DVD Review: Bee Gees “In our Own Time”

DVD Review:  Bee Gees “In our Own Time”
Eagle Vision
All Access Review: B-

Little mention is made of “disco demolition night” in the new Bee Gees’ biographical documentary DVD “In Our Own Time.” Not a proud moment in music history for anyone involved, the July 1979 event, exceedingly fascist in its design even if its blockheaded organizers never imagined the devilish destruction and chaos it would incite, was the culmination of a severe backlash against what many perceived to be an utterly synthetic sound and polyester, cocaine-fueled lifestyle.

And maybe disco was all that, but the tide of hatred that swept over Comiskey Park that crazed night in Chicago during a twi-night doubleheader between the White Sox and the Detroit Tigers was pretty frightening and hard to fathom. Then again, when you combine the torches-and-pitchfork sentimentality of mob violence and free-flowing rivers of beer, perhaps it isn’t all that surprising that a half-baked plan – dreamed up by shock jocks, of course – to blow up a crate full of disco records on a baseball field in front of a stirred-up crowd would end in disaster.

Much of that mindless anger was directed at one group: the Bee Gees, disco’s royal family. The “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack, one of the biggest albums of all-time, ignited disco fever worldwide in the mid-1970s and it made the brothers Gibb international superstars. And in one fell swoop, all the good work the Bee Gees had done in the late ‘60s, the gorgeous melancholy pop and Beatlesque psychedelia of early hits like “I Started a Joke,” “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?” and “New York Mining Disaster,” among others, was forgotten. Only in recent years, with Rhino Records reissues of beautifully crafted LPs like Bee Gees’ 1st, Idea, Horizontal and Odessa, their crowning achievement, has the world begun to recognize their songwriting and studio genius.

“In Our Own Time” follows the lives of all the Bee Gees, from their childhood on the Isle of Man to the family’s momentous move to Australia, where they gained some fame as teen idols, and then onto their return to Britain, where they just missed out on the Merseybeat hullabaloo but built themselves into pop hitmakers, and their first forays into R&B and blue-eyed soul that would transform them, in fits and starts, into a glitzy, hairy-chested, gold-chain sporting disco juggernaut. Wide in its breadth, “In Our Own Time” flashes a vast assortment of vintage live clips, behind-the-scenes studio footage, revealing interviews – including extended time with the now-deceased Maurice Gibb – with all three members and many others involved in their meteoric rise and their sad tragedies, the most damaging of which was the death of younger brother Andy, a huge recording star in his own right whose lost battle with substance abuse has been well-documented.

Had the DVD not been so ambitious in scope, had it sailed on through the group’s halcyon disco days and called it a day, “In Our Own Time” could have been an essential historical document of the Bee Gees’ most prolific and exciting period. But, the filmmakers wanted to tell the whole Bee Gees story from beginning to the present, and while a noble effort, the story gets bogged down in minutia from the least interesting and blandest musical era in the band’s otherwise glorious history – see Barry’s embarrassingly saccharine, overly emotional duets with Barbra Streisand, an atrocity well worth forgetting.

What’s more, there’s a missed opportunity to dig into other, less savory aspects of the Bee Gees’ career. For example, no mention is made of their involvement in one of the worst movies ever made, 1987’s “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” with Peter Frampton. “In Our Own Time” is simply a celebration of the Bee Gees’ artistry, especially those incredible vocal harmonies that rival those of the Beach Boys and their beguiling melodies, and for the most part, it’s an interesting study. All of the brothers are good interviews, pulling no punches about their sibling arguments and Maurice’s alcoholism, and there are plenty of visual treats from their 40 years in the industry. But the film drags at a time when it should wrap things up, spending too much time on the “lifetime achievement awards” they’ve received in recent years. It completely avoids some touchy subjects and gives too much attention to others that don’t warrant it. The lack of any extras and the scant liner notes don’t enhance the overall package.

