Classic rock was not limited to music and sound alone. The cultural influence took effect on the film industry with innovative, creative, humorous but also insightful examples like This Is Spinal Tap, Quadrophenia and A Hard Day’s Night.
This Is Spinal Tap is a mockumentary of a metal band who’s struggling to get back to the top while highlighting many aspects of several rock and roll with ups and downs, name changes, gold and platinum-selling albums , groupies, promoters, release dates and many behind-the-scenes moments. The comedy/musical movie was a modest box-office success, but as years went on critical re-evaluation has led This Is Spinal Tap to become a cult classic. People tapped into the amusement that came with the movie which has only gotten funnier over the years. Other hits worthy of mention include Almost Famous that comes in the musical/drama genre, describing the life of a 15-year old who is given the chance by the magazine Rolling Stone to pen feature articles about the most prominent bands and artists during her time such as Led Zeppelin, The Allman Brothers, David Bowie and while fending off objections of his protective mother.
In 1982, Pink Floyd also made Pink Floyd – The Wall which was a live action and animated drama with a musical setting, obviously based on their hit 1979 album of the same name. The movie is plotted around a confined rocker who goes by the name of Pink, visualizing his travails, and the metaphorical (and at times physical) wall that he has put up to protect himself from the emotions and the world after he has been driven to insanity by the loss of his father and the many phases of depression during this lifetime. The main character of the movie, Pink (played by Bob Geldof), reflects on an isolated childhood within the confinement of his Los Angeles hotel room.
Movies about classic rock continued to spring up as documentaries, comedies and musicals aimed at giving the average music fan deeper and more detailed insights of the rock and roll lifestyle. Other top classic rock movies that appeared from the 70s up to the 2000s include School of Rock, The Commitments, The Doors, Tommy, and The Runaways.
From their most active years (1963-1970) the Beatles starred in five films: A Hard Day’s Night (1964), Help! (1965), Magical Mystery Tour (1967), Yellow Submarine (1968) and Let It Be (1970).
Despite being a loosely-scripted mockumentary, A Hard Day’s Night exactly captured the Beatles’ inimitable wit, charm and happy-go-lucky attitude despite struggling with the height of the new phenomenon which was Beatlemania. Director Richard Lester seamlessly synchronized the Beatles’ music and imagery together, something which provided the basis of MTV which would debut 17 years later.
Help! has a more solid storyline, about Ringo finding himself as a sacrificial target of a religious cult. The film is perhaps the most watchable (and picturesque) of all the other Beatles films, as the hilarious pursuits take the band from the Austrian ski slopes to the beaches of Bahamas, which were all shot in color. The film might be pretty dated in today’s standards, but the songs in the movie as well as on the accompanying soundtrack LP, will remain pop and rock classics.
Yellow Submarine is an animated feature released in 1968. The film’s antagonists, the Blue Meanies, attack the music-loving denizens of Pepperland, and the only survivor Lord Admiral seeks help from the Beatles to save Pepperland from the enemies. None of the Beatles voiced the parts, which were instead done by actors. Despite aiming at a younger audience, Yellow Submarine is not without the puns and dry English humor. The surreal psychedelic animation style reminds one of Monty Python’s Flying Circus – in fact, the movie paved the way for Python Terry Gilliam’s animated interludes for their TV programs Do Not Adjust Your Set and Flying Circus.
Magical Mystery Tour is a TV film released on Boxing Day, 1968. In it, the Beatles take a surreal mystery tour through the English countryside. The film may be a disaster at the time of its release, but the soundtrack album is a critical and commercial success. Songs featured in the film and on the album include “I Am the Walrus,” “The Fool on the Hill,” “Hello, Goodbye” and the title track – all of which are now classic rock gems.
Let It Be is a fly-on-the-wall documentary that captures the group recording their final album of the same title. The fun frolicking and the goofiness were all gone; instead the film shows some tensions running high among the group members (most infamously the one between Paul McCartney and George Harrison bickering over how the guitar part should be played). It’s a raw, revealing and bittersweet look the Beatles while they are on the process of recording the album, which culminates at the now-legendary impromptu concert at the rooftop of Apple building. Songs include “Get Back” and the title track.