i come prepared
the friday five

revolution time capsule

I waited 35 years ... I guess it was worth the wait. One of the many Showtime channels had a rarity last night/this morning at 4:15: Revolution, a documentary filmed during the Summer of Love and released the following year. I had never seen this film, although like many people I knew back then, I spent a lot of quality time listening to the soundtrack album. That album featured the Steve Miller Blues Band, Mother Earth, and Quicksilver Messenger Service, all, I believe, making their first appearances on record. It was a great album ... Mother Earth featured Tracy Nelson, a more controlled and "better" singer than Janis Joplin, but without the histrionics and self-promotion (of course, the lack of those things means she was also much less interesting than Janis), Quicksilver's version of "Codine" on the album was great, and Steve Miller introduced "Mercury Blues," which he later re-recorded, and also cut a version of the Isley Brothers' "Your Old Lady" that remains one of the great lost classics of hot-shit rock and roll guitar. (Why this has never been re-released is beyond me ... even Miller's 1994 box set, which included amongst its 64 songs stuff like Miller talking to Les Paul when Steve was five years old, neglected to throw "Your Old Lady" into the mix. "Your Old Lady" was also a highlight of sets played by The Basha Band, the garage band I was a part of back in the day.)

In all this time, the movie has been pretty much forgotten. I can't say I ever remember it playing back in the 60s. A few years ago, a revamped version called The Hippie Revolution surfaced, which took footage from the original and added interviews with the "stars" a couple of decades down the road ... I never saw that one, either. But now, I've seen the original.

And it's not much, which I guess is no surprise. Lots of footage of hippies dancing, hippies talking about taking drugs, hippies taking drugs, hippies dancing while on drugs. In this original version, there is no context ... nothing to identify the people, little to even explain where we're at from one scene to the next. The exception is the main "character," Today Malone, whose visage graced the album cover and who was a 20-year-old blond hippie chick and resembles our guide for the film.

If you remember the times, you will recognize some folks, nonetheless. Herb Caen shows up to tell about the first time he smoked pot (with a cop!) (he calls them "the fuzz!"). Lou Gottlieb, who was once a member of the early-60s folk group The Limeliters, is shown at Morningstar Ranch, one of the more famous communes of the times. Ronnie Davis, who founded the San Francisco Mime Troupe, offers some revolutionary ideas. Cecil Williams shows up, although I confess I didn't recognize him (finding out he was in it, after the fact, it was easy to remember who he was, though). Daria Halprin from Zabriskie Point is supposedly in it, but I can't tell you where.

And what about the music? It's not crapped on, but on the other hand, anyone thinking they're going to see a definitive "Your Old Lady" will be disappointed. Most of the music that appears on the soundtrack album turns up here in different versions ... the visuals are generally of bands in concert, but the audio doesn't always seem to exactly match what we're seeing. Quicksilver's "Codine" is probably the best of this bunch. More interesting are those musicians who weren't on the soundtrack album. Country Joe and the Fish are featured more than once, the long-forgotten all-girl band the Ace of Cups get a song (or at least, part of a song), and Dan Hicks, who at that point was probably still with the Charlatans, shows up solo to sing a song about a guy who is stoned.

Overall, I can't really recommend this movie to anyone unless you "were there" or you're fascinated by original source material about hippies. Me, I wish I'd been there, and I am fascinated ... I'm the guy who has a video tape of unedited material from the Prankster's Bus Movie ... so I'm glad I saw it. It takes a mostly non-judgmental approach, and while there's lots of filler, even so it's less than 90 minutes long. Now I want to see the re-edited version, so I can find out what Today Malone is like down the road. Six on a scale of ten.