Still, “In Our Own Time” does what it can to enhance the luster of the Bee Gees’ career, ferreting out the songwriting and recording details that few other such undertakings have ever set out to do and explaining how doggedly the group persevered in its attempts to morph into a stylized soul and R&B outfit that would gain the respect of their Motown heroes and models like The Stylistics. Those features alone, however, cannot quite atone for the DVD’s sins of omission.

- Peter Lindblad

Collectors Corner: Rockin' The Smiles

Rockin' The Smiles
VIP Spotlight: Dr. Brad Jennings

Dr. Brad Jennings
What do you get when you combine a passion for music memorabilia and the skills to create beautiful smiles? Well you get a "rockin' orthodontist"! Dr. Jennings is not only a Backstage Auctions customer but also resides in Houston. So we thought we would stop by his office and check out for ourselves what this "rockin' doc" is all about and find out a little about how he got into collecting music memorabilia.

How did you get into music collecting?

Always been a rock fan.  Been playing guitar for 20+ yrs, after buying orthodontic practice I wanted to liven it up with my style and thought a rock theme would be perfect for the kids and parents.  I had some Nugent stuff given to me from Ted in high school when my parents owned a large hunting store called Dunn’s in TN, and he wanted some bow equipment for his live shows.  My dad didn’t even know who he was when he talked to him.  Like a typical teenager I was so embarrassed when he told me that.

What is the focus of your collection (genre, band, era, type of item)?
I aim for bands that I liked growing up:  GNR, Van Halen, Zeppelin.  The parents all know them and kids know them from playing Rock Band of course! 

What is your method of collecting? How do you determine the authenticity and provenance of a piece of memorabilia?

Perry Farrell's Jacket
I got burned at first, and I’m sure I’ll get burned again!  I try to compare autographed things to other pics on the internet.  A lot of bands are selling their stuff personally like Nine Inch Nails and Smashing Pumpkins which makes buying a lot safer.  I’m staying away from buying autographs now.  I’m looking for unique things like personally owned things.  I have a jacket worn by Perry Farrell of Jane’s Addiction and a Nine Inch Nails flight case with travel stickers on it. 

What do you like most about collecting?

Sun Records
Sam Phillips Telegram
I like collecting stuff that has a story behind it.  I loved the Gene Simmons meeting and getting his stage played Axe bass.  I have a telegraph from Sam Phillips talking about Jerry Lee Lewis that I got from Backstage Auctions.  It means a lot since I grew up in Memphis with Sun Records.

What would you consider to be your "first" piece of memorabilia?

My first memorabilia would actually be some items from Drivin’ ‘N Cryin’, a band out of Atlanta, that I loved in high school.  Unfortunately, my mom tossed all my cool stuff out about two months before I started decorating the office!

What is your most-prized item (both in dollar value and sentimental value)?

Gene Simmons' Axe Bass
Check out the personal note...cool! 
Gene Simmons’ Axe bass complete with blood!  Getting to meet Gene was great and getting an actual stage played item that I have pictures and videos of him playing is awesome.

What is your favorite musical act or artist of all time?

I’d say Jane’s Addiction.  I’ve been listening to them from the mid-80’s and never seem to get sick of hearing them.

What was your most memorable concert you have ever attended?

I saw Smashing Pumpkins when they were just coming out in a small place in Memphis.  Billy Corgan said, “Here are 3 things about us:  We’re from Chicago, we don’t take requests, and we promise to kick your ass”  It was awesome. 

What advice would you give to someone that is new to the world of collecting music memorabilia?

I’d go after things that are personal to you.  I know Beatles stuff and Elvis items are worth a lot, but I don’t have a personal tie to growing up with them.  I love my Nine Inch Nails, Kiss, and Jane’s Addiction stuff b/c I grew up with them.

What does the future hold? 

Once a rocker...always a rocker! 
I plan to get a larger office in the future thanks to us growing as a practice, but I want to plan the rock theme into the building of it.  I’d like to have a room dedicated to items like the Hall of Fame or Hard Rock does.

Well Dr. Jennings certainly has a passion for collecting and his office was really cool. We really enjoyed visiting with him, his staff and yes we were tempted to sign up for braces. How cool is to to walk into your orthodontist's office and have this view? 

