Kids Are Alright, The (1979)

Kids Are Alright, The (1979)

“You can’t stop doing what you’re doing, because you’d let down all these people.”

The raucuous style of British rock band The Who — singer Roger Daltrey, guitarist Pete Townshend, bassist John Entwistle, and drummer Keith Moon — evolves over their 15 years of performing together.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Documentary
  • Musicians
  • Rock and Roll

Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary writes, this “very good documentary about the early years of the seminal British supergroup The Who” contains “interview material” that is “kept brief and doesn’t interfere with the group’s many songs, taken from concert footage, television appearances, and studio jam sessions”. We get an excellent sense of the four band members’ irreverent humor, as well as their diverse personalities: charming Daltrey (that hair! those abs!), dynamic Townshend (his energy and talent — and nose — are truly one-of-a-kind), goofy Moon (never not clowning on camera), and aloof Entwistle (static in comparison with his band-mates). Peary notes that throughout the non-linear film, “we see the group age and their style of dress switch from mod to flamboyant to casual, but if anything, their energy level picks up, their songs become louder, their musicianship becomes more complex, and their anarchic style, typified by Pete Townshend smashing his guitars and Keith Moon his drums, becomes less an angry, ostentatious gesture than a way they can properly convey the artist’s/musician’s need for completely free self-expression”.

I’m not positive about the veracity of the latter assertion, especially given the following rather cynical quote by young Townshend early in the group’s career:

You have to resign yourself to the fact that a large part of the audience is sort of thick, you know, and don’t appreciate quality, however much you try and put it over. The fact is that our group isn’t… hasn’t got any quality. It’s just musical sensationalism.

as well as the film’s closing quote by an older Townshend (see beginning of this review), which continues as follows:

It’s not people just saying, “Listen, you’ll disappoint your fans if you don’t go on. The show must go on. You must go on, otherwise all those people will be so upset.” It’s, “You’ve got to go on, man. Otherwise, all those kids, they’ll be finished. They’ll have nothing to live for.” That’s rock and roll.

With that said, this final interview clip is followed by an enjoyably energetic and well-staged performance of “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, and surprisingly touching shots of the band embracing their adoring fans on-stage — thus making it seem like these men truly are playing for the enjoyment they bring to their fans (and continue to do so today).

Note: According to Wikipedia, the deeply drug-addicted “Moon… died one week after seeing the rough cut [of this documentary] with Daltrey.”

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Valuable, enjoyable footage of the group’s dynamic performance style and audience appeal

Must See?
No, but I think most film fanatics will want to check it out simply for general cultural interest and rockin’ music.


2 thoughts on “Kids Are Alright, The (1979)

  1. First viewing. Not must-see; fans of The Who will benefit most here – or those who have some sort of curiosity. As a documentary, it’s not particularly illuminating re: the individuals in the band; you don’t come away feeling you’ve learned a whole lot about them as people. Townshend says the most ‘of value’ but even that doesn’t amount to much, all things considered. (Moon comes off as annoying, unfortunately. One wonders whether the poor man had some sort of undiagnosed condition.)

    Personally, I can’t claim to be a huge Who fan – outside of the original recording of ‘Tommy’ (which, admittedly, I was semi-obsessed with as a teen), Ken Russell’s subsequent film of that – and the odd song here and there, perhaps. My favorite Who song is probably ‘Love Reign O’er Me’ – which I do think is brilliant (though it’s not performed here).

  2. Thankfully not meant to be an exhaustive catalog of The Who’s music, concerts, and appearances, Kids works well as a quick visual ‘best-of’ companion for fans of the band or rock music in general. They were groundbreaking for sure in just how showy they were as a live band–just to listen to their records was not enough and their studio efforts could often sound a little stilted and thin. And there are a lot of great live moments in Kids that are what they are best known for, including footage from their electrifying performance at Woodstock that blew most of the other acts out of the water and effectively saved their sagging career at that point. I too did not find the interview footage revelatory, they were mostly an amusing hodge podge of moody or impetuous reactions to the interviewers. The footage of the private concert that featured Baba O’Reilly and Won’t Get Fooled Again was a nice addition. I did find it poignant to see just how much the booze and drugs took a toll on Moon’s once-considerable drumming skills both there and in the studio scenes shot while working on the Who are You album.

    For years you could only watch a poorly transferred grainy VHS. The movie was remastered marvelously by Pioneer for DVD a number of years ago, and with the sheer volume of footage packed in, it was quite an impressive feat.

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