Sunday, March 29, 2015
PAUL McCARTNEY & WINGS - ROCKSHOW
(November 1980, U.S.)
I've had two challenges to face for writing this post for yet another concert film. The first is exactly where and when do I include this post in my writings according the order of the alphabet? Should I have posted it earlier under the letter 'M' for McCartney? Do I wait a little longer and post it under the letter 'R' for ROCKSHOW? I finally allowed the movie poster to make my decision for me (sort of) and post it now under the letter 'P' for Paul. That may not be the correct way to do things, but it's the decision I've made here and now. The second is how much am I really supposed to write about a concert film? Sure I've done it before with LED-ZEPPELIN and THE ROLLING STONES, but honestly, writing about a concert film is not like writing about any other traditional motion picture. To be further honest, I'm not exactly dealing with a structured screenplay, credible acting performances or impressive techniques of cinematography. To be even further honest, one's appreciation for any concert film shall depend purely on one's musical tastes. You either like concert films or you don't. You either like Paul McCartney & Wings or you don't. So I suppose the best I can do with any film such as this during an era when the idea of the concert film in the age of DVD and Blu-Ray is practically extinct is to attempt to portray a time in the history of the 1970s when popular music was not only of a very different level, but a whole lot better than the bubble gum pop shit too many young people are listening to today!
So for those who remember and for those who will never forget, let's go back to the year that was marked as "the Spirit of '76". Your immediate musical memory may of the glory days of disco, even before a film like SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER (1977) brought it to it's peak! Bear in mind, though, while bands like Wild Cherry was telling us to "Play That Funky Music" and Silver Convention was telling us to "Get Up and Boogie", the music airwaves of FM rock radio were also peaking with artists like Boston, The Eagles, Peter Frampton, Fleetwood-Mac, Led-Zeppelin and Paul McCartney & Wings. The ex-Beatle's super group already had hits with "Band on the Run", "Jet", "My Love", "Live and Let Die" and "Listen to What the Man Said". The their latest album that year, "Wings at the Speed of Sound" had spawned the two hits, "Let Em' In" and "Silly Love Songs". In short, by the Summer of 1976, Wings was all over the radio and I was of the age (nine) where I could really start to embrace all of its musical wonder. This particular concert film captures the band during their "Wings Over America" tour of that year to support the new album, as well as an age where rock and roll was still considered king! Take a look at what Paul looked like back then with his wife Linda at the piano behind him and tell me the whole thing doesn't reek of 1970s rock and roll...
As a film in itself, it's straightforward camera work that keeps its attention on the entire band and all the color, glamour and glitz that surrounds them and the stage. One of the particular pleasures of watching Wings perform is that all of its members appear to genuinely enjoy the time they spend together on stage and their communication with the audience. Drummer Joe English can't help but smile with joy during all of his numbers. Denny Lane is not merely a third wheel of the group, but rather lends his own special input both in instrument and in voice. The audience is pure 1970s, even with it's Bic lighters (before iPhones!) during the more mellow moments (hard to believe any of the hot girls in the audience the camera show us are all grandmothers now!). Again, we're not looking for cinematic genius in a film like this. We merely seek to be taken back in a time capsule to an age of music that seemed to matter a great deal to those who loved it and needed it in their lives.
So having said all that, let me now interject some personal story time into the mix here. During the Summer of 1976, I was just nine years-old and still considered too young to go see Paul McCartney & Wings in concert at Madison Square Garden. However, my own memories of this time are vivid enough for me to write about now. During this particular summer, I did not return to day camp and was free to spend the summer as I chose (sort of). I spend the bulk of the summer at a local Long Island beach club with my dad and his girlfriend at the time. I recall a vast beach, rows of cabanas, a less-than-adequate restaurant and a public PA system that was broadcasting FM radio to all of the club's patrons. That being the case, I remember two new hit songs of the time that the radio was playing several times a day and they were the already above-mentioned "Get Up and Boogie" by Silver Convention and "Silly Love Songs" by Wings. By the time the summer was over, I'd heard those two songs more times than I could count and I loved them! I had learned to love Wings even before I'd really embraces the Beatles themselves. Years later, disco was dead and that sort of musical appreciation had to personally go underground in my mind and my heart until it would become popular again in the 1990s (oddly enough, ROCKSHOW was released in 1980, four years after the original tour was over). Now, all these decades later, with the magic of DVD and Blu-Ray releases, someone like myself, as well as all those others of my generation, can once again take a trip back to a time of music and concert glory when bands like Wings ruled the stage. By 2002, I'd finally seen Paul McCartney in concert with my wife and it was, of course, awesome. Still, I can never help but wonder what it must have been like, "back in the day" as many people of my time and before are so often fond of saying. Who knows.
Favorite songs performed: "Medicine Jar" (performed by Wings member Jimmy McCulloch, who was also dead at the age of twenty-six by 1979) and "Silly Love Songs" (what's wrong with that?).