My Mommy is a fucking rockstar!! If you love music, go see her in the documentary Sample This. It’s playing at the Lammele Noho until Friday Sept. 19th. Antz and I went to the screening of this film last year. I was crying like an idiot full of pride hearing my Mommy speak about her extensive career. She is an amazing woman and there’s no one like her. I hope Olivia has inherited her ambition, her passion and her talent.
Here’s a few reviews of the documentary. It’s really a fascinating story.
We’ve all danced at some time another to the
rhythmic “Apache,” even if we didn’t know it, and this highly enjoyable
doc reveals the incredibly colorful and variegated tale behind it.
Nothing less than a loose but pretty exhaustive history of pop
music in the last 50 years or so, Dan Forrer’s Sample This
focuses on the great drummers who’ve kept the beat going from Bing
Crosby to today’s hip hop. He frames his film around the story of
producer Michael Viner (1944-2009), whose Incredible Bongo Band,
comprised of the best percussionists of the day, created the
seminal instrumental “Apache,” probably the most ubiquitously
sampled record in music history.
Viner had a colorful, huckster-ish life, starting with his first
novelty hit, “The Best of Marcel Marceao” (with that curious
spelling) consisting of total mime-silence followed by applause. He
was one of those fluke geniuses who managed to corral big talent
with, in the case of “Apache,” fabulously enduring, unexpected
results. Forrer’s doc is densely populated by interviews with those
unsung heroes of an age: the bewilderingly virtuosic studio
musicians who’ve hung in there long after the stars they’ve worked
with, from Sinatra to Presley to Amy Winehouse, crashed and burned.
Legendary names like Michael Melvoin, Perry Botkin, Jerry Scheff,
Jerry Butler, Robbie King, Mike Deasy and the great bongo-banging
Bobbye Hall are interviewed or, if deceased, gloriously evoked.
These music guys also had serious interactions with history, like
Viner, whose pal Roosevelt Grier was right there when Bobby Kennedy
was assassinated (and who appeared in the outlandish Viner-produced
The Thing with Two Heads, his skull grafted onto the body of
Ray MiIlland—or was it vice versa?). Mike Deasy, now a born-again
preacher after serious drug years, had a connection to Charles
Manson and was a friend of producer Terry Melcher, who owned the
house were Sharon Tate and friends were murdered.
Although many of these musicians are miraculously hale and
hearty—and prove thus in a recent Incredible Bongo Band reunion
session, jamming away on the “Hawaii FIve-0” theme—the tale of one
of their number, charismatic drummer Jim Gordon, is not only
cautionary but horrific. After a blazingly bright career, he
bottomed out on drugs and alcohol, became “possessed” by demons and
gruesomely murdered his mother, for which he is still serving
Through so many of these events, however, the irresistibly funky
“Apache” lived on and was rediscovered by DJ Kool Herc in the
1970s, who sampled its drum breaks while spinning music for
ecstatically enthusiastic New York dance crowds. As rap and hip hop
music rose to the predominance it now enjoys, countless other
artists also employed it to juice up their own tracks, and continue
to do so. As one pundit puts it here, “There is nothing more hip or
hop than ‘Apache.’” Forrer charts the rise of hip hop culture, with
its attendant, still extant highlights of “scratching” and
break-dancing, with affectionate incisiveness through interviews
with Herc, Afrika Bambaata, Melle Mel and Grandmaster Caz, giving
his film a really universal appeal to music lovers, whether they’re
into rock or rap, and showing how true talent can truly encompass
Dan Forrer’s documentary delves into the history of the
little-known instrumental song that became one of the most sampled
tracks in pop music history.
manages to weave in a wealth of pop culture wanderings into its
tapestry. The song, “Apache,” originally appeared on a 1973 album by Michael Viner’s
Incredible Bongo Band, a group of studio musicians assembled by Viner, a
producer whose previous credits included the hit novelty album The Best of Marcel Marceau,
which consisted of silence followed by the sound of audience clapping.
While the song made little impact initially, it was later discovered by
DJs and hip-hop artists and improbably went on to become one of the most
sampled tracks in pop music history.
But that’s not even the most compelling element of Dan Forrer’s
entertaining if disjointed documentary, which delves into the history
of the track and its creators with a near obsessive attention to detail.
Among the colorful elements featured in the film are the assassination
of Robert Kennedy (a young Viner was one of his aides); the campy horror film The Thing With Two Heads; the Charles Manson murders; the possible participation of Ringo Starr on the album; and the notorious gangster Johnny Roselli and his possible role in the CIA’s plot to kill Fidel Castro and the subsequent JFK assassination.
“Apache,” which one onscreen commentator describes as “the national
anthem of hip-hop,” was originally written by a British songwriter
inspired by American westerns and recorded by the band The Shadows. The
obscure instrumental was later covered by the Incredible Bongo Band,
which had been created by Viner to contribute a couple of songs to the
soundtrack of The Thing With Two Heads, which starred the improbable onscreen duo of Rosey Grier and Ray Milland.
The song languished in obscurity until it was rediscovered a few years later by DJ Kook Herk,
who made it a staple of his Bronx dance parties. It was later covered
by The Sugarhill Gang and eventually became a hip-hop staple, used by
artists including Missy Elliot, Amy Winehouse, Nas, LL Cool J, The Roots and countless others.
While the film narrated by Gene Simmons largely
eschews delving into exploring the cultural impact of sampling on pop
music, it endlessly explores the fascinating characters involved in the
song’s creation and evolution. Among the members of the Incredible Bongo
Band were such musicians as guitarist Mike Deasey, who was once briefly had a connection with Manson; drummer Jim Gordon, who later suffered from severe emotional illness and went to prison for killing his mother; and bongo player King Errisson, who was befriended in Jamaica by Sean Connery during the filming of Thunderball.
It’s a fascinatingly eccentric, if digressive, tale, recounted
through a combination of archival footage and interviews with such
figures as Afrika Bambaataa, Questlove, Freda Payne, Melle Mel and Jerry Butler, among many others. A joyous coda features the band’s surviving members reuniting to jam on the Hawaii Five-0 theme song.
Opens: Friday, Sept. 13 (GoDigital, Inc.)
Director/screenwriter: Dan Forrer
Producer: Bob Burris
Director of photography: Philip Hurn
Editor: Michael Levine
Composer: Perry Botkin Jr.
Not rated, 85 minutes