UK Magazine watch - well, the Times review of TKAA

Scott Schrade schrade at
Sat Apr 24 12:06:10 CDT 2004

Repost from John Hughes.  John, why are you leaving IGTC out of the loop
on some of your posts?  Your info is too valuable to exclude!

We won't get filmed again

By Chris Campling

The Who's glory years are on a newly cleaned-up DVD. Accept no substitute

AMONG ITS myriad delights, The Kids are Alright contains one of the best
dumb questions ever asked of a rock star. It dates from 1969, when Tommy was
taking The Who from the top of rock's second division to near the top of the
first. The band were appearing on the German TV show Beat Club and Pete
Townshend was asked a question about the theme of his rock opera.

No, more to the point, Townshend was treated to the longest discourse ever
visited by a self-important (and hairy) pop-programme presenter on a bemused
musician. In a question longer than the first sentence of A Tale of Two
Cities, the interviewer ran through a variety of hypotheses, while Townshend
looked at the floor, examined his finger nails, and finally turned to the
presenter as he laboured to the entirely gratuitous question mark at the end
of it all.

And then Townshend answered: "Yes" - and suddenly we are with The Who at
Woodstock, and it's See Me, Feel Me in front of 400,000 people. From the
ridiculous to the sublime in the blink of an ear.

The Kids are Alright is full of moments like that, which is why it has
lasted so well since 1979, when I first saw it (twice in two days) in the
cinema and last week, when I saw it for the first time on DVD.

In fact, it's better now. The sound and picture quality are better, there's
extra footage in the "director's cut" - which, as usual, means "director's
added-on bits" - and the use of modern techniques means the new look is
closer to what they'd have made back then if they'd had the technology.

Because everything that happens in The Kids are Alright happened at least 25
year ago we get the band at its best: Roger Daltrey is a pocket-sized rock
god, all curly blond locks and rippling muscles. Townshend is driven, wild
and witty, not today's slightly pathetic, faded former genius. Keith Moon
and John Entwistle are, if nothing else, alive.

The supporting cast is fresh out of the box, too. From 1967 there's Tommy
Smothers, of the chucklesome American Smothers Brothers, introducing the
band while wearing an absurdly tight double-breasted blazer. And Keith Moon
getting down to his underpants in front of a confused Russell Harty in 1973.
And Ringo Starr and Moon being droll, dry and presumably well-refreshed in
1977. And Keith Richards introducing The Who doing A Quick One While He's
Away for the near-legendary (a euphemism for "not all that good, really")
Rolling Stones Rock'n'Roll Circus in 1968.

Best of all are two songs from the sessions the band did at Shepperton
Studios in May 1978 to provide an appropriately incendiary end to the movie.
They played the much-loved Baba O'Reilly and Won't Get Fooled Again over 
and over again until the movie's director, Jeff Stein, had enough from which to
cobble together two slabs of perfect Who.

And this is where the second of the DVD's two discs comes into its own.
"Special features" are as much of a lucky dip as bonus tracks are on a CD.
Some add immeasurably to your viewing/listening enjoyment, others are a
waste of everyone's time. Being a project that reeks of decades of love and
care, this one's special features really are.

OK, the two Who trivia quizzes are a touch unnecessary for all but the most
seriously anoraked, and The Who's London will fascinate only people who 
like to look at very dull buildings. There are revealing Q&A sessions with
Daltrey and Stein - but, to be honest, there's rather too much of Stein in
general. Yes, the guy has put 30 years of his life into The Kids Are
Alright, but he really doesn't need to spend another 30 talking about it.
Find closure, man.

Much better is a long piece, delivered in fluent technospeak, about how a
whole bunch of people sat in front of computers for two years to turn an old
film into a new video. The care these people took was astonishing.

We hear from the guy who went through the movie frame by frame and cleaned
off the accumulated gunk (cracks, folds, hair, sticky tape marks) of the
past couple of decades. Another guy took the same frames and recropped them
for video; merely transferring them from film would have meant losing detail
on the left and right.

My favourite bit, though, is where Sky's "playercam" football gimmick is
applied to John Entwistle. All that can be seen is the Ox, and practically
all that can be heard is his bass playing. And what bass playing, all rococo
twirls and finely wrought filigree runs. The man was a virtuoso drowned out
by the thrash and blatter of Townshend and Moon. No wonder he always 
looked so grumpy onstage.

The Kids are Alright is released on DVD and video on Monday

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