All My Loving
published: 24 /
Anthony Dhanendran enjoys Tony Palmer's 1968 music documentary 'All My Loving', which featuring footage of the Beatles, the Who, Cream, Frank Zappa, Jimi Hendrix and Pink Floyd, has just been released on DVD
Tony Palmer's 'All My Loving' starts off with something most music fans will be familiar with: a music industry insider decrying the state of the music industry, saying it all comes down to “money for money's sake”. Of course, that's what people have said since the first days of rock and roll, and it goes to show how little has changed since this film was made in 1968.
The film, which has now got a DVD release, was originally broadcast by the BBC. It documents a music that is at its height, straddling the world and conquering all. To those of us more used to modern documentary film-making, 'All My Loving' is curious and almost quaint – narrator Patrick Allen's tone is stentorian and almost quaint. But it serves as an interesting counterpoint to the craziness of some of the visuals and the on-stage antics.
The Beatles (in the period, here, between 'Sergeant Pepper' and 'The White Album') feature heavily, even to the point of interviewing figures as diverse as the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and George Harrison's mother. George Martin talks fascinatingly about his studio techniques, while Ringo's bemusement at the same techniques merely confirms his image.
It's not all about the music – in one remarkable sequence near the beginning of the film, Palmer dubs 'Yellow Submarine' over footage from the Vietnam War, including the famous footage of a young boy being shot at close range. Time-lapse footage of a record processing plant, and an interview with the head of an American 'jingle factory' provide interesting, contrasting insights into what's behind the music.
The likes of Frank Zappa (who's left to tell a strange story involving some soldiers), Cream, the Who, Jimi Hendrix and (the) Pink Floyd – for whom Syd Barrett's deparature was a very recent wound and who still took the definite article – are the other bands on whom Palmer concentrates.
Some of the lesser players – such as Manfred Mann, the Moody Blues and largely forgotten 60's group Grapefruit – provide a background on which the main groups are left to hang their own stories. 'All My Loving' doesn't have much of a central conceit – it's more of a loving ode to a music that the director clearly cares for a great deal. That's one of the problems with the film, in fact – Palmer is clearly heavily involved in the scene, and there's no notion of being the documentary outsider here. A long sequence fixed upon a Ginger Baker drum solo is of interest mainly to Cream completists.
Palmer's point appears to be that music has more to say than it first appears. That's old hat now, when the likes of Bono are regular visitors to the Vatican and the White House, but it was clearly radical in 1968.
That's not to say it's without interest to anyone else, though – it's fascinating to see people such as Pete Townshend in his heyday talking about gigs and “playing out our adrenaline”, for instance. This is followed by film of Townshend, Daltrey, Moon and Entwistle smashing the stage after an incendiary live Who show, over which the narrator archly comments “in Peoria, Illinois, the Who play out their adrenaline”.
'All My Loving' is artfully and lovingly composed and edited, and its subjects are erudite, eloquent and often make for worthwhile listening. For those 60's-heads who haven't seen it (or who saw it in the 60's but can't remember it) it's an essential addition to the DVD collection, particularly in conjunction with the bonus feature of a frank interview with the director. For the rest of us, though, the talking heads and rare footage aren't quite enough to upgrade it from being a one-off viewing.