Sunday, January 1, 2012

1. MAD DOGS AND ENGLISHMEN (1971)


Joe Cocker's spirited if incoherent performance in Michael Wadleigh's WOODSTOCK may have made him an overnight superstar, but he wasn't an act I would have pegged to carry an entire concert film on his own. This frankly sloppy, haphazard documentary about Cocker's 1970 road tour came about (the film itself doesn't explain, and should have) when he split with The Grease Band early on tour and had to fulfill his concert obligations by quickly assembling a touring commune of friends, family and session greats -- a forerunner of Bob Dylan's later RENALDO AND CLARA concept. The IMDb reports that 62 hours of footage was shot for MAD DOGS AND ENGLISHMEN, making its general dullness indefensible, but it does prove there was a time when hippies would fill a stadium to see a wildman singer accompany himself on air guitar, air piano, air bass and air drums, sometimes all at the same time, while singing gospel- and blues-tinged covers of Beatles and Box Tops songs. Some of the songs do catch fire, but it's primarily of interest as a time capsule showing young musicians living and working in tribal mode, with dogs and children wandering onstage mid-performance, and for its performance footage of such formidable sidemen as Bobby Keys, Jim Keltner and the great Leon, as well as singers Rita Coolidge, Claudia "Brown Sugar" Lennear and an uncredited Jennifer Warnes (who later co-wrote and co-sang Cocker's biggest hit, "Up Where We Belong"). It also depicts more casual drug use among band members than any movie other than the Rolling Stones' C***SUCKER BLUES, which explains the general stupor of everyone when interviewed and may be why this artifact has not been in general circulation since its last home video release 20 years ago. Director Pierre Aldidge, who subsequently directed the much better ELVIS ON TOUR, died tragically in 1974 at the age of 35 of a spinal disorder.

Viewed from a dub of the A&M VHS.

1 comment:

  1. Good luck, Tim, or better good viewing!!! On December 31 2012, if the poles have not shifted, I will be curious to see how many and what kind of movies you have seen this glorious year! Should be very interesting! Ready steady go!

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