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Thread: Melody Makers new documentary

  1. #1

    Melody Makers new documentary

    "Melody Makers" https://www.facebook.com/MelodyMakersthemovie/ is a new documentary film about the magazine Melody Maker, based around the pictures of their chief contributing photographer, Barrie Wentzell. The film was directed by Canadian Leslie Ann Coles, her first full length film in that role.

    After showing in North American US film festivals, "Melody Makers" received its UK première on 24 September as part of the Raindance Film Festival. Coles and several of the interviewees were in attendance for a Q&A session after the film.

    After briefly introducing the magazine's beginnings as a trade publication in 1926 for jazz musicians, the film focuses on the period from the mid-sixties to the end of the seventies, more or less when Wentzell worked there and the magazine's glory days, when sales were high, musicians dreamt of being on the front page and the journalists could drive opinions. But the film is also the story of the music of that period, the two being intertwined, from how they championed The Who early on, to Pete Townshend being given his own column because he kept writing in to the letters page so much, to David Bowie having to lend two Melody Maker journalists the money to get back home after a trip to Paris that they had taken to (successfully) catch him away from his management.

    "Melody Maker" were supportive of prog, and many prog artists are among the interviewees, particularly Ian Anderson, but also Sonja Kristina, Alan White, Steve Howe, Chris Squire, Steve Nardelli, and Roger Dean. (The credits at the end thanked Jon Anderson, Benoit David, and Oliver Wakeman, but they don't appear.) Some of the anecdotes will be familiar: Nardelli tells his usual Hendrix story, White his usual Lennon story. Others were novel: Squire talks of the magazine's support for Yes, while Howe talked about being so often on the cover and the difficultly finding interesting clothers to wear for this! Many of Wentzell's photos are of prog musicians, with some nice Yes photos from 1969 and 1972, King Crimson in 1972 and several of Ian Anderson and Peter Gabriel. The soundtrack relates to the music of the day, with a bit of "Close to the Edge" and some Ian Anderson in the mix. The film was several years in development, with many interviews done 6-8 years ago, thus Squire's inclusion.

    Alan often tells the story of John Lennon ringing him up to ask him to play the Live Peace in Toronto show and Alan just presuming it's a friend trying to prank him. The bit I hadn't heard before was how Alan's then band were annoyed because they had a gig booked the same night and needed the money, so they tried to persuade him that going off to play with John Lennon would be a bad career move. He disagreed!

    While some of the history of the music will be very familiar to the hardcore fan, Coles' decision partway through filming to focus more on the magazine is welcome as this brings fresher perspectives. I believe the project began with Coles meeting Wentzell and it is sort of his story, told by him in interview and well as through his photography. He and Chris Welch, one of the main journalists at the time and known for his writing since (including perhaps the most successful Yes biography), often worked as a duo and we got lots of Welch interviewed as well. Another key "Melody Maker" figure, Chris Charlesworth, is probably the third most often on screen.

    The story of the magazine is, in some ways, of a more innocent age at first, musicians coming to the offices to be interviewed, alone, not accompanied by PR; of journalists respecting musicians' confidences and not reporting on their bad behaviour on tour; of the staff promoting the music they liked, and seeing it as a joint enterprise with the artists to promote good music. Musicians avidly read the magazine themselves and saw themselves through its lens when they got famous. Perhaps press and bands were too in cahoots at times. Headlines were sometimes concocted for publicity. Ian Anderson tells of his horror at seeing a headling that Jethro Tull had splitt up, invented by his manager.

    But as the years pass, we hear more tales of excess and money flowing, then egos and drugs getting in the way. The film has something of a maudlin end: it follows a generation of "Melody Maker" staff who left around the turn of the '80s and they are scathing of the magazine's subsequent direction. The story ends with much lamenting of today's music scene, before a coda about Wentzell's own experience moving to Canada and getting re-involved in music.

    Throughout the film, the visuals are mostly of Wentzell's photos. These are lovely to see, although sometimes just there, unconnected to the narrative, shoved into montages. Stand outs include a lovely photo of Roger Waters with his three cats, a photo of a haunted Syd Barrett as he descended into paranoia, a very pretty photo of Yoko Ono, some relaxed photos of Bowie in Paris... there are many. We also get spreads from the magazine, although often moving too quickly to read more than a headline. The best of which is surely: "Robert Fripp... Super Stud?"

