This Is Outstanding

If you haven’t seen it. I mean even if you have, it’s still outstanding.

In his acclaimed debut as a filmmaker, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson presents a powerful and transporting documentary—part music film, part historical record created around an epic event that celebrated Black history, culture and fashion. Over the course of six weeks in the summer of 1969, just one hundred miles south of Woodstock, The Harlem Cultural Festival was filmed in Mount Morris Park (now Marcus Garvey Park). The footage was never seen and largely forgotten–until now. SUMMER OF SOUL shines a light on the importance of history to our spiritual well-being and stands as a testament to the healing power of music during times of unrest, both past and present. The feature includes never-before-seen concert performances by Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Sly & the Family Stone, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Ray Baretto, Abbey Lincoln & Max Roach and more.

Summer of Soul premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, where it won both the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award. It will stream on Hulu in conjunction with Disney’s new BIPOC Creator Initiative; Searchlight Pictures will release it theatrically.

Essential Summertime Listening

Whilst we round the bases on the 40th anniversary of the release of Beauty and the Beat (July 8, 1981), please enjoy a song I’ve always associated with summer. As you guys may or may not know, “Our Lips Are Sealed” was cowritten with Terry Hall from Fun Boy Three, and they have a version as well. Regarding the video itself, Wikipedia says …

The official music video for the song features sequences of the band members in carefree tableaux (riding around LA in a 1960 Buick convertible, stopping at a lingerie shop, and splashing around in a fountain) interspersed with footage of the band playing a club booking.

Jane Wiedlin says the band was initially unenthusiastic when Miles Copeland, president of their label, I.R.S. Records, told them they would be doing the video. “We were totally bratty”, she recalls. The video was financed with unused funds from a The Police’s video budget.

The concept was simple. The band would drive around the streets in a convertible car and be followed by a camera. Belinda Carlisle would sing, and the other members would do cute things, The ride would be intercalated with some scenes of the band performing the song at a club.

They wanted an older-style convertible, and found a red 1960 Buick LeSabre at Rent-a-Wreck.

After riding around some streets in Beverly Hills, at some point, they stop at the famous Trashy Lingerie store located at La Cienega Blvd. The girls get into the shop, excepting Wiedlin, who remains in the car doing the solo part of the song (Belinda can be seen in the driver’s seat trying to hide).

The day of shooting was very hot -says Wiedlin- so it was the band’s idea to end the video by jumping into the Electric Fountain on the corner of Wilshire Blvd. and Santa Monica Blvd. “I thought, at any minute the cops are gonna come. This is gonna be so cool.”

Wiedlin looks back on the video experience fondly. “I have horrible ’80s poodle hair in [it]”, she recalled in a 2011 history of MTV. “But there’s a simplicity and innocence to the video that appeals to me.” In one sequence, Belinda Carlisle can be seen trying to hide; she later admitted this was deliberate, as she thought the whole idea of a music video was ridiculous and unlikely to catch on.

Here’s the Fun Boy Three version, which I don’t associate with anything.

I Can Haz Moar Jazz

Do proto-punks like the Stranglers think they could possibly be as hip as “the world’s coolest insurance salesmen”?  Don’t they know it’s all mistakes? Who wins a fight between 5/4 and 6/8 time signatures?

Anybody Remember Dig!?

It’s Ondi Timoner’s 2004 rockumentary featuring The Brian Jonestown Massacre, The Dandy Warhols, and the love-hate relationship these bands developed over a seven-year period. (2,500 hours of raw footage!) According to Wicked-pedia, it “won the Documentary Grand Jury Prize at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival, and was acquired by the Museum of Modern Art for their permanent collection.”

No big surprise, band members hated it. (SPOILERS: It makes them all look like a bunch of fucked up, pretentious morons.)

Taylor-Taylor, Newcombe and Warhols guitarist Peter Holmstrom have all criticized the film as being unfair in its portrayal of Newcombe and The Brian Jonestown Massacre. On The Brian Jonestown Massacre’s official website the film was denounced as reducing several years of hard work to “at best a series of punch-ups and mishaps taken out of context, and at worst bold faced lies and misrepresentation of fact.” Courtney Taylor-Taylor said in an interview: “It’s a movie, not a documentary […] She worked her ass off and forged a plot when there was no plot. She crafted the thing to swell and ebb by taking eight years of us and a year and a half of the Brian Jonestown Massacre”. Holmstrom was generally displeased with the film initially, citing Timoner’s use of footage that he claims “was not to be used” as a reason, but has maintained that “it’s still a good film”, though one “I would have done differently”. Dandy Warhols drummer Brent DeBoer noted the film could have easily been a “feel-good story”, but instead a few rare moments were specifically chosen to give the film a “Jerry Springer”-type storyline.