Rockin' The Wall
Bringing down the wall. Smashing the curtain. Rock & Roll as a force of liberation. Rockin' the Wall is the compelling story of Rock & Roll's part in bringing down the Berlin Wall and smashing the Iron Curtain. Told from the perspective of rockers who played at the time, on both sides of the Wall, and from survivors of the communist regimes who recalled the lifeline that rock music provided them, Rockin' the Wall features new interviews and several original songs written exclusively for the film. The message that emerges is that music is a force of liberation, and in a society like America's, where it was seldom (if ever) truly suppressed, music failed to ignite a social revolution. But behind the Iron Curtain, where the mere act of expressing one's individuality constituted a potential act of revolution, music provided the key thread upon which the anti-communist struggle gained ground. The movie features interviews with a veritable Who's Who of classic Rockers including Robby Krieger of The Doors, Mark Stein of Vanilla Fudge, Mother's Finest, Rudy Sarzo of Quiet Riot, David Paich of Toto, Hollywood composer John Van Tongeren, Jimmy Haslip of the Yellowjackets, and Leslie Mandoki, a European star who escaped from communism, and more!
About the Actor
Larry Schweikart was born in Arizona, went to Arizona State University, got terrible grades, and upon graduation promptly went on the road as a drummer in a rock band. His group became semi-famous, opening for Steppenwolf, the James Gang, and Mother s Finest, and drew the attention of Billboard Magazine. After a few years, however, Schweikart tired of the road and wanted a more intellectual pursuit. After a single U.S. history course during a stint in summer school, he decided he wanted to be a professor. Graduating from the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 1984, Schweikart had already written two books and several academic articles as a graduate student. After a year in the University of Wisconsin system, he took a position at the University of Dayton, where he teaches to the present. Over the years, Schweikart has written nearly 30 books, dozens of articles and book reviews, and became an authority in antebellum banking and finance. In the 1990s, he wrote his own history of American business, The Entrepreneurial Adventure, then, with Michael Allen, began work on a larger project, a history of the United States. Published in 2004 as A Patriot s History of the United States, this book became a bestseller and attracted the attention of the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and talk-show host Rush Limbaugh, who interviewed Schweikart for his newsletter in March 2004. Now in multiple editions and a fourth printing, Patriot s History continues to be the alternative history for parents disgusted with the dominant liberal-left textbooks. In 2006, Schweikart followed up with the controversial Americaís Victories: Why the U.S. Wins Wars. Featured on BOOK TV and numerous television and radio shows, Schweikart was invited by the President of the United States to the Oval Office for an extended discussion of military history in August 2006. Now, with his new book, 48 Liberal Lies About American History (That You Probably Learned in School) Schweikart is back in the culture wars. He has appeared on the 700 Club , Fox and Friends , Fox News, Book TV, and dozens of national and local radio shows, including Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham, Hugh Hewitt, and many others. A novelist who has written a 9/11 thriller, September Day, and a World War II counterfactual military drama, Halsey s Bluff, Schweikart brings history to life in a variety of venues, now including film!See all Editorial Reviews
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If you want to see how "major" bands of the era had an impact on the fall of the wall, google "Moscow Music Peace Festival" which took place just weeks before the fall of the wall actually happened.
For those – like me - who lived through the cold war of the 1950s and 60s, it will be a reminder of events that occurred in our lives from the “duck and cover” exercises in school (remember fallout shelters?) to the Cuban missile crisis. And there is music of the period too, though much of it is limited to recreations by the musicians who participated in the interviews. (Obviously licensing costs were the reason for this.).
Writer/director Marc Leif was able to get a good balance of viewpoints in securing his interview subjects. Starting with a History Professor who was once a member of a rock band in the early 60s –the viewer is shown how the Iron curtain – and later the physical presence of the Berlin Wall came to be. A former manager for the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe operation tells how the US and its allies were able to broadcast jazz and rock to those in the Communist countries in Eastern Europe. We also hear from a half dozen people who were behind the wall and how they would smuggle or trade 10th generation cassette tapes of rock music. One interviewee in particular tells his harrowing story of escaping through a train tunnel to get to the West where he became a well-known record producer.
Speaking of well-known Leif was able to get new interviews with the two original lead members of Vanilla Fudge (who recreate their hit psychedelic version of the Supremes’ hit “You Keep Me Hanging On”, as well as a member of the band Toto and one from the Yellow Jackets and another from Quiet Riot. Another trio – Mother’s Finest – was new to me but this Atlanta-based group was apparently big in Sweden (based on the concert footage).
The flow of the film is excellent with discussions of world politics, repression in the Soviet Union and what it was like for American musicians to travel to play and go through “Checkpoint Charlie (the only opening in the “wall”.
This would make a great film for history classes in both high school and college. And, because there is no strong language, I think it still appropriate for any junior high level student as well.
Sadly, there are no special features on the DVD – just chapter stops – but when the Eastern European interviewees are speaking English, the director also includes easy-to-read English subtitles.
I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.
In a world where we take our culture for granted, it’s hard to believe that the music, the fashion, and just about anything from The West was banned throughout half of Europe for nearly half a century. But this music that was being broadcast over the airwaves from Radio Free Europe would eventually give people in oppressed countries such as The USSR, Poland, and Hungary a voice to stand up and hear what society beyond the Berlin Wall and beyond The Iron Curtain was really like; they too wanted their share of it and over time it finally happened.
As rock and roll’s embryonic stages in the 1950’s helped distract teenage youth from thoughts of nuclear annihilation and begin to create the coming of age soundtrack for rebellious American youth, it’s raw power and energy became a friend, a symbol of hope for those who lived in fear and were deprived of democracy. The Documentary Rockin The Wall: How Music Ripped The Iron Curtain takes us on a journey through Cold War Europe with the stories of how this music was banned and seen as a threat to what was seen by the communists, as the proper way of life. Escapes through railway tunnels, the smell and sights of freedom, friends who turned out to be spies, a soldier destroying someone’s Yes album, the tension of bands having to go through customs, the fear of being sent to prison camps, bootleg recordings, plus the anguish and the longing for something else; we are there with them, we feel the pain and the tension. Yet the signs of things to come were prevalent as well; rock music being allowed in Russia, bands finally getting to tour behind the Iron Curtain, and even stories of how Russian soldiers themselves were fans of the music (often wanting autographs from bands going through customs), showing that even those in the government couldn’t be kept down for long.
It didn’t happen overnight, but eventually the walls came down and a weight was lifted off the shoulders of many who were starved for freedom. Stories from members of Vanilla Fudge and Mother’s Finest, whom the latter saw first hand the actual strain of events having played West Berlin many times during the cold war; other appearances from Robbie Krieger, Rudy Sarzo, as well as a whole host of Eastern musicians and music fans give us their account on how music affected them and how the political events inspired not only lyrics, but also the tone and the vibe of the music as well. It’s an account into a world that was and how no one should ever underestimate the power of rock music. In the end it’s the words of Bob Geldolf that rein true, as he once made the statement that “The international language isn’t English, it’s Rock and Roll,” can’t argue with him on that.
Copyright & Publishing: 2014 Tommy Hash for Ytsejam.com; re-posted to Amazon by Permission of the Author (www.ytsejam.com)
When I get the CD I will add to this review.