Five Film Favorites: Rock ‘n’ Roll

Jimi Hendrix (1942-70) died three years after his red hot Monterey Pop performance.

When considering music films for a favorites list there are so many different kinds of musicals and movies about music that the category begs to be narrowed. Therefore, for this list of five favorites, I’m looking only at rock ‘n’ roll movies.

However, over the last five decades, plus, there have been so many movies that used rock ‘n’ roll music to add to the story, or perhaps to fill some gaps, that the category must be narrowed further.

So, for this list of five only those films which present the music as concert footage are being considered. All on the list show the musicians, performing as themselves, on stage before a live audience. All are documentaries of a certain stripe, even if they were staged for the purpose of making the film.

So, just in time for the holidays, here are my five favorite rock ‘n’ roll concert movies:

“Gimme Shelter” (1970): Directed by Albert Maysles and David Maysles; Performers: The Rolling Stones, also with Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead, Tina Turner and more

“The Last Waltz” (1978): Directed by Martin Scorsese; Performers: The Band and various guest musicians

“Monterey Pop” (1968): Directed by D.A. Pennebaker; Performers: Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Simon and Garfunkel, The Mamas and Papas, Otis Redding, and more

“Stop Making Sense” (1984): Directed by Jonathan Demme; Performers: Talking Heads

“The T.A.M.I. Show” (1965): Directed by Steve Binder; Performers: The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys, The Supremes, James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, Lesley Gore and more.

Which of your favorite rock ‘n’ roll flicks did I leave off the list?

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3 Responses to Five Film Favorites: Rock ‘n’ Roll

  1. Terry, I’m familiar with all but “The T.A.M.I. Show.” The one I’d add to the list is “Wattstax” (directed by Mel Stuart, who also directed “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” (1971), staring Gene Wilder. “Wattstax” documented a concert at the L.A. Coliseum in the summer of 1972 that featured most of the Stax Records roster, including Isaac Hayes, Rufus Thomas and the Staples Singers. Interspersed with the concert footage are street interviews on music, love, politics and the 1965 Watts Revolt. The film also features a young and relatively unknown Richard Pryor, doing standup riffs on these and other topics. I only know about this film because local musician Jim Thompson raved about the film and encouraged us to invite Mel Stuart to be a guest of the James River Film Festival several years back. That’s my addition to your great rock ‘n’ roll film list. — James

  2. Mark Elliott says:

    If we’re not strictly limited to concert films, I’m a big fan of Starstruck (1982).

  3. thstarkweather says:

    I really liked Demme’s 1998 concert film “Storefront Hitchcock.” Of course, I really like Robyn Hitchcock. Apparently, Demme does as well. Hitchcock had a wonderful musical cameo in Demme’s “Rachel Getting Married” (2008).

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