Big Brian Yates takes a break from a lousy week of work and discovers BBC4
How good is BBC4? In the middle of a week of shit at work, I took some time off to watch Hotel California, from Byrds to Eagles: what a treat! Chris Wilson’s documentary film, tracing the flowering of rock music in LA in the sixties and seventies, featured no one going ‘on a journey of discovery’ (with shots of aircraft taking off and landing to prove it), no simplistic, over-dramatic statements repeated every two minutes, no ego-driven presenter shouting at the camera; this was like reading a grown-up’s book, but with moving pictures . . . and fabulous music.
Then, on Friday, after the shit had hit the fan at work, I needed to watch something, anything, in the half-time interval of Sky Sport’s rugby coverage. A quick channel surf offered me In Concert With . . . (BBC 4, 8.30pm), which turned out to be half an hour of classic BBC footage from 1970 of mighty rock legend Neil Young playing some new songs. The audience sat politely in their amusing seventies fancy-dress as Young sat hunched over his guitar or piano, face screwed into a racing-cyclist’s mask of pain and concentration, pouring out the emotion. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up as he slashed at his acoustic guitar and launched into another unknown number. It was Heart of Gold, one of the 50 greatest songs ever. The director pulled one or two fancy seventies tricks, shifting the camera angle and focus to place the giant head of a resting guitar alongside the musician, or overlaying a psychedelic purple Neil Young over the cowboy-brown one and subtly merging them together, but he mostly kept it simple. Thank you BBC4 for bringing a tortured genius into my living room on a Friday night!
(Apparently the second half of the rugby was a thriller!)