EXCLUSIVE: Summer of Soul isn’t the only documentary about a lesser-known music festival that has historical significance.
Deadline understands that a film is in the works about the Toronto Rock & Roll Revival , which is best known for a rare solo performance by John Lennon, the first for the Plastic Ono Band, during his final days as a Beatle.
Rock & Roll Revival (w/t) is directed by Ron Chapman (The Poet of Havana) and will tell the story of the Toronto event in September 1969, held the same year as Woodstock and Harlem Cultural Festival. The one-day music festival at the University of Toronto’s 20,000-seat Varsity Stadium was put together by young renegade promoter John Brower with artists including Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bo Diddley, Gene Vincent, The Doors and Alice Cooper. However, with dismal ticket sales, the concert almost was canceled before Brower invited Lennon and he said yes.
Lennon had been in the studio with The Beatles putting together the Abbey Road album and he didn’t have a band for his two solo albums so he got together a group consisting of Eric Clapton, Yoko Ono, Yes drummer Alan White and bass player Klaus Voorman, who designed the artwork for the Revolver record.
Lennon reportedly was nervous about the show and is thought to have tried to back out. Concertgoers in Toronto also didn’t believe he would appear, and it wasn’t until Lennon and Yoko Ono boarded a flight and were escorted to the stadium by the Vagabonds Motorcycle Club that all the tickets sold out.
Lennon, Ono and the band played songs including a cover of “Blue Suede Shoes,” as well as “Dizzy Miss Lizzy,” The Beatles’ “Yer Blues” and a new song “Cold Turkey” as well as Ono’s “Don’t Worry Kyoko (Mummy’s Only Looking for A Hand in the Snow).”
It’s thought that after Lennon returned to London is when he decided to leave The Beatles.
The doc will use rare cinematic archive that includes unreleased concert footage from D.A. Pennebaker’s original 16mm film, and a narrative primarily told through the eyes of those who were there. Pennebaker, arguably best known for the Bob Dylan documentary Don’t Look Back and Monterey Pop, used some of the footage in his film Sweet Toronto.
Pennebaker Hegedus Films is exec producing the project, which is produced by Vancouver’s Screen Siren Pictures, Toronto’s Chapman Productions, Paris’ Films A Cinq. Trish Dolman, Sally Blake and Ron Chapman produce the doc, which is written by Phyllis Ellis.
Production kicked off this month on the 90-minute film. It will shoot in Toronto, Los Angeles, New York, London and Berlin, ready for a spring release touring the festival circuit.
It will air on Crave in Canada and Arte in France and Germany.
Funding support was made possible by Telefilm Canada, Canada Media Fund, Rogers Cable Network Fund, Rogers Documentary Fund, Hot Docs Slaight Music Fund, and Hot Docs Ted Rogers Fund and the Centre National du Cinéma in France.
The film is distributed in Canada by Photon Films, and Myriad Pictures is the distributor outside of Canada.
Find original Deadline article here.