    As is the fashion with modern documentaries, there is no narration. I asked about this in the Q&A, and Coles replied that a producer early on had suggested it, but she felt the photos and the interviewees told the story eloquently themselves and she made that choice early on. I don't entirely agree. If I have a criticism of the film, it is that the flow of the story is sometimes lost. There is a tendency in places to go off into lightweight rock anecdote when I wanted to hear more about the publishing world. There was also the occasionally annoying decision made to interleave two unrelated anecdotes, cutting between the interviewees telling these separate stories, which added to neither.

    There was a Q&A after the film with Coles, Wentzell, Kristina and others. Steve Howe had been advertised, but his absence was hardly surprising given the recent and unexpected death of his son, Virgil Howe. Again, there was more lamenting about things today, although Kristina gave a spirited defence of the value of the Internet for promoting music.

    The film is repeated in the film festival this Thursday, 28 September, 1pm, with Chris Welch to be in attendance. http://calendar.raindancefestival.or.../melody-makers

    In all, an enjoyable film, worth seeing, with great photos, telling an interesting story of music journalism through the period, with some touching moments (like Wentzell's clear affection for Hendrix), if in a few places a more rambling narrative than I prefer.

    Henry
    Where Are They Now? Yes news: http://www.bondegezou.co.uk/wh_now.htm
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  2. #2
    Highly Evolved Orangutan JKL2000's Avatar
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    Thanks, sounds like one I should should check out!

    I looked up this photo - had to see it. Obviously Roger has a soft spot somewhere!:


  3. #3
    There's actually a series of photos with zero, one and then three cats.

    This is the important stuff to discuss on PE: prog musicians with their cats.

    Henry
    Where Are They Now? Yes news: http://www.bondegezou.co.uk/wh_now.htm
    Blogdegezou, the accompanying blog: http://bondegezou.blogspot.com/

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    Highly Evolved Orangutan JKL2000's Avatar
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    Member at least 100 dead's Avatar
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    The Three Cats w/ can opener guy is a great picture.

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    Member Steve F.'s Avatar
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    Sadly, no photos apparently exist of Mike Ratledge and his 3 cats; Hiboe, Anemonae, Bear....
    Steve F.

    www.waysidemusic.com
    www.cuneiformrecords.com

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    "You run a great label, but sometimes you go out of your way to be a jerk." - Jed Levin

    "The older I get, the more I realize that cynicism is just realism spelled wrong."

    "Death to false 'support the scene' prog!"

    please add 'imo' wherever you like, to avoid offending those easily offended.

  7. #7
    Hope this gets a bluray or DVD release

  8. #8
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    I wonder if that's the cat the song was about....

    Quote Originally Posted by JKL2000 View Post

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Steve F. View Post
    Sadly, no photos apparently exist of Mike Ratledge and his 3 cats; Hiboe, Anemonae, Bear....
    That's because they were not HIS cats - they were a friend's cats.
    Calyx - The Canterbury Scene website - http://www.calyx-canterbury.fr
    Legends In Their Own Lunchtime (blog) - https://canterburyscene.wordpress.com/
    Recent books : "Yes" (2017) - https://lemotetlereste.com/musiques/yes/ + "L'Ecole de Canterbury" (2016) - http://lemotetlereste.com/musiques/lecoledecanterbury/
    My calendar of upcoming prog (& beyond) shows in France (& close by) - http://www.bigbangmag.com/agenda.php

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    Quote Originally Posted by calyx View Post
    That's because they were not HIS cats - they were a friend's cats.
    So that's where that title came from!

  11. #11
    Member Steve F.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by calyx View Post
    That's because they were not HIS cats - they were a friend's cats.
    I stand corrected!

    It stings less when you are corrected by the best!!! :-)
    Steve F.

    www.waysidemusic.com
    www.cuneiformrecords.com

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    "You run a great label, but sometimes you go out of your way to be a jerk." - Jed Levin

    "The older I get, the more I realize that cynicism is just realism spelled wrong."

