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Music DVD Reviews: Review of The Dick Cavett Show: Rock Icons
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The Dick Cavett Show: Rock Icons (2005)

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Dick Cavett entered the late-night fray in 1969 and he quickly became well known for his dry wit and willingness to discuss and debate controversial topics, such as the ongoing war in Vietnam, women’s liberation and civil rights. The show’s candor and casual atmosphere also made it the favorite (and sometimes only) late-night stop for many of the era’s biggest musicians. “The Dick Cavett Show: Rock Icons” is a three DVD set that attempts to document this era with 24 musical performances over nine full episodes of the talk show.

The first disc contains what has been dubbed “The Woodstock Show,” which was broadcast the day after the legendary concert. The featured act, Jefferson Airplane (vocals provided by a rather sexy Grace Slick), performs “We Can Be Together,” which is especially notable as it may be the only network broadcast of the word “motherfuckers” – somehow the censors missed the objectionable lyric. They also perform “Volunteers” and after several other performances by Joni Mitchell and Stephen Stills, a young (and quite svelte) David Crosby joins Jefferson Airplane for the show’s finale, “Somebody To Love.” Throughout the episode, Cavett asks the artists about the concert and the music business in general, which makes for an interesting if haphazard interview. The scatterbrained conversation is reminiscent of one that might occur at a house party after someone broke out a bong (or so I'm told.) The second episode on the disc features a great performance of “Thank You (Faletteinme Be Mice Elf Again)” by Sly and The Family Stone. Cavett’s interview of Sly Stone is somewhat comical due to Stone’s odd and unintelligible responses to Cavett’s queries, which were likely caused by his reported cocaine addiction at the time. Rounding out the first disc is a show featuring David Bowie, who sat down for a strange interview in between performances of “1984” and “Young Americans.” Post-Ziggy Stardust, Bowie performs as himself (instead of some alter ego) for the first time in quite a while, and during the interview it seems like he’s still trying to get comfortable in his own skin.

Janis Joplin was the only musical performer to appear on the three episodes on the second disc, performing a total of six tunes, including “Try (Just A Little Bit Harder)” and “Get It While You Can.” She sat down and spoke with Cavett on all three episodes, and even stuck around (puffing on a cigarette – which is now quite odd to see on a talk show) while Cavett interviewed his other guests. There was a funny exchange between Joplin and Raquel Welch, who looked absolutely stunning in a low cut top and a miniskirt. Welch was there to promote her movie “Myra Breckinridge,” in which she plays a man who goes to Europe to get a sex change. Joplin was at the premiere and interjected – in a self-effacing way – that she thought the movie was “too choppy” and changed too much for her liking. Welch took the criticism in stride and quipped, “Well, it is about change.”

The third disc begins with an episode featuring Stevie Wonder, who performed “Signed Sealed, Delivered” and “Never Dreamed You’d Leave Me In Summer.” Even though it is a stretch to consider Wonder a “rock icon,” his first performance is one of the most engaging of the entire collection. In the second episode, George Harrison plucks guitar on the Gary Wright performance of “Two Faced Man” before sitting down with Cavett for a long and candid interview. It’s easy to tell that, at this particular point in his life, Harrison has a distaste for questions about his history with the Beatles, but Cavett does a good job of asking a variety of inquiries so that Harrison doesn’t get too bored. At one point, Cavett suggests that Harrison, being the quiet Beatle, may have been the one to have the most success with the ladies. Harrison retorts, "I think Paul got most of the girls," and imitates McCartney's patented head bob and cheesy smile which were part of the group's early performances on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Later in the program, Ravi Shankar talks with Harrison and Cavett about Indian music after an impressive performance on his sitar, an instrument that exploded in popularity after Harrison used it on several Beatles’ tunes. The last episode on the disc features Paul Simon, who performs “American Tune,” “Loves Me Like A Rock” and a beautiful gospel-touched rendition of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” with The Jessy Dixon Singers. Probably the most interesting moment of the Simon appearance occurs when Cavett asks about the method of songwriting and Simon pulls out his guitar to play an unfinished song as an example. The tune turns out to be “Still Crazy After All These Years” and it is fascinating to hear Simon discuss the song in such an incomplete state.

The bonus material is rather sparse but enjoyable. It consists of an interview of Cavett himself along with an interview that the host did with Mick Jagger before a Rolling Stones show in 1972. Jagger’s energy and candor throughout the interview is surprising and he emits a very foretelling answer when Cavett asks if he can see himself still performing when he’s sixty. Jagger’s answer? “Easily.”

The three-DVD set provides an interesting look at the state of music in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Being born in 1973, I only know a lot of my musical heroes as grizzled vets, so it is refreshing to see many of them interviewed and performing in their prime. The remastered audio sounds adequate, but given the limitations of the era, the sound isn't going to blow anyone away. The set could have been compressed to one or two discs had only the music related segments been included. While most of the non-music interviews are rather tedious, it’s hard to argue for their complete exclusion, especially when you’re talking about leaving footage of the lovely Raquel Welch on the cutting room floor.

~John Paulsen 



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