Bang! The Bert Berns Story

I awoke and watched the chef segment of CBS This Morning.  Sheldon Simeon’s signature recipes include Chili swordfish with bok choy, Watercress tofu salad, Pancit, Spicy chicken sandwiches, Poke, and Bibingka.  I looked up the American Top 40 playlist for the weekend.  The Top 10 songs on May 31, 1975 were “When Will I Be Loved,” “I Don’t Like to Sleep Alone,” “Shining Star,” “Old Days,” “Bad Time,” “Sister Golden Hair,” “Only Yesterday,” “How Long,” “Thank God I’m a Country Boy,” and “Before the Next Teardrop Falls.”  I went to work for five hours and browsed through the record store.  I bought a used Blu-ray copy of “Playtime.”  I heard about the death of Gregg Allman.  I headed to the movie theatre, where the cashier had annoyingly sold me a senior ticket.  I didn’t think I looked anywhere near that old, but it did save me two dollars.  The movie was “Bang! The Bert Berns Story.”  Like most of the other people in the audience, I had never heard of Bert Berns.  He was a songwriter and record producer who was involved in creating pop songs and records like “Twist and Shout,” “I Want Candy,” “Hang On Sloopy,” “Piece of My Heart,” and “Brown Eyed Girl.”  He had friends in the Mob and made some enemies in the music business.  The famous record producer Jerry Wexler is described so negatively that I wondered what he was really like.  Berns’ story seemed to have elements of Phil Spector, Bobby Darin, and Ray Liotta’s character in “GoodFellas.”  Some of the people interviewed for the film were Paul McCartney, Keith Richards, Van Morrison, Solomon Burke.  It’s impressive that he went out there and succeeded.  The emotion in those songs of his was quite incredible.  The influence of the Mob on his career is left cloudy.  Does anybody know what the truth is?  Berns with his heart problems wasn’t supposed to make it to age 21.  He died on December 30, 1967 at age 38.  There are so many songs on the soundtrack, like “Cry to Me” and “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love,” to indicated what Berns did in his short life.  The movie didn’t convince me that he was as great as Phil Spector, but it did show me that he did make his mark.  If all he ever did was to write “Piece of My Heart,” his contribution to pop music would have been significant.  After the screening was over, the co-director Bob Sarles appeared to talk about how the movie was made, and for a Q&A afterwards.  He said that he was living in Los Angeles editing television shows to earn enough movie to put his daughter through college when he went to a Joel Selvin book reading.  He met co-director Brett Berns, Bert’s son, and told him that he could help him out with this project.  Brett said that he already knew that he would need Bob’s help in completing the film.  The audience was interested in the interviewees.  Bob said that Paul McCartney was not hard to get because of financial arrangements: “Paul owns a piece of Bert.”  Most of the interviews were done by Brett before Bob got involved in the project.  Bob did not want to miss the Keith Richards interview.  The Wilson Pickett footage was from an archive.  I, like others, was surprised that Van Morrison was in the film.  Morrison was frustrated with living in a hotel room and Berns’ not doing anything for him.  Bob said that Van did not hate Bert, but he did hate Bert’s wife.  As far as the Mob went, Bob told a story, not confirmed, that Ahmet Ertegun was taken away in a limousine, and he feared that he would be killed.  Bob said that the PBS series American Masters would not be a good outlet for a small filmmaker like himself because of financial arrangements like having to raise two million dollars.  Bob closed his remarks with a bit of trivia, that a young Bill Graham could be seen in the mambo footage.  It was a pretty good movie.  I was reminded of why I liked this period of pop music so much as I compared the movie in my mind with “Straight Outta Compton.”  Various people approached Bob Sarles and congratulated him and shook his hand, telling him that they liked the film a lot.  I went home and watched part of an Abbott and Costello movie on the Svengoolie show.  Some of the people who died on May 28 include Noah Webster (1840), Audie Murphy (1971), Phil Hartman (1998), Gary Coleman (2010), and Maya Angelou (2014).  According to the Brandon Brooks Rewind radio segment for May 28, the Frank Sinatra film “The Detective” was released.  In 1977, Sting, Stewart Copeland, and Andy Sumner played together for the first time when they performed as part of Mike Howlett’s band Strontium 90 in Paris, France.  In 1982, “Rocky III” was released.

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