Lights, Camera, Action !

Dear Readers, this month we tackle the burning question of the day. Never mind which way we should go on Brexit, who is the sexiest film star of all-time (in any case it was Jayne Mansfield, obviously!), or who will win Champions League this season (probably Man City, unfortunately). It is – what is the Greatest Rock’n’Roll Film of all-time ? I asked leading figures in the world of Russian rock’n’roll for their answer to this question. And here are their very interesting and exciting responses.

Andrey Rublyov, Lead Singer of the Russian band Stressor:

This is a very good question! It doesn’t get asked often but this is actually very important! In the 1990s, when VHS tapes became widely available in Russia, many movies about rock’n’roll appeared and were then shown on TV.

The first one I saw was Grease with John Travolta. Then Great Balls of Fire with Dennis Quaid and as chance would have it I saw a scene from Robert Rodriguez’s wild movie Roadracers in a videotape store and was charmed by its earnestness and honesty. Later on, I collected all the Elvis Presley movies and often watch them again and again. They are very good and honest. La Bamba (1987) is very impressive and The Buddy Holly Story (1987) with Gary Busey is a real masterpiece.

Some 25 years ago, I came upon a disc with the mind-blowing documentary movie-concert Blue Suede Shoes (1980). Not many people know it and not many have seen it, but it’s fantastic, a true revival concert of the then famous Crazy Cavan, Ray Campi, Freddie Fingers Lee and finally, Bill Haley and the Comets. I thought this was wonderful madness! A mind-blowing concert performance and a crazy audience! This is the essence of the 1950s and 1970s. I doubt this can ever be repeated. I’m absolutely sure this documentary movie-concert Blue Suede Shoes (1980) and Road Racers (1994) are at the heart of my rock’n’roll cinema education.

Natalya Terekhova, Lead Guitarist with the Russian group Magic:

Hi! I’m the rock guitarist Natalya Terekhova. I used to search for and collect movies about music and non-conformist rock musicians; not documentaries but specifically fiction films. I have attempted to gather all of these movies on-line at my website dedicated to all women musicians. This list is huge, so here are just a few examples from my website:

The School of Rock; The Rocker; The Blues Brothers; Ranetki Girls (Russia); Sid and Nancy; Grease; 1960 – G.I. Blues; 1962 – Follow That Dream; 1962 – Kid Galahad; 1962 – Girls! Girls! Girls!; 1989 – Great Balls Of Fire!; 1972 – Elvis On Tour; 1987 – La Bamba; 1996 – Louise: True Story of Rock’n’Roll; The Perfect Age of Rock ‘n’ Roll (2009); John Lennon (2010).

There’s no way I can name only one favourite movie. This is completely impossible ! I will name a few others which just speak to me; Wayne’s World, The Blues Brothers, James Brown-Get On Up, Crossroads and School of Rock.

Alyonushka Krasotulechka, Manager of the Russian band Stressor:

My favourite movie is La Bamba. I knew very little about rock’n’roll, just Elvis. I used to listen to heavy music in those days. After that movie about Ritchie Valens and his tragic story, I got interested in the 1950s culture and immediately bought a CD of his songs, as well as one of Buddy Holly.

Andrey Smirnov, long time activist in Russian rockabilly:

My favourite movie on our topic is Deuces Wild. I liked it very much because it doesn’t feature any famous actors. In my opinion, the artists did a great job with the costumes and set design, with no pretentiousness whatsoever. The actors are very true-to-life. Everything happens in the film to “our” music but the movie isn’t devoted to it. Maybe that’s why this movie is my number one favourite, as I’m not a musician but my whole life unfolds to the accompaniment of rock’n’roll music.

Dmitry Kryuchkov, Saxophonist with the Russian group the Sparks Boys:

Great Balls Of Fire, about the rise to fame of Jerry Lewis, a legendary musician of that time. It’s impossible to watch it and not fall in love with Jerry Lee’s reckless demeanour and striking, cocky charisma, coupled with the bone-rattling, fiery keyboard parts he performs in his songs throughout the movie.

