Time capsule: ‘Superstars In Concert’ on DVD

‘Superstars In Concert’, Peter Clifton’s capsule of the rock era, arrives on DVD. But is time on its side? superstars-dvd

When I was twelve years old, my friend Mark and I used to sit on his lounge floor and watch the hell out of a video tape belonging to his Dad. It was a Pandora’s Box of all the stuff that Dads knew about that you weren’t supposed to yet. Loud guitars, long hair, drugs, elaborate face furniture, excessively long drum solos, even the odd glimpsed bit of hippie chick nudity. It was called ‘Superstars In Concert’, a film composed of live performances and promo films by the rock royalty of the late 60s and early 70s. It was a treasure chest of all the hard stuff. A time capsule documenting the era when the first wave of mainly British 60s stars reigned imperial, before glam exploded and Bowie and Bolan swept in to take the castle.

Peter Clifton’s film of his own promos and bits of others film was a bit of a hotchpotch in 1973, filled with killer clips but wonkily edited. It remains a cult favourite, disappearing in and out of print over the years. Reissued on DVD, it retains its ramshackle charm, but there’s a major catch, which I’ll come to later.

Mick Jagger’s face fills the DVD cover, which is apt, as the Rolling Stones dominate the show. They bookend the film with candid footage of Mick and Keith from their Irish tour of 1965 (later to surface in ‘Charlie Is My Darling’, decades later), and there’s a whole stack of their promo films early on. Their promo for Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby? , filmed at the Albert Hall in 1966 is full of stage invasions, fainting girls, and complete chaos breaking out between Mick’s every leap and spin. We’re also treated to a segment from their police-baiting film for We Love You, which re-enacts the trial of Oscar Wilde with Mick as Wilde, an angelic, short-haired Marianne Faithfull as Bosie, and Keef as the impassive, bewigged judge. It’s also an object lesson on the dangers of overdoing it, as studio shots of a heavy-lidded, impossibly stoned Brian Jones testify. You then get both sides of the Stones dressing up and wearing make-up. The psychedelic, colour-gelled film for 2000 Light Years From Home is slightly marred by Jagger’s ridiculous hat, while the famous film for Jumpin’ Jack Flash remains deliciously evil.

For any Stones nerds, it’s actually a notably different studio version of Jack Flash dubbed here, although a major shortcoming of the film keeps coming back to undermine it. The film print has had no restoration at all. Although the often bleached-out look of the film doesn’t look too bad, the sound quality is frequently atrocious, full of drops in volume, and borderline unlistenable in places, which is a shame considering the quality of what’s on offer, including some really rare stuff from the Stones and Hendrix in particular. Considering that so much of this stuff is unavailable elsewhere, it’s a missed opportunity. Sometimes, it seems that Clifton’s got his hands on the original records and overdubbed the sound, but this just makes it stick out like a sore thumb when you’re listening to the Faces and he abruptly pulls the record and leaves you with a lo-fi live recording that sounds like it was done on a dictaphone.

Horrible sound aside, it’s still a lovely time capsule. Otis Redding, seen on stage in London, is at his most energised and commanding as he tears through a breakneck Satisfaction and Try A Little Tenderness backed by Booker T and the MGs.

Cream, thrashing the living daylights out of Sunshine Of Your Love at their famous Albert Hall farewell gig, show exactly why they had such a fearsome live reputation. Minutes later, an aimless Blind Faith show you exactly why they didn’t even last a year.

The then fairly recently late of this parish Jimi Hendrix is represented in a sequence linking the rare ‘Saville Theatre’ clip of Hey Joe, a sandpaper-sounding Wild Thing, and a dynamic montage set to the studio version of Freedom.

Elsewhere, Cat Stevens performs Father and Son in a white room in a nod to Kubrick, while Pink Floyd’s intense version of Careful With That Axe, Eugene is one of their best, and mercifully sounds good too.

Also worthy of mention is Ike and Tina Turner’s… allusive… stage routine to I’ve Been Loving You Too Long, in which Tina shows you her, er, technique.

‘Superstars In Concert’ ends with a blokey, laddish segment with the Faces. It’s great fun, but a more interesting film might have emerged had Clifton hung on and included Bowie or Bolan at the expense of Blind Faith. It remains a great time capsule, despite the clumsy editing. It’s just a shame that it’s had none of the clean-up that it deserves, and looks and sounds no better now than it did in 1989.

❉ ‘Superstars In Concert’ was released on 17 October 2016 by Fabulous Films Ltd/Fremantle Media Enterprises, RRP £14.99.

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