Everyone (or to quantify it – a shitload of folks) must have heard the song “Stuck in The Middle With You” at some point in the last 20 years since it featured in Reservoir Dogs? You know, the ‘ear’ scene? I’m hoping that Gerry Rafferty and Joe Eagen (Stealers Wheel) made their fair share from that song as it’s up there with some of the most iconic scenes in modern-day cinema.
Gerry Rafferty, was featured in another BBC documentary that I recently caught up with, called “Right Down The Line”. An interesting enough story about the boy from Paisley who started in the folk scene in the 1960’s (with Billy Connolly in the Humblebums), then a proposed marriage of convenience with famed US songwriters and producers Leiber and Stoller didn’t work out (Rafferty wanted to be the master of his own destiny), then Stealers Wheel, and then his solo career.
There’s not much mention about his biggest hit “Baker Street”, but instead it focuses on more his relationships with the close-knit group of musicians who worked with Rafferty on his solo work. Rafferty died of liver failure in 2011, but it was his alcoholism that really brought an end to things. A sad way to go for a talented musician. Still, the film doesn’t linger on this one relationship too long, and weirdly enough doesn’t explain his often disappearances and eccentric behaviour in the years prior to his death. They went easy on him.
I really like him as a singer/songwriter, and if you’re not familiar with his work it’s worth checking out. You’ll find something, I’m sure.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom as next on the list of dead muso documentaries was “Living In The Material World”, Martin Scorcese’s documentary based on the life of George Harrison. At three and a half hours long (I watched it in 2 parts) it is an epic piece of story-telling, but rarely does it ever feel like it’s a contrived piece of ‘fly on the wall’ fluff. As Scorcese said prior to the film’s release,
“That subject matter has never left me…The more you’re in the material world, the more there is a tendency for a search for serenity and a need to not be distracted by physical elements that are around you. His music is very important to me, so I was interested in the journey that he took as an artist. The film is an exploration. We don’t know. We’re just feeling our way through.”
For mostly being known as the “quiet” Beatle, George sometimes gets overlooked for his musicianship, but LITMW tries to put that into perspective and it covers his life (both musically and personally) in great detail. Of course, none of this would have been possible had he not been able to get access to Harrison’s photo and video archive – this really makes all the difference. Some great clips in there.
I really enjoyed this film. I would recommend that if you’re stuck for something to watch, at a loose end, or trying to avoid the rain (monsoon in Korea or elsewhere), then you could do worse than spend a few hours in George’s company.
Last, but not least of the trilogy was “Thunder Soul”.
Any film that opens with the lines “If there’s no drummer, there’s no timing.” “Can you hear the drummer?” “Can you hear the drummer?” Is more than likely going to get my attention pretty sharpish.
The story revolves around the Kashmere High School “Stage Band” and their mercurial band leader, Conrad ‘Prof’ Johnson. The backdrop is the predominantly black neighbourhood of Kashmere Gardens in Houston, in the early-1970’s, and the story of how Johnson turned them into a world-class band – with style. Move it on, some 35 years…
The film has that well-worn theme of “getting the band back together”, plenty of idiosyncratic characters that are full of charisma, enthusiasm, and a real heart-felt warmth towards their former band-master, Johnson. At the time of filming, Johnson was 92 years-old, so, you could say he’d been round the block a few times. As you’ll gather from the first part of the film that Prof doesn’t have long left and it’s all a bit of a rush to get the band back together. At times, it comes over as a bit too schmaltzy and contrived, but overall it works well as a ‘feel good’ film.
The narrator (Jamie Foxx) recounts that the “white stage band phenomenon” of the time was “super square” and that Johnson wanted to build a band that could not only compete with the richer, more affluent white kids, but he wanted them to play with style. There are some great moments when the cast discuss the fashion and attitudes of the day, but they could still play, and that’s the nub of the film.
Huge hair, platform shoes, James Brown, Bootsy Collins, Superfly, Black Power, and most importantly the film brings THE FUNK. They were quite the thing for a high school band, but do they still have it? Guess?