian. (Kind of like seeing a rap video with NO black kids at all.)
Well, it was the ’50’s, and the Civil Rights Movement was just getting started.
Still, an interesting time capsule of fashions and attitudes of the ’50’s…b-movie style.
All that’s missing is the duck and cover drills!
Rhythm and Blues Revue (1955) by Joseph Kohn, Ben Frye, and Studio Films Inc. (public domain).
Musical variety show filmed at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem, New York City, featuring a cast of popular African-American performers:
Willie Bryant, Freddie Robinson, Lionel Hampton, Faye Adams, Bill Bailey, Herb Jeffries, Freddy & Flo, Amos Milburn, The Larks, Sarah Vaughan,
Count Basie, Joe Turner, Delta Rhythm Boys, Martha Davis, Little Buck, Nat King Cole, Mantan Moreland & Nipsy Russell, Cab Calloway, Ruth Brown, Paul Williams Band.
Young Cab’s mother is worried by his constant singing and music making. She is told to take him to a fortune teller who see his future performing for crowds. As a grown man, Cab comes under pressure to play at a gangster bar.
Theatrical producer Duke puts aside his own success to boost the career of his talented singer sweetheart Ethel. He pretends to sell her contract to an up and coming producer, but neither can find success on their own. Then Duke joins a medicine show.