Bird on a Wire
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All You Need Is Love review: a glorious reminder of how pop docs used to be

26 May 2016 7:19 AM, PDT | The Guardian - TV News | See recent The Guardian - TV News news »

Stuffed with amazing footage, this magisterial history of pop – partly narrated by Liberace, partly written by Stephen Sondheim – got more than a little help from John Lennon’s contacts book

The subheading to this 17-part documentary says it all: The History of Popular Music. It shows what a massive undertaking this was, a seemingly impossible task. The fact that it succeeds so gloriously is, in large part, down to its director, Tony Palmer, who treated something as ephemeral as pop with a seriousness it probably didn’t deserve. That would certainly have been the opinion of most people working in the arts at the time – 1977 – but Palmer had by then already given us such classic documentaries as Bird on a Wire, about Leonard Cohen, and 200 Motels, co-created with Frank Zappa.

The result is quite simply stuffed with amazing footage, touching on everything from gospel, vaudeville, ragtime and musicals to protest songs, »

- Phelim O'Neill

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