Movies

Melody Makers chronicles the music magazine’s heyday in the ’60s and ’70s

Before there was Rolling Stone magazine, there was Melody Makers. The publication started in 1926 as a trade magazine for people in the British music industry, and came to an end in 2000 when it merged with rival New Musical Express.

Leslie Ann Coles’ feature debut chronicles the magazine’s heyday in the ’60s and ’70s; if Melody Makers had been a band, this was the period when it went electric.

Her film, whimsically titled Melody Makers, Should’ve Been There, leans heavily on Barrie Wentzell, chief photographer from 1965-1975, both for his recollections and his amazing collection of images. He shot everyone who was anyone in the U.K. music scene, a group that Melody Makers also helped create.

Wentzell recalls trying to talk a troubled Syd Barrett of Pink Floyd out of a locked room. Or the time he stayed at the hugely expensive Hotel George V in Paris, waiting for David Bowie to arrive in town. The aerophobic superstar was two-and-a-half days late on the train, and Wentzell followed him on the hovercraft to England, only to realize mid-channel that he couldn’t afford the fare. Bowie graciously paid.

The documentary takes a few odd turns in the final reels. Coles gives a shout-out to the artists of her homeland (Canada!), and former Melody Makers staffers indulge in a bit of things-ain’t-like-they-used-to-be. Almost in passing is the story of Jann Wenner, an American freelancer who covered the Monterey festival for Melody Makers in the summer of ’67. Five months later, he co-founded his own magazine. It was Rolling Stone.

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