Reviewed by Glenn Erickson
Rock and Roll 'rockumentaries' can be an excellent way to enjoy a favorite group, but very often
the trimmings - interviews, docu background - can get in the way of what we go to see and hear,
the music and performances. Some of the most frustrating times can be had with compilation docus
about 'The British Invasion' that for brevity's sake bring their star groups on in chopped-up
excerpts. There are a couple of Who performing videos from the 90s that are fine in their
way, but they're not the same as shows from the 60s and 70, when Pete Townshend had his hearing,
Keith Moon was still alive, and the group's attitude was at its caustic best.
1979's The Kids are Alright was an attempt by a fan/insider to gather all the existing
footage of the Who performing, just so that when they stopped touring, the impact of their great
stage presence wouldn't fade and be lost. I saw the film in the early eighties, and it delivered
almost two hours of pure Who - almost too much, but also enough to really get a grip on the boys'
appeal and raucous personalities. The good news was that it was basically a series of performances
spread out over ten years, as uninterrupted as they could be: from television, concerts, the film
Woodstock, foreign television shows and even collectors' 8mm movies. The bad news is that
in New World's grainy prints it didn't look very good, and the sound quality was all over the place.
I never saw it on video, but the VHS and laser were said to be eyesores that time-compressed
the film to make it fit on one laser platter. Now Pioneer has done a phenomenal job restoring the
show for DVD - fans of The Who are going to flip when they see the quality and the extras.
Starting with My Generation, The Kids are Alright ties together about twenty performances,
most from library footage and a few shot new in 1978. Interspersed within are some odd bits of
film, some new scenes, and a splattering of aggravating television interviews. The largest of these,
with harried host Russell Harty, is serialized throughout. Townshend makes a point of never answering
questions and calling his own work rubbish when he's one-on-one. He does come out with the cogent
point that the group can't go on doing windmill guitar licks and destroying equipment forever,
exactly why the performances needed to be preserved.
Painstaking audio restoration by Ted Hall of P.O.P. Sound has revived even the worst of the audio,
and opens up the stereo tracks to a shimmering 5.1 . It is all, of course, very loud. The only
fragmented songs are from European television shows, where the band is lip-synching to their
The main performances are as follows:
MY GENERATION The Smothers Brothers
Comedy Hour 1967, I CAN'T EXPLAIN Shindig! 1965,
BABA O'RILEY shot for the film 1978, SHOUT AND SHIMMY
Fifth National Jazz and Blues Festival 1965, YOUNG MAN BLUES
The London Coliseum, Covent Garden 1969, TOMMY CAN
YOU HEAR ME? Beat Club, Hamburg 1969, PINBALL WIZARD, SEE ME
FEEL ME, MY GENERATION Woodstock 1969,
ANYWAY ANYHOW ANYWHERE Ready Steady Go! 1965, SUCCESS STORY
Entwhistle home, 1978, HAPPY JACK New Action Ltd.
1966, A QUICK ONE WHILE HE'S AWAY The Rolling
Stones Rock'N Roll Circus 1968,
SPARKS Woodstock 1969, BARBARA ANN, for the
film 1977, ROAD RUNNER/MY GENERATION BLUES Metropolitan
Stadium Michigan 1975, WHO ARE YOU? promotional 1978,
MY GENERATION Monterey International Pop Festival 1967, WON'T
GET FOOLED AGAIN for the film 1978.
Pioneer's DVD of The Kids are Alright is a very friendly package. A fat booklet
is included that lays out the basic facts of the film and the restoration. The original director
had input, as did John Entwistle for the final remix. The picture looks excellent throughout, with
ample evidence that even the rattiest clips were given the best possible digital cleanup. There are
comparison demos of the sound mix between this new version and the old VHS master, and video
comparisons as well. A lengthy docu shows the restoration process in detail - from examining
elements to the digital clean up. At one point we see somebody putting a negative element up on an
editing table - a no-no I've never seen done before - ?
Another interesting extra allows us to see a couple of performances using the ANGLE selector on our
DVD machines. I'd forgotten about that feature, not being a fan of porn (honest). And by cycling
through the AUDIO selector, we can hear John Entwhistle's isolated base line during a song. Both of
are, well, really neat. There are other trivia quizzes and interviews that interested me less.
They all looked to be quality goods and will surely interest more diehard Who fans. A full list
of goodies is below.
As a seventeen year-old, I discovered Tommy and played my LPs and 4 Track Muntz Stereo-Pak
tapes of Who records until they fell apart. I've only heard bits of newer remasterings of the original
recordings; it seems The Who's earliest American albums were poorly manufactured. The Kids are Alright
sounds really, really good. For a music DVD it's in the same league as Stop Making Sense.
On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
The Kids Are Alright rates:
Movie: Very Good
Supplements: Commentary by Jeff Stein, Restored to the original "Director's Cut"
length of 109 minutes, Almost 100 minutes of never-before-seen multi-camera angle footage,
Completely re-mastered in Hi-Definition and 5.1 surround from the original film elements
and multi-tracks, 32 page booklet, Roger Daltrey interview , Making of the DVD - 40 minute featurette,
Audio Comparison, Video Comparison, isolated audio track of bassist John Entwistle, The Who's London - An
interactive video tour of Who landmarks, trivia Games, newly mixed 5.1 rendering of the album version of Who Are You ,
video light/slide show, lost recording of Ringo Starr
Packaging: Two disc Keep case
Reviewed: October 13, 2003
DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2003 Glenn Erickson
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