    "Death to false 'support the scene' prog!"

    please add 'imo' wherever you like, to avoid offending those easily offended.

  12. #12
    Thanks for the review Henry. I was due to take part in the Q&A after the screening but had to bail out with a shocking cold at the weekend. I will make sure I am well enough to get to the Thursday screening, Q&A and after show party; I am very much looking forward to seeing the movie, I have always really liked the concept behind it and very interested to see how it turned out.
    Very good from Henry's review, as I thought it would be.

  13. #13
    Thanks for mentioning this movie. Although I didn't read the magazine (in The Netherlands we had our own Muziekkrant OOR), it's always interesting to see how thing evolve.
    The film seems to be a long time on it's way, as I found this trailer from Februari 2015:


  14. #14
    Member mnprogger's Avatar
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    Netflix?
    Redbox?
    On Demand?

    At a Landmark Theater?

    would love to see it, then again, I'd love to see the Rachel Flowers documentary as well which I don't believe has shown up on Netflix or Redbox, On Demand, or any of my local Independent cinemas yet.

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    Member Emeritus (A.M.P.) rcarlberg's Avatar
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    I remember MM fondly from my youth, will keep an eye out for the documentary.


  16. #16
    Melody Makers premiere.jpg

    I took the above during the Q&A. The woman with the microphone is the director, Coles. Far right is Kristina. Next to her, in blue, is Wentzell. Next to him, about to receive the mike, is another MM photographer. The guy in the hat is another interviewee in the film, but I forget who he is! Two far left... no idea.

    Henry
    Last edited by bondegezou; 09-26-2017 at 03:02 PM.
    Where Are They Now? Yes news: http://www.bondegezou.co.uk/wh_now.htm
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  18. #18
    Member Yeswave's Avatar
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    Personally I bought "Sounds" every week - when people did that sort of thing. Imagine - not only having to pay for your music, but paying for your music news as well. Unbelievable.

  19. #19
    Member moecurlythanu's Avatar
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    Of course, you all know that the first IQ music released was on a Melody Maker compilation.

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by Yeswave View Post
    Personally I bought "Sounds" every week - when people did that sort of thing. Imagine - not only having to pay for your music, but paying for your music news as well. Unbelievable.
    I was a 'Sounds' reader too, and Kerrang! for a while. I'd occasionally buy MM if they had a feature on a band I liked, or even the NME, although in the late 70s they had their head firmly wedged up their arse. Record Mirror was too pop oriented.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Halmyre View Post
    I was a 'Sounds' reader too, and Kerrang! for a while. I'd occasionally buy MM if they had a feature on a band I liked, or even the NME, although in the late 70s they had their head firmly wedged up their arse. Record Mirror was too pop oriented.
    Agree with that, I mostly bought Sounds but the music papers sadly became more about the egos of the hacks writing them than about good music coverage, hence their demise.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JKL2000 View Post
    Thanks, sounds like one I should should check out!

    I looked up this photo - had to see it. Obviously Roger has a soft spot somewhere!:

    "Wait for it, lads. Once that pigeon comes a little bit closer, I'll open the window and then you can pounce."

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    I loved this magazine!! Still have a few issues.....would really like to see the doc. Any word on Netflix, Amazon, or You Tube showing this?
    So much music....so little time....

  24. #24
    Highly Evolved Orangutan JKL2000's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kai View Post
    "Wait for it, lads. Once that pigeon comes a little bit closer, I'll open the window and then you can pounce."
    And, I've named the pigeon Rick.

  25. #25
    I swapped from MM to sounds around 1979/80 - MM was always a musician's paper, & its heart just wasn't in the deconstruction of music that the punks & post-punks were about. NME was never really about the music - always more about the attitude. Sounds somehow managed to find ways to embrace music from all fronts, whether it be reggae with Edwin Pouncey, post-punk with Dave McCullough, "oi" with Gary Bushell or NWBHM with Deaf Barton. And then there were characters like John Gill, who loved solo Hammill in that glorious period of his from The Future Now, via Black Box, to the K Band.

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