Dr. Jennings "pit"

Keep "rockin' those smiles" Dr. Jennings!

If you live in the Houston, Texas area and are interested in a consult with Dr. Jennings please visit his website for the office contact information:   http://www.rockingyoursmile.com/

DVD Review: Velvet Revolver "Live in Houston"

DVD Review:  Velvet Revolver “Live in Houston”
Eagle Vision
All Access Review: B+

On paper, it was a match made in heaven, or at least somewhere on the Sunset Strip. Four ex-members of Guns N' Roses – Slash, Duff McKagan, Matt Sorum and Dave Kushner – backing a slithering, swaggering, fashion-plate of a singer with a highly publicized drug problem in former Stone Temple Pilots' Scott Weiland seemed like a super group that might just rekindle the crash-and-burn, gutter-rock firestorm of Appetite for Destruction. To a large extent, the promise of this shotgun wedding went unfulfilled – that is if you were expecting Appetite … II, the Sequel.

With Contraband, Velvet Revolver came out swinging with a fairly strong debut, even if it didn’t quite provide the grit and utterly debilitating punch to the gut that Appetite did. A lack of new ideas, some rehashed guitar riffs and Weiland’s subdued sleaze all caused Contraband to fall just a bit short of expectations, which is not to say that Contraband missed the mark entirely. Gripping grooves, tough, irresistible rhythms and the occasional flashes of brilliance in Slash’s solos rescued Contraband from utter failure and gave hope that better days lay ahead for VR.

At the very least, none of the Velvet Revolver team has anything to be ashamed of in Contraband. It just wasn’t Appetite, and maybe, just maybe, it was asking too much to believe that it would be. After all, this wasn’t Guns N' Roses, and comparing the two projects is a little unfair. But, let’s be honest. From day one when this project was announced, everyone was waiting to see if VR measured up to both Guns N' Roses and the Pilots.

At the time of this writing, Weiland had returned to the Pilots, and Velvet Revolver was being coy about whether or not it had settled on a new lead singer. “Live in Houston,” a concert DVD that captures the band live in 2005, shows what the Weiland version of the band was capable of onstage.

A gutsier, sleazier, edgier Velvet Revolver emerged this night. Aside from the lamentably forced exhortations from Slash and Weiland for the crowd to abandon their inhibitions and lose themselves in all the sexual energy that a down-and-dirty rock show can muster, Velvet Revolver acquits themselves nicely, playing with vim and vigor in stomping through originals and a few covers of Guns N' Roses and Pilots tracks. They attack the heavy opener, “Sucker Train Blues,” with a pounding, frothing-at-the-mouth intensity that unrelentingly barrels on through satisfying, riff-heavy numbers like “Do it for the Kids,” the epically huge “Headspace” and an equally explosive “Crackerman.” Weiland plays the role of debauched ringleader perfectly, crawling around the stage like a predator, pouncing on monitors and pouring out sweaty vocals through a megaphone, while the band lets loose furious, bump-and-grind metal grooves. And on the Guns N' Roses classic “It’s So Easy,” Weiland sounds just as dangerous as Axl ever did. 

Captured from a variety of camera angles, Velvet Revolver sizzles live, and the quick cuts and creative image shaping add to the excitement of a live performance that tears the roof off the place, even if VR flat-lines on a weakened “Big Machine” and a boring take on “Used to Love Her” before reviving itself for “Slither,” which comes down from its atmospheric headspace to hit the streets with roaring guitars.  

Overall, “Live in Houston” is not only a cracking concert DVD, but it’s augmented by no-holds-barred, behind-the-scene footage and candid interviews that talk openly about helping Weiland get sober and how the band fought over who the lead singer would be before getting Weiland. Expertly filmed and edited, with a whole lot more to offer than just electrifying live rock and roll, “Live in Houston” finds Velvet Revolver firing round after round of tough, angry rock to a crowd eager to lap it all up. Stay tuned. Evidently, the Velvet Revolver story is far from finished.

- Peter Lindblad