In the late 1980s there was a revival for all things 1960s/ish – and of course a lot of what people thought was 1960s music actually started in the 1950s – just like most of the best “sixties” music was made in the early 1970s – and so on…
So, on the back of a handful of films with retro soundtracks (The Big Chill, Good Morning Vietnam, Dirty Dancing and – actually – many more…) there were several “revivals”.
The old boys of rock’n’roll – including here for some reason stabs at soul and R’n’B and blues – were packaged up on tours and sent off to play for next to nothing (which was slightly more than they’d ever got before).
So here we have a “legends” concert from Rome. The players include James Brown, Bo Diddley, Ray Charles, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino and B.B. King. I remember watching this on VHS at the time – a crucial document in fact in my upbringing; it was – in a lot of cases – the first time I got to see a version of the sound I’d been hearing for many years; been brought up on.
There’s nothing superb here – but nothing embarrassing. It’s the perfect nostalgia-set; oddly now it works as a nostalgia piece more so for the music videos of the late 1980s and early 1990s than it does the music from the 1950s and early 1960s. Funny that.
But we no longer have James and Ray and Bo and it won’t be long before the others are gone too.
There’s something to be said for watching these old masters – living legends at the time of this concert (and also somewhat forgotten in most cases, it has to be said) – plying their trade. It’s a gift they’d worked hard to master; they’d all kept their hand in (except for, perhaps, Little Richard). Interestingly Richard only gets the one song and Jerry Lee gets three where everyone else is represented by two tunes. I like to imagine words were said backstage, something along the lines of Jerry Lee Lewis demanding he got more songs on the bill and on the concert video than anyone else. Probably a loaded gun was cocked towards someone’s temple…