Monday, 13 October 2008

News, Views and Music Issu 8 (Top Five): Worst DVDs

Having just bought the most hilarious music documentary yet (‘on the rock trail floyd’, available now at Poundland and—five minutes later—all good charity shops), here is the latest in our top-five guides, sponsored, once again, by the credit crunch. Most websites list the best DVDs starring their favourite groups—here we list the worst, the ones that you really don’t want to fork out money for, most of them made without the groups actual consent… :

5) ‘Grateful Dawg’ - Jerry Garcia and David Grisman. That old expression ‘ you had to be there’ could have been invented for the Grateful Dead and some of their concerts lose something when seen on video instead of just audio (or live on stage). But perhaps the worst, or at any rate the strangest, is this feature-length documentary, following a largely grumpy Jerry Garcia preparing for a new acoustic album and tour with his old friend Mr Grisman. The pair have a great deal of history together—they wrote ’Friend of The Devil’ from the Dead’s American Beauty album for starters, but by the early 1990s Garcia is recovering from a diabetic coma that saw him having to learn how to play the guitar all over again and away from the Dead he seems tired and bored, unsure quite what he’s doing making yet another album only the deadicated few will get to hear. The likeable Grisman, meanwhile, seems unsure whether to push his old friend along or sit back and wait for the magic to happen—which sadly it usually doesn’t. The problem, unlike most DVDs of this type, isn’t the direction—the film-maker, Grisman’s daughter, actually does a great job at cobbling this stuff together to (nearly) tell a story. But alas her team have filmed the wrong period of activity —nothing here happens for an hour and a half, except that the pair of musicians sing a few obscure nursery rhymes badly for the camera and record a moody music video in black-and-white that never actually got released at the time. For two talents of this magnitude, these clips are meagre returns for your money.

4)’George Harrison: Up Close And Personal’, etc. Well, it was only £1 from poundland, but basically all I learnt from this DVD was that there was more to the Beatle than met the eye (not that we ever find out what that was) and that he was fairly quiet (disputable that—hence the sheer number of anecdotes about him and the amount of press clips from the Beatle days there have been on other videos and DVDs down the years—not that the compilers of this get to show any of this, banned as they were from using pretty much any interesting footage). As for being ’close up and personal’, the only thing we see that’s really personal is the director’s prejudices for some old Beatle rumours heard hundreds of times over and (more often than not) now accepted to be wrong.  Even the much maligned mass-produced ‘Yellow Submarine’ lunchboxes and playing cards made out of knickers had more Beatles integrity than this. Strangely, the John Lennon DVD in the same series is actually quite good in oits own right (its amazing by comparison to this one!) and a bargain at the same price!

3)10cc: Live In Japan/The Classic Hits Tour/The Alive Tour. It’s been out three times this DVD and it still hasn’t got any better. The last title is especially wrong:10cc have never sounded more bored or zombiefied than on this concert. According to most accounts that have come out since, founding members Graham Gouldmann and Eric Stewart really weren’t getting on all that well in the early 90s and only re-united as 10cc because their record label Mercury had, bizarrely, decided to resurrect their contract and force them back into work (the last 10cc albums had—very unfairly I think—sold so poorly that both parties had been happy to let things rest in 1983).  This tour, to promote the record ’Meanwhile’ (1992), finds both supremely talented men bored out of their minds and all but glancing at their wrist-watches to work out when they can go home and curse the day theye ever became musicians. The only other semi-original member present is archive favourite Rick Fenn (who was with the band 1978-80 and also worked with Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason on a joint album), looking, if anything, even more bored than his partners—even his fiery guitar-work sounds strangely subdued here. A very obvious track selection broken up by three poorly played Beatle originals or Beatle-recorded covers, doesn’t help, but the one unusual track here which used to sound amazing live— ‘Feel The Benefit’ - is the set’s lowest moment, mangled by the band quite horribly. I’m tempted to say that the band were purely going through the motions in order to get the money, but actually that’s wrong—I saw this line-up, minus Eric Stewart, at the much-missed Ronnie Scotts Jazz Club in Birmingham just a year after this gig and they were great. Another case of right band, wrong tour?    

2) On the rock trail with...The Rolling Stones. What do you do when you want to make some easy money, own a video camera and access to the same two pictures of the Stones that everyone else whose even vaguely interested in music does? You make a DVD of course! Saving money on the important stuff (research; presenters who don’t look as if they’re reading an autocue they bought that morning; any post-production whatsoever), this DVD went on sale for £1 and actually looks like it cost less than that to make.

1)On the rock trail with...Pink Floyd. Blooming heck, this one’s even worse! It takes four minutes before the band even gets a mention, given the pretentious opening (camera pans across the narrator’s house before eventually—150 seconds in—finding him in the bath, surrounded by rubber ducks, talking about his jeans!) There is a mistake in every other sentence of the text (and the ones in-between might be accurate but have badly gotten hold of the wrong end of the stick!) and, despite what it says on the back cover, the narrator’s only qualifications to talk about Pink Floyd seem to be that he once saw them at a 1975 festival while waiting for somebody else to turn up and that he owns a copy of dark side of the moon (as do a third of the world’s population!) Actually, if you see this DVD on sale and have a spare pound ready, I urge you to buy it—if you have even a slight knowledge about this band, this will be the funniest thing you’ll have watched in years!

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