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Rock On Film Book Review

‘Rock On Film’ rocks.

Written by former ‘Rolling Stone’ editor Fred Goodman, ‘Rock On Film’ (AKA ‘Rock On Film: The Movies That Rocked The Big Screen’) is the latest Turner Classic Movies presented book from Running Press. After a foreword by Michael Lindsay-Hogg, the book kicks off with a written piece about the history of rock on film, the types of rock movies, certain artists’ cinematic works (namely Elvis and The Beatles), and the evolution of rock movies throughout the decades. After that, readers get a list of 50 movies. Well, technically there’s 100 movies as each featured film gets a recommended double-feature suggestion ala ‘This Is Spinal Tap’ being paired with the deeply underrated faux biopic ‘Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.’ The list runs the gamut of genres from movie musicals (‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’), dramas (‘Singles’), biopics (‘Straight Outta Compton’), rock operas (‘Quadrophenia’), mockumentaries (‘This Is Spinal Tap’) and documentaries (‘Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story’). Each entry is accompanied by a poster, still frames, a director credit and the release year ,the aforementioned double feature suggestion and an analytical written piece that covers the movie’s plot, production history, and sometimes a comparison between the real life figure and what’s seen on screen ala ‘Ray.’ Scattered throughout the book are interviews with filmmakers Cameron Crowe, Jim Jarmusch, Penelope Spheeris, Taylor Hackford and John Waters. The book closes out with a bibliography, article references, online sources, acknowledgements, and an index.

As a rock music aficionado, ‘Rock On Film’ hits the sweet spot for me. While the obvious classics like ‘Woodstock,’ ‘Pink Floyd: The Wall,’ ‘Purple Rain,’ ‘Gimme Shelter,’ ‘Almost Famous’ and ‘The Blues Brothers’ are covered here, there’s a ton of underrated gems (‘Metallica: Some Kind Of Monster,’ ‘Mystery Train,’ and ‘Frank’) and even films that are now on my ever growing watch list such as ‘Mavis,’ ‘Oil City Confidential,’ and ‘The Punk Singer.’ It’s nice to see such a variety of movies getting the spotlight here instead of just the usual suspects.

Author Fred Goodman provides a very thorough history of cinema’s multi-genre rock music movie offerings and how it has changed from the 50’s to present day. The author also provides all sorts of facts that you may not have known such as the all-star cinematography team used on ‘The Last Waltz,’ the real life elements left out of ‘The Buddy Holly Story,’ how ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll High School’ was originally going to be ‘Disco High,’ director Lou Adler’s music biz history outside of helming ‘Ladies And Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains’ and oh so much more. It’s like  a rock movie 101 course in book form.

Aside from a few glaring omissions ala ‘Dazed And Confused,’ ‘Sing Street,’ ‘School Of Rock’ and the recent masterpiece ‘The Beatles: Get Back,’ it is a bit strange that the book includes non-rock material. Yes, there’s clear rock influences in other music genres, but are the folk centric ‘Alice’s Restaurant’ and the Eminem starring rap drama ‘8 Mile’ rock movies? Not particularly. It might have been more apt to simply make a book about music movies instead as the author already dipped into other genres within this book. It’s not a complaint by any means as these classic movies deserve to be mentioned. It’s simply an observation.  

August 20, 2022 - Posted by | Book review | , , , , , , , , ,

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