COAL MINER'S DAUGHTER Tribute, Midnight Special 1980 (60 minutes) Midnight Special was a weekly TV show that hosted most popular musicians at one time or another. This entire episode is devoted to a special performance to promote the film Coal Miner's Daughter. Sissy Spacek and Beverly D'Angelo perform country songs with the Band's Levon Helm and the Cate Brothers backing them. Levon sings, and is seen playing acoustic guitar, mandolin, harmonica, as well as the drums. Together they perform lots of songs featured in the movie featuring, of course, "Coal Miner's Daughter," "Watermelon Time In Georgia," and the late Patsy Cline's 1961 hit, "Crazy." (Alan Sheckter)
DAVID CROSBY Later 1/30 & 31/91 (60 minutes) If you've ever seen Later, you know Bob Costas specialized in non-confrontative interviews where, as in Gary Areas, the interviewee gets to say their piece uninterrupted. Many interesting people, such as Bill Graham appeared on this show.
In this rare and candid chat, Crosby traces his musical history from the formation of the Byrds to his brush with death as the world's largest consumer of freebase cocaine. This definitive interview included dozens of carefully chosen film clips to illustrate Crosby's conversation. Equally impressive was Crosby's agreeing to appear at the show with a swollen foot as he was healing from a motorcycle accident. David looked healthy (though a bit heavy), and wore jeans, one cowboy boot and a brown western vest. Crosby reveals that he thought Jim Morrison was obnoxious and never liked him, that the hardest part of playing at Woodstock was performing in front of his peers and that as soon as he stopped using drugs, his musical creativity returned.
Crosby has much to teach anyone who sees this tape. He has much to teach anyone who sees this tape. He has a rare combination of perspectives: age and unusual life experiences. (Netta Gilboa & Alan Sheckter)
GRATEFUL DEAD 4/7/85 Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA (145 minutes) 1985 was a great year in the Grateful Dead world. Many old songs surfaced into their repertoire. The three night run at the Spectrum was particularly memorable. The April 8 show may be remembered more for its unusual set list, but this crisp, clean video of the 7th deserves applause as well. The show opens with a real screamer. The spotlight falls on Phil Lesh as he leads a strong and very fun version of the Beatles "Why Don't We Do It In The Road," a song the Dead performed only a handful of times. This short tune segues nicely into Garcia's real opener, "Mississippi Half-Step," which follows into Weir's treatment of the old blues number "C.C. Rider." The crowd is moving and grooving with every note. The first set contains only six songs, but since the fourth is a lovely rendering of "Bird Song" and the fifth is an un-Motown-like version of "Dancin' In The Streets" (the screaming crowd not missing the lyric about "Philadelphia, PA"), it's a great set. Phil also contributes vocals to almost every song, along with Garcia, Weir & Mydland, and that's nice to see. Since the second set also includes covers of "Smokestack Lightning" and "Gimme Some Lovin," one of the few versions of the beautiful Dylan ballad "She Belongs To Me" and "Morning Dew" to boot, this tape is a winner from beginning to end. (Alan Sheckter)
GRATEFUL DEAD 11/16/85 Long Beach Arena, Long Beach, CA (120 minutes) This hand-held video is for completists only. Though the audio is good, the camera moves constantly and while the position (from above Garcia) is unique, it also only shows the band from the side, at a 90-degree angle. Somebody had pretty bad seats in a big hall and recorded from them. The band is superb even in this unflattering recording. The first song is missing and the tape joins the concert during a nice, extended "Sugaree." The biggest surprise of the show is a very rare second set opener of "Tennessee Jed," which is followed by the popular "Cumberland Blues." Other tunes worth noting are "Comes A Time" and the encore, a song no longer perfomed, and one that many people loved to hate, "Day Job." For most people, this video would have little appeal over a decent audio recording. (Alan Sheckter)
GRATEFUL DEAD 3/27/86 Cumberland County Civic Center, Portland, ME (60 minutes) Our second generation copy of this videotape has excellent video quality, but blown-out audio. Still listenable, this show is memorable for containing the first "Wang Dang Doodle" since 10/27/84. It also contains the only version of "Revolutionary Hamstrung Blues," an energetic song co-sung by Phil Lesh and Brent Mydland. It's awesome to see Brent and Phil sing together. At the end of that song, everyone is surprised as they go into "Bertha" in the middle of the set. The Grateful Dead are one of the only bands performing entirely different songs from night to night.
