The concert was the vision of entrepreneur Bill Sargent, who hired an incredible array of the day’s biggest Rock and Soul stars (The Rolling Stones, James Brown, The Beach Boys, Smokey Robinson, The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Chuck Berry, Lesley Gore and more) and had them perform live at Santa Monica Civic Auditorium while Steve Binder filmed it with video cameras.
The back-up musicians were L.A.’s finest: the Wrecking Crew under the supervision of arranger Jack Nitzsche.
Within a month, it was in theaters. It captures a moment when Pop music was changing with thundering quickness: British Invasion, Motown, Soul and Funk, Surf music and Old-School, well-crafted Pop all coming together on the Top 40 to create a new 1960s-era youth culture. The Stones were still pretty new at the time, and their set was heavy on the kind of bluesy beat music (“Off the Hook,” “Time Is On My Side”) they were soon to outgrow. But Mick Jagger already had a way with a camera, and it’s a treat to see the penetrating intensity of guitarist Brian Jones.
But while the Stones close the concert, Brown steals the show. In his prime on his four-song set, he drops to his knees on “Please, Please, Please” as he’s consoled by his Famous Flames and then closes on “Night Train” with fleet, exciting dance steps.
One surprise is Gore — her powerful voice on “You Don’t Own Me” shakes the rafters. Grade: A