Monday morning notebook

May 28, 2012

Who knew that San Francisco’s Summer of Love in 1967 had a counterpart in Detroit of all places?

Director Tony D’Annunzio’s documentary “Louder Than Love” tells the little known story of the Grande (Gran-dee) Ballroom, which was the home base of the MC5 and other Motown rockers such as the Stooges and Alice Cooper. But it is the fascinating footage of British bands such as Cream, the Who and Pink Floyd that give the project more than a regional appeal.

D’Annunzio screened the film, which is still a work in progress, for a sold-out crowd at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland recently. The director transposes performance footage with recent interviews of promoter Russ Gibb, who appears to be a savant in retrospect; John Sinclair, the political activist who was the manager of the MC5;  guitarist Wayne Kramer of the MC5; Ted Nugent of the Amboy Dukes; and Roger Daltrey, lead singer of the Who. 

In a press release, D’Annunzio says, “The Grande Ballroom era is potentially the greatest untold story in rock ’n’ roll history.” Although that’s overstating the case a bit, there is no doubt that serious rock fans will be thrilled with the stories and the performance clips, including the Who playing “Tommy” in its entirety for the very first time in the United States.

Not all of the people interviewed are famous. D’Annunzio used social media to find folks who were part of the scene. One who answered the call was Ruth Hoffman, a former Cincinnatian, who speaks frankly about rock ’n’ roll’s partners –  sex and drugs. She also shares a story about the night she sat on the floor with another hippie chick, comparing the boys who walked past until her new friend excused herself, and walked onto the stage to sing with her band, Big Brother and the Holding Company. 

There is no release date yet, although D’Annunzio is taking the film to festivals. One of the reasons for the delay is getting clearance for the songs, but he is optimistic that it can be resolved. 

When it is, put “Louder Than Love” on your must-see list. It is truly a grand tale.

‘Marley’ explores man behind the music

While you wait for “Louder Than Love” to hits theaters, make time to see “Marley,” the documentary of the legendary reggae musician directed by Kevin Macdonald (“Last King of Scotland”).

It’s hard to believe that the world’s most famous Rastafarian has been dead for more than 30 years. However, the film shows that Marley squeezed quite a bit of life into his 36 years on the planet.

The project adheres to the formula of mixing interviews with available performance footage. For fans who never saw Marley play live, the concert footage will be a revelation in its simplicity. 

For those with only a passing knowledge of the man and his music, the interviews with his mother, Cedella Booker; the last living Wailer, Bunny Livingston; his wife, Rita Marley; two of his 11 children, Ziggy and Cedella; and Chris Blackwell, the producer and record company owner, provide insight beyond the common knowledge that Marley liked to smoke weed and was a devoted follower of the Emperor of Ethiopia Haile Selassie, who was revered by the Rastas as God incarnate.

The film is scheduled to play the Esquire Theatre, and is available on demand from most cable TV operators.

Spring of sadness

On the heels of the passing of Levon Helm, Dick Clark and Chris Etheridge (Flying Burrito Brothers) last month, the obituaries continue.

  • Donald “Duck” Dunn, the bass player for Booker T & the MGs, died May 13 at the age of 70 while on tour with longtime Memphis mate Steve Cropper in Japan. 
  • Doug Dillard, 75, who was a major influence on the better known people who are credited with creating “country rock” in California in the 1970s, died May 16. Future and former Byrds Chris Hillman and Gene Clark are just two of the musicians who learned from the banjo master.
  • Donna Summer, 63, the queen of disco with hits such as “Hot Stuff” and “Last Dance,” died May 17.
  • Robin Gibb, 62, who teamed with brothers Barry and Maurice in the Bee Gees, died May 20. The group hit the charts in the ’60s with “I Started a Joke” and “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?” before reinventing themselves with the disco soundtrack to “Saturday Night Fever.”

Album of the week

“Everybody’s Talkin’,” the Tedeschi Trucks Band. Derek Trucks gave WNKU listeners a taste of the group’s new live record when he visited the studio in April before an electrifying show at the Taft Theatre. 

For fans who didn’t see that performance, “Everybody’s Talkin’ ”  will give you an idea of what you missed. The shortest of the 11 songs on the double CD is the Elmore James classic “Rollin’ and Tumblin’,” which clocks in at 5 minutes and 11 seconds. That gives the 11-piece powerhouse group more than 16 minutes to show their skills on Stevie Wonder’s “Uptight.”

There are four songs from the band's Grammy winning "Revelator" album included, but it's the  covers that are intriguing. Fred Neil's title track and John Sebastian's "Darling Be Home Soon" are unlikely choices for a blues-rock band – until you hear how Susan Tedeschi makes them her own.

"Revelator" was  No. 1 on WNKU's Top 89 last year; can they repeat as champions?

Visiting the studio

Here’s the current lineup of artists scheduled to visit WNKU. Stay tuned for updates.

May 31, 1 p.m. hour – the Elders
May 31, 3 p.m. hour – Kofi Baker
June 1 (TBA) – Jon Langford of the Mekons and Waco Brothers
June 6 (TBA) – Sara Watkins
June 23 (TBA) – Great Lakes Swimmers