When the question of “What’s the best/great rockumentary of all?” is asked, the answers can range quite widely obviously, from something like Don’t Look Back or Let It Be to The Last Waltz or Stop Making Sense (which both seem to make almost everyone’s lists) to something totally out of left field and life-affirming like Half Japanese: The Band That Would Be King. I really loved the new Pulp: a Film about Life, Death and Supermarkets... and wouldn’t “Heavy Metal Parking Lot” be in the running for all-time best rockumentary? Of course it would be!
It’s an impossible question to answer, but sidestepping it somewhat, if I had to pick the best overall “time capsule” of the rock era to preserve for future generations, it would probably be Peter Clifton’s Superstars In Concert. Also known as Rock City in a different edit, the film was directed and produced by Clifton (The Song Remains the Same, Popcorn, The London Rock and Roll Show) and is a hodge-podge compiling (mostly) his promotional short films and snippets of concert performances shot between 1964 and 1973 by the likes of Peter Whitehead (Wholly Communion, Charlie Is My Darling, Tonite Let’s All Make Love in London), Michael Cooper (who shot Kenneth Anger’s Lucifer Rising), Ernest Vincze (the cinematographer responsible for the 2005 Doctor Who reboot) and Ivan Strasburg (Treme).
Featured in the film are The Rolling Stones (several times), Eric Burdon and The Animals, a typically demure appearance of The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Otis Redding bringing the house down, Cream, Steve Winwood, Blind Faith, Cat Stevens (a stark Kubrickian promo film for his “Father and Son” single) , The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Donovan, Joe Cocker, a segment with The Ike and Tina Turner Revue that will bring a smile to your face, Pink Floyd and Rod Stewart and the Faces. Pete Townshend is seen getting in his digs at the Stones for promoting pot use, managing to make himself look like a blue-nosed twat in the process, while Mick and the boys are seen doing “Jumpin Jack Flash” in the (decidedly more evil) warpaint version of that promo film (there were two, this is the one that was NOT shown on The Ed Sullivan Show for obvious reasons) and in their promo film for “We Love You” which features Keef in a judge’s wig, Marianne Faithfull as a barrister and Mick nude wrapped up in a fur rug (a sly joke that if you don’t get, then google “Rolling Stones,” “Redlands,” drug bust, her name and “Hershey Bar.”)
Superstars In Concert came out in Japan on the laserdisc format and that’s how I first saw it, in the late 80s. Since then, other than the various clips showing up cut from the film on YouTube, it’s remained an obscurity. Apparently there was a Malaysian bootleg and then in 2003 a Brazilian magazine called DVD Total gave away the film for free with one of their issues. So far fewer than 200 people have viewed the video.
DO NOT miss what’s perhaps the most intense version of Pink Floyd’s “Careful with That Axe Eugene” ever captured on film. This entire film is absolutely amazing from start to finish, but it jumps off the scale during that part (Otis Redding is no slouch, either!) I highly recommend letting it load first before you hit play, otherwise it’s kind of flickery. If you wait a while, it doesn’t hang up and looks and sounds great.