The scene with the solo and the burning grand piano on stage is priceless. Jerry Lee sets the piano on fire to upstage Chuck Berry, who didn’t let him perform the show-closing piece. An outstanding Jerry Lee and an outstanding movie about the groovy era of the brilliant music called rock’n’roll.

Konstantin Napastnikov, long time activist in Russian rock’n’roll:

Here is my text about movies! All my favourite movies relate to rock’n’roll.

As I wrote before for you in this column, my entry way to the rock’n’roll subculture was the movie Cry Baby. I watched it repeatedly non-stop. Later on, I watched many rock’n’roll-themed movies made in the 1950s and later. I’ve seen Great Balls of Fire many, many times as well. Nevertheless, I would say Roadracers is my favourite. Just like many other Robert Rodriguez’ movies, it’s a fantastic film creating a unique atmosphere; highly charismatic actors, archetypal relationships between the characters, unconventional soundtrack and the charming character of JT. I especially remember in the movie a strange young man’s casual question – “what will I manage to do in the time I’m given?” At one point, I was inspired to draw JT.

Masha Nosova, Singer with the Russian group Marshmallows:

Boat that Rocked, Cry baby, Cadillac Records and Stoned.

Sergey Kuteynikov, Leader of the Russian band the Great Pretenders:

One of my favourite rock movies is Rumble on the Docks (1956) which features a wonderful performance by Freddie Bell and The Bell boys. I like it because in this movie you can have a glimpse at the original 50’s youth gang oriented clubs; the style, the look and so forth.

Anton Uzharovsky, Long time activist in Russian rock’n’roll:

Roadracers – 1994

Vlad Pankratov, former leader of the Russian group Real Hot BBQ:

I like many movies from the 50s, but especially important I think are The Girl Can’t Help it, Jamboree and Rock Around the Clock. But the first movie for me as a teenager was watching Jailhouse Rock. It was available in Russia in the 1990s. One reason is that this is the best film by Elvis, which also has a good playback story of show business. And for sure The Girl Can’t Help It is the best of the mix from 1956; in colour with the best rock’n’rollers, professional actors – and Jayne of course !

And Yours Truly ?

Well, as a Ted from the 1970s, maybe I’ll go for the early 70s movie “Let the Good Times Roll”. Regular readers of this column will remember I wrote a whole article about it some time back. It was an iconic film at the time for us rock’n’rollers and made a contribution to the Rock’n’Roll Revival during that period. Plus here are some more I also loved for varying reasons – the Tommy Steele Story, Rock around the Clock and Don’t Knock the Rock. And, of course, The Girl Can’t Help It – there’s a good argument for saying the way Jayne Mansfield looked and moved in that movie turned many a young man into a rock’n’roll convert, never mind the music !

And now it’s Your Turn, Dear Readers. Have a think and decide, what is YOUR all-time favourite Rock’n’Roll Movie ?

And finally, could not end this article without paying a special rock’n’roll Tribute. Paul Barrett passed away in January. He was an iconic figure on the British rockin’ scene for most of his life. For those of you who are new to rock’n’roll, let me give you an idea of some of his achievements. He was instrumental in the founding and managing of Shakin’ Stevens and the Sunsets, going back to the early 1970s. He was a key figure in the history of Crazy Cavan and the Rhythm Rockers, as their manager and promoter. Throughout his working life, as a rock’n’roll promoter he played an important role in the development of our rock’n’roll culture since the early 1970s. I am very glad to advise he was also a friend of mine. I will miss his emails from Wales to me here in Moscow, which were packed with great details about r’n’r history. There were many other facets to his life, for example he was very politically active all his life, with pronounced left wing views. But for us rockers, above all we will remember his great contribution to British rock’n’roll. And to cap it all off, he was a genuine, honest bloke. R.I.P. Mate.

Richard Hume