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‘The London Rock and Roll Show’ – Rock Movies You Need to See

As the ’60s began to wind down, many of the greatest ’50s rock ‘n’ rollers got a second chance to be cool. Revival concerts and festivals were popping up all over the U.S. and Europe, and some of the biggest names in rock history found themselves playing for a new generation of listeners.

The renewed interest in rock roots came to an interesting head in 1972 in the form of the London Rock ‘n’ Roll Show (released as a film in 1973 as ‘The London Rock and Roll Show’) — the first ever concert event to be held at Wembley Stadium.

Thousands of fans turned out to spend an entire day listening to a roster of jaw-dropping performances by Bo Diddley, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis and Bill Haley and His Comets.

Sadly, the Coasters, the Platters and the the Drifters were also billed to appear, but work permit issues kept them from being part of the historic event. Sadder still, the concert film’s director, Peter Clifton, excluded two acts from the movie that would have made for fascinating viewing to modern music lovers: the MC5 and Garry Glitter (with the Glitter Band).

The movie opens with three British rock acts: the Houseshakers and Heinz — who cover rock classics ‘Be Bop A Lula’ and ‘C’mon Everybody,’ respectively — and wild horror rockers Screaming Lord Sutch and the Savages, indulging in their typical onstage antics.

But there’s even more to the movie than kick-ass music. Some of the performer personality dynamics on display are worth the price of admission. In separate inter-cut backstage interviews, Jerry Lee and Little Richard spend a lot of breath talking smack about one another. (It’s probably the one time the Killer ever came out on top as the most sane and reasonable party.)

It makes sense that Little Richard might be a little cranky and jealous; he’s booed by the very temperamental London crowd when he tries to top Lee’s ivory tickling theatrics by jumping atop his own piano. (Incidentally, the MC5 got a fair share of boos too, which may be why their set wasn’t included in the movie.)

Surprisingly, the real revelation of ‘The London Rock and Roll Show’ is Bill Haley’s three-song performance. Not only does he look exactly like every ’50s-era photo you’ve ever seen of him — all big smiles and spit curls — he sounds amazing.

After tearing through ‘See You Later Alligator’ and ‘Shake Rattle and Roll,’ he brings the house down with ‘Rock Around the Clock,’ one of those overplayed “oldies” you never expected could sound fresh again.

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