Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Rock on Film: The Movies That Rocked the Big Screen

Rock on Film
The Movies That Rocked the Big Screen
by Fred Goodman
foreword by Sir Michael Lindsay-Hogg
TCM and Running Press
Hardcover ISBN: 9780762478439
July 2022
288 pages

“One of the beauties of rock movies is that sometimes they capture the time and sometimes, dangerously, they’re ahead of the time.” — Sir Michael Lindsay-Hogg

If your love for music runs as deep as your love for film, Rock on Film: The Movies That Rocked the Big Screen deserves a spot in your book collection. Written by former Rolling Stones editor Fred Goodman, Rock on Film features 50 must see movies that captured the heart of rock and roll. Each film is also paired with a viewing, making each recommendation a double bill and adding many more rock movies to the mix. The book also covers movies that feature hip hop, R&B, punk and other genres but primarily focuses on how rock and roll transformed popular culture as we know it.

Some notable films discussed include The Girl Can't Help It (1956), Jailhouse Rock (1957), The TAMI Show (1964), Viva Las Vegas (1964), A Hard Day's Night (1966), Don't Look Back (1967), Gimme Shelter (1970), Woodstock (1970), The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), La Bamba (1987), etc. And those are just some of the early films as dates range from the 1950s to the present day. Goodman does a great job connecting the present with the past and demonstrating the evolution of how film portrayed musicians on screen. A bounty of knowledge, Goodman's insights are both informative and illuminating. In his introduction Goodman writes, 

"the fifty films profiled in this book... are intended to be illuminating rather than definitive. Since the intention is to showcase both crowd-pleasers and buried treasure, the compendium begins with appreciation for the films that most fans see as indispensable, and they constitute a context and yardstick for the films that follow... My aim is to mix the serendipity of new discoveries with an added appreciation for familiar favorites while guiding you through the history of rock as seen through the insightful lens of Hollywood and independent filmmakers."
Each film is given its own 4 page chapter. There many color photographs throughout and the book is presented in a nice jacketed hardcover edition. It does have quite a potent "new book smell" but it's nothing that won't dissipate over time.

Interior Spread courtesy of Running Press

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:

“When the prominent use of the song “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley and His Comets provided a big box-office boost to 1955’s youth-gone-bad drama Blackboard Jungle, it marked the first time Hollywood took notice of rock’s growing appeal.” — Fred Goodman

“The industry responded with the first generation of rock and roll films: a raft of low-budget jukebox musicals whose shallow plots were jerry-built around nightclubs, talent searches or disk jockeys–setups that made dropping in performances simple.” — Fred Goodman

“There’s a striking difference between the way the Beatles and the Rolling Stones approached film projects: essentially every film the Beatles made during their career was directed by a commercial journeyman, while the directors selected by the Rolling Stones reads like an art house who’s who, including Jean-Luc Godard, Robert Frank, Martin Scorsese, Hal Ashby, Albert and David Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin.” — Fred Goodman

“The music became a character in my movie. It was really the narrator. In a way, music is how you write the story.” — John Waters

“The biggest piece of the puzzle is Ann-Margret. Viva Las Vegas is the only Elvis film with a strong leading lady who can match him for moves and sex appeal. She was also the only actress to receive co-star billing with Elvis.” — Fred Goodman

“A triumph of Gimme Shelter is that there is no mythology here. The Maysles brothers, part of the direct cinema movement that was the American doppelganger of France’s cinema verite, created their art by standing back and capture what developed.” — Fred Goodman

Rock on Film includes interviews with five filmmakers: Cameron Crowe, Jim Jarmusch, Penelope Spheeris, Taylor Hackford and John Waters. I've read and reviewed many TCM/Running Press books and this is the first one I've seen to featured extensive interviews.

I enjoyed how Goodman examines all the different ways films used rock and roll and was most intrigued by the documentaries featured. A couple of which I watched immediately upon reading the book. In order to really appreciate this book, you must be interested in both rock and roll and music history especially since there is a heavy focus on that element.


Fill out the form below by September 25th for a chance to win a copy of Rock on Film!

The giveaway is now over. Congratulations to the winners Angela M. and Devan V.!

This is my sixth and final book review for this year's Classic Film Reading Challenge.

Thank you to Running Press for sending me a copy of Rock on Film to review!

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