Taped from the Phil Zone (the portion of every venue one-third of the way back, on the left, as you face the stage), all the band members are in clear view. Garcia is sporting a red T-shirt and a very full, rather long beard. Good camera work, although the video does not zoom in on the drummers. There are probably better videos from this time period, but completists will enjoy the set list of this one. (Alan Sheckter)
GRATEFUL DEAD 6/14/91 RFK Stadium, Washington, DC (180 minutes) It's hard to make blanket generalizations about Dead shows, but they usually seem to play good shows at this huge venue. This show begins with a very pleasant "Cold Rain & Snow," Jerry Garcia's very long white/gray hair blowing in the warm breeze. Garcia's loose clothing and long hair contrast greatly from fellow guitarist Bob Weir, who looks youthful and athletic in cut-off denim shorts. It is still daylight, so the viewer can watch the goings-on around the stage area. The show was filmed from far away, and the cameraperson's tripod shakes a bit at times, but overall, the video is good, thanks to an awesome zoom lens. The audio is a little low, but okay. Vince Welnick, who plays electric piano, and Bruce Hornsby, who plays grand piano and organ are both present and from the camera angle, one can constantly see (as well as hear) the interplay between Garcia, Welnick and Hornsby. The first set also includes "Big River" into "Maggie's Farm," the latter containing Weir, Welnick, Hornsby, Lesh and Garcia all taking a vrse to the crowd's delight. The second set includes "Dark Star" and a wonderfully-sung "Stella Blue."
This tape was filmed by the guy the Grateful Dead recently stopped from making and selling their videos. It should be noted that the Grateful Dead are staunchly opposed to the filming and copying of bootleg videos. They do, however, allow fans to make audio tapes for personal use. The problem is that the videotapes are out there en masse and they're great! Although the issue is not money, but rather one of violating the band's privacy, wishes and copyrights, perhaps the best way to rectify the situation would be a two-step approach. We wish the Dead would release a series of videos of complete concerts. They could also acknowledge the demand for these items and ask fans to voluntarily pay some arbitrary dollar figure to, say, the Rex Foundation (P.O. Box 2204, San Anselmo, CA 94979), every time they receive a bootleg video. The method has been done before under the shareware system of computer software. A large influx of cash earmarked "video" might do some good to the world, and at the same time it would serve to convince the Dead to apply approach number one of releasing legitimate live product. (Netta Gilboa & Alan Sheckter)
GRATEFUL DEAD 6/23/92 Star Lake Amphitheater, Burgettstown, PA (120 minutes) This tape was sent to us anonymously by a reader that filmed it. It contains the best opening credits we've ever seen. The venue and date are spelled out by manipulating a pile of alleged loose marijuana into letters. Very imaginative. Also impressive are the guts displayed by the taper. It is quite clear he is filming from the second row in broad daylight. One wonders how he got in with the gear and was not spotted. The audience members nearby sure don't mind. They move out of his way and seem to approve of his right to videotape. Sound is excellent, as is the set list. There are numerous songs on this tape not yet on record as well as old favorites like "New Speedway Boogie" which ends the first set.
As mentioned last issue, this taper sells his videotapes. The Grateful Dead are opposed to their fans making videos in the first place and are staunchly opposed to selling them. If you do track down this tape, please don't pay to own it. (Netta Gilboa)
HOT TUNA 25 Years And Runnin', KQED-TV 12/31/93 (60 minutes) Imagine my surprise to receive this in the mail! This TV documentary blends music from the Sweetwater concerts (including material not on the two new audio releases) with interviews and backstage moments. Tuna is seen performing "San Francisco Bay Blues," "Trial By Fire," "Let Us Get Together," "Pass The Snakes," "Hesitation Blues," "Embryonic Journey," "I Know You Rider," "I Was The One," "99 Year Blues," "Maggie's Farm" (with Bob Weir and Maria Muldaur) and "Folsom Prison Blues." Each of the band members is interviews as are Bob Weir, Wavy Gravy, audience members and even Tuna's road crew. Superb footage, a great band and the easy availability of low gen copies makes this a must to obtain. (Netta Gilboa)
PINK FLOYD An Hour With Pink Floyd PBS-1970 PBS has always been an innovator in bringing timely rock 'n roll to television. The same team who made Go Ride The Music and A Night At The Family Dog supervised this project. It begins with a several minute video sequence of aerial photography of farms, highways and water. It then segues to a live stage performance at the Fillmore West. It's a multi-camera shoot with excellent audio and video. Good copies are in circulation and should be possible to track down. Boy, would we love to see this re-broadcast. This is vintage Floyd, after the departure of Cyd Barrett, but before their creation of Dark Side Of The Moon. It's funny to watch this and realize Pink Floyd was well-known enough to get their own TV special, but hadn't even begun to approach the peak of their popularity. It's not likely David Gilmour and Roger Waters will share the stage anytime soon, but through the magic of videotape, you can watch a lineup that includes Nick Mason and Richard Wright along with the youthful Gilmour and Waters. Awesome! (Alan Sheckter)
TRACK LIST: Atom Heart Mother, Cymbaline, Grantchester Meadows, Green Is The Color, Careful With That Axe Eugene, Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun.
