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Categories: Movie Reviews

Melody Makers is a riot of musical appreciation and wild tales from a beloved bygone era for fans of rock ‘n’ roll writes Francesca Amoroso.

Leslie Ann Coles met Barrie Wentzell in 1996 Toronto, often regaling the stories surrounding his photography archive, she quickly became enamoured with his colourful career. A collection of negatives that can literally fill a car and valued by Christie’s as simply “priceless,” Wentzell’s collection is an endless array of candid snaps of basically any and every music legend you can think of.

Taken by Wentzell for the UK weekly music periodical, Melody Makers, from 1965-1975, his work is where the true legend of Melody Makers began. Whilst having been in publication since the 1920s, Wentzell’s chance encounter with a young Diana Ross, earned him the front page spread and sent Melody Makers and its staff careening into the fast and furious world of rock ‘n’ roll.

Coles’ documentary is a simple one made over the course of 8 years, it lets the epic photography of Wentzell take centre stage, the staff and writers of the articles attached to these photographs becoming mere secondary players. It’s an honest and exciting tale of a small magazine, who somehow became at the forefront of the swinging sixties music scene. Music legends opening their doors to the writer/photographer duos for a casual smoke, beer and a chat; a far cry from the music industry today with bodyguards, managers and press officers to get through first.

Bob Dylan having a smoke, Jimi Hendrix tired after a flight, Roger Waters and three cats staring out a window, Pete Townshend having a tea party with stuffed toys, a serious Eric Clapton, a debonair Davie Bowie, a sombre Johnny Cash and an embrace between John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Wentzell’s photos are legendary, capturing these young men and women at their most relaxed, always enjoying the company of Barrie and his camera.

The film is a love letter to an era and culture of music that just does not exist today, talented individuals from across the world who could never guess the pervasive influence their music would have for years to come. And Melody Makers was at the centre of it all, a publication originally intended for music professionals, with the latest updates in musical instruments, advertisements for musicians and instruments alike and a weekly schedule for the clubs and their acts.

Thanks to the legendary photographs by Wentzell, Melody Makers quickly became the weekly must-have for any musicophile aged 19-25. The interviewees, who outside of the Melody Makers staff include: Eric Burdon (The Animals), Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull), the entirety of Yes, Rick Buckler (The Jam) and Sonja Kristina (Curved Air), all passionately recall the days of their youth and the wonderfully close relationship they had with those at Melody Makers.

If you love music, rock ‘n’ roll, and the stories of legends (say a story of Keith Moon throwing a TV out a hotel window and managing to get away with it…and get another TV for the room of course), then Melody Makers is for you. A happy, meandering hark back to a more relaxed era and journalistic style with an equally joyous soundtrack of the music that began it all.

As Barrie himself said, it was a great 10 years and “you should’ve been there…”

You can check out Barrie’s work here: http://barriewentzell.com/

Francesca Amoroso

Francesca is currently a Camera Assistant, working and living in London. She is an MA Film Studies graduate from UCL and writes about film in her spare time.

Posted on Oct 7, 2017

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