Joe Cocker found himself in the unusual position of having no band and several concert dates to play when his group Grease Band returned to England ahead of him. He then recruited over 40 of his friends and family to help out, and for the next six weeks, effectively created a touring commune. See more »
JOE COCKER: MAD DOGS AND ENGLISHMEN (1971) Few films capture the grimy, jazzy feel of what it was like to be in a rock and roll band than this documentary gem. One particularly revealing scene shows what a recording session was like: ten people crammed in a smoke-filled room playing loudly and in one take. No over dubbing or fancy equipment. Just some men and women (or, as the final song shows, hermaphrodites) with passion and raw musical talent. The famous performance of "The Letter" with Joe Cocker in a lei is the one you hear on the radio today. The Mad Dogs, headed by Cocker and Leon Russell, rework several well-known songs to fit their own groovy, down and dirty style. "With a Little Help from My Friends" becomes a choir backed extravaganza, while The Box Tops' "The Letter" is fashioned into a R/B piece with an immortal horns riff; You know the "da da da dadada" when you hear it. The technical aspects are solid as well, with split screens, frame coloration, and the like. The film doesn't tell you in voice over what the road was like, it shows you. In a camp out scene, Joe can be seen looking at his contemporaries embracing while he sits off-kilter by himself. It's always suggesting, never telling. I saw this with my grandpa and he had lots to say about what he remembered about those days. He enjoyed it thoroughly and I was surprised how much I did as well; more so than even "Woodstock". "Woodstock" was too sprawling, too colossal to love. This one is a brief, piercing look at a band that wasn't necessarily the best, but had a hell of a time trying to be.
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