NEIL YOUNG & FRIENDS 1981 The Ritz, New York, NY (23 minutes) Clearly taped with permission, this electric set sports almost as many guitarists (five) as the annual jam at the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Awards. The audio is excellent and video is also fine considering it was taped at a dark club. While we can't tell for sure, it appears Young is either a surprise guest or intended to be just another member of the backup band.
One of the problems inherant in live videos is that unless you are thoroughly familiar with the musicians, you're left hoping that they introduce themselves. Whoever these guys are (sorry for the display of ignorance), they cook and give Neil Young an opportunity to play songs not found elsewhere. Neil sings "Baby, What You Want Me To Do" and contributes searing guitar with the no-frills band as they perform old rock classics such as "Let It Rock," "The Things I Do For You" (dedicated to Mike Bloomfield), "Sweet Little Rock & Roller" and the ending ass-kicker, Chuck Berry's "Nadine." Worth tracking down for variety. (Alan Sheckter)
NEIL YOUNG & CRAZY HORSE 1987 Europe (70 minutes) This multi-camera, professionally shot video captures Neil in fine live form. This powerful set opens with an electric "Down By The River" and includes such favorites as "Comes A Time" (Neil with acoustic guitar and harmonica), the old Buffalo Springfield song "Mr. Souls," "Cinammon Girl" and "The Loner." Performing in front of a huge Crazy Horse backdrop, Neil is wearing an orange Lionel Trains sleeveless T-shirt.
Neil plays many of the same songs every tour, but changes personnel, style and instuments at will. Superb audio and video make this model of Crazy Horse worth looking for. (Alan Sheckter)
FRANK ZAPPA and DEE SNIDER - Record Lyric Labeling - Senate Commerce Community, C-SPAN 1985 Several people asked us if we were planning to do something to commemorate Frank Zappa's death. It seemed appropriate to us to celebrate his accomplishments instead of mourn him. While Zappa was best known for his musical accomplishments, it was his public outspokenness on political issues that captured our hearts.
The PMRC investigation into record lyrics put Zappa at the forefront of the evening news for several weeks. The issue got so heated that hearings were held before the Senate Commerce Community. Very few of the accused musicians bothered to defend their industry. We will remember Zappa most for his critical analysis during this time period of this red herring issue and who really stood to benefit. In his testimony, Zappa connects the blank tape tax and PMRC sponsorship. He also raises issues of labeling the musician along with the lyrics he or she sings. Country music, jazz, blues and folk music or lyrics were never mentioned. Zappa (with short hair and a suit) thinks quickly on his feet and holds up well under questioning by then-Senators Albert Gore, Jr., Exon, Hawkins and Gorton. Zappa says that the PMRC has overblown the lyric issue and that they "are treating the problem like treating dandruff with decapatation."
The person who taped this cut off Zappa before the questioning was completed. Snider's testimony is also incomplete. Snider wastes no time in accusing the PMRC of outright lies. They accused him of promoting sexism based on a T-shirt they claim they had seen. Snider counters by challenging them to produce a T-shirt and says it does not exist. We couldn't help but wonder if a bootleg T-shirt caused this much trouble.
Whether you agreed with him or not, Zappa always had something to say. He was an original, pulled no punches, and would've made as good a political candidate as Gore if his health had allowed him to give him a run for the money.
Educational and definitely worth tracking down. (Netta Gilboa
& Alan Sheckter)