A concert film cum historical documentary, LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL is both a record and an appreciation of the originators of rock and roll. Shot in 1973, the film integrates footage from Richard Nader's Rock and Roll Revival shows with archival imagery of the 1950s.
In the concert sequences, Chuck Berry performs "Maybelline," School Day," "Sweet Little Sixteen," "Johnny B. Goode," and an updated version of "Reelin' and Rockin'" with mildly vulgar lyrics. Chubby Checker sings "The Twist" and "Let's Twist Again." Bill Haley and The Comets sing "Rock Around the
Clock" and "Shake, Rattle, and Roll." Fats Domino performs "My Blue Heaven" and "Blueberry Hill." Danny and the Juniors sing "At the Hop." The Shirelles sing "Soldier Boy" and "Everybody Loves a Lover." The Coasters perform "Charlie Brown." Bo Diddley performs "Hey Bo Diddley" and "I'm a Man."
Little Richard offers up lively renditions of "Lucille" and "Good Golly, Miss Molly," before he stops the show by stripping to the waist and flinging his clothes out to a cheering audience. The Five Satins sing "In the Still of the Night," "Earth Angel," and an a cappella version of "I'll Be
Seeing You." For the finale, Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry share the stage and jam to the delight of the crowd. Throughout the film, the performance footage is intercut or split-screened with images from the 1950s, including movie and television excerpts, still photos, educational and industrial
shorts, newsreel footage, and newspaper headlines.
LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL is a thoroughly enjoyable, good-natured celebration that aspires to a little more than it achieves. Directors Sid Levin and Robert Abel intend not only to showcase the enduring talent of the men and women who altered the face of popular music, but to make a case for the
enormous social significance of their music. Segments of the film are devoted to excerpts of innocuous '50s television programs, old educational films that advise good citizenship, and various sorts of anti-rock and roll propaganda. These clips are contrasted to images that connote youthful
rebelliousness of the era, such as a leather-jacketed Marlon Brando, a brooding James Dean, and a swaggering Elvis. The filmmakers endeavor to show how rock and roll provided an essential outlet to young people looking for an alternative to the stifling conventions of the time, but the randomness
of their presentation renders it a hodgepodge rather than any kind of a statement. The library footage is used most successfully when comparing the middle-aged rockers to their young selves, as they appeared in black-and-white films or on television. The contrast demonstrates that while these
performers have aged, their talent and vitality persists.
The best non-concert material in LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL, however, are the quiet off-stage or backstage moments, such as when Bo Diddley reflects ruefully about performing in segregated concert halls, or when Chuck Berry visits a broken down school bus he had toured in, commenting, "if it could
talk, I imagine we could convict every band member I had."
LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL incorporates some of the worst tendencies of post-WOODSTOCK (1970) concert movies, with endless, distracting variations of split screens, and cinematography that features arena lights which glare into the camera. Beyond these annoyances, though, the film has been quite well
photographed by Robert Thomas, who adroitly captures the singular style of each performer, as well as the quirky reactions of individual audience members. He also manages to keep up with Chuck Berry when he gets into his most animated hopping. (Profanity.)
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- Released: 1973
- Rating: PG
- Review: A concert film cum historical documentary, LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL is both a record and an appreciation of the originators of rock and roll. Shot in 1973, the film integrates footage from Richard Nader's Rock and Roll Revival shows with archival imagery of… (more)