Bang! The Bert Berns Story!
Directed by Brett Berns & Bob Sarles
Don’t Knock The Rock Film Festival
The Silent Movie Theater
Los Angeles, CA
August 4th 2016
By Victoria Joyce
“White Soul Brother” is what they called him. Bert Berns wrote and produced “Twist and Shout” for the Isley Brothers that was later covered by The Beatles. It was their biggest hit. He did 50 more. And the “they” mentioned in the first sentence is a Christmas list of rock legends.
This gorgeous rock doc premiered at SXSW last Spring and will play on Friday night, August 4th at LA’s own “Don’t Knock the Rock Film Festival,” now in its 9th year. Directed by his son Brett Berns and music veteran Bob Sarles, and narrated by Little Steven Van Zandt, this film is a beautiful secret whispered in your ear.
There is already a small handful of rockers who know and revere Berns and this film will up that and spread the word.
Revealing itself with artist interviews, journalists, family and friends with archival black and white stills and films, it’s a well-known tale. Born in the Bronx, immigrant parents and coming of age just in time for the Kennedy Administration. A childhood illness, a talent for the piano and a love of Latin Music pointed him to a late-bloomer career in the record business ending up at Atlantic Records in it’s Hey Day! And moving on to start his own label Bang! Although people often think of The Brill Building, most of the big action actually happened a couple blocks away at 1650 Broadway, which was the home to BANG and where Berns really got his start.
Bert Berns writing and producing with African American singers in New York came together just before the British Invasion with a great deal of his songs worshiped and covered by The Beatles, The Stones, The Animals, Them (Van Morrison) and more. Those translations turned big hits in to massive hits that are still played and covered today.
We get to see a Rock and Roll Hurricane. Lots of politics (Jerry Wexler & Ahmet Ertegun) and egos (Phil Spector), brushes with the mob and a Great Dane in his NYC penthouse. His fan club includes: Whitney Houston’s mom- Cissy Houston, Van Morrison, Paul McCartney, Keith Richards, the Wicked Wilson Pickett, Neil Diamond, composer Ellie Greenrich, writer Joel Selvin, Ben E. King, the late Solomon Burke and a bunch more. It’s a colorful tale.
We loved “I Want Candy” by The Strangeloves redone in the 80′s Bow Wow Wow style.
Do yourself a big favor and sit through the end titles. His last composition “Piece of My Heart” originally recorded by Erma Franklin (Aretha’s sister) covered by Janis Joplin will have you in tears.