Magazine article Newsweek

Rock and Roll

Magazine article Newsweek

Rock and Roll

Article excerpt

ONLY PBS WOULD KICK OFF A DOCUmentary called "Rock & Roll" with a quotation from Plato: "When the mode of the music changes, the halls of the city shake." They follow up with the words of another great thinker, the guy who said: "Whole lotta shakin' goin' on." But the damage is already done. You expect Alistair Cooke to come back from retirement to introduce this sober 10-hour lecture (starting Sept. 24) produced by Boston's WGBH. It's painfully obvious that PBS is trying to be hipper in the face of growing hostility and indifference--but hasn't figured out how. "Rock & Roll" is scholarly, informative and clueless. It does not rock.

A lot of it feels very secondhand. Too many boring old guys sitting around mixing boards talking about famous rock stars who wouldn't sit for an interview. There are many people whose memories of the day Martin Luther King died you'd want to hear; the engineer who mixed Aretha Franklin's vocal tracks isn't one of them. The star power ratchets up on the other side of the Atlantic, no doubt thanks to the BBC's involvement as series coproducers. No new Beatles exclusives, but talkaholic Pete Townshend makes an appearance. And guitar god Jeff Beck has plenty of time on his hands to reminisce about the time he met Jimmy Hendrix. As for the promised "rare" archival footage, it looks pretty familiar. There were much cooler clips on the 10-hour "History of Rock 'n' Roll" that was syndicated on TV earlier this year and is now out on video. …

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