Stars: Burt Schneider and Ray Lindstrom
|This film was an official selection at the Phoenix Film Festival in Phoenix in 2014. Here's an index to my reviews of 2014 films.|
For all that it's a history lesson, it's a very engaging personal look at one. Back in January, 1959, a school dance at Catalina High School in Tucson inspired the creation of something which Kruse joyously shines a light back onto over half a century later. On the stage was Jack Wallace and the Hi-Tones and on the floor was a bevy of screaming girls. Also there to feel the energy were a pair of fast talking seventeen year old boys, both seniors at the school who, in their own words, didn't 'play anything except the radio'. So, for no reason other than it seemed like a great idea in the heat of the moment, they started their own record label, Zoom! Records. They're Burt Schneider and Ray Lindstrom and they're also the primary reason why this short is as successful as it is. Now with their sixties becoming their seventies, they still appear to be as bright eyed and bushy tailed as they must have been back in 1959 when all this went down. It's hardly surprising that they talked the singer at that dance into recording their first single, I Think of You.
As a fan of indie music, I found their story fascinating, even if that's as much for how they were part of a wider trend as for what they did themselves. If I understood correctly, Zoom! didn't last too long, but the records they made survive today, sound pretty cool and have a number of interesting stories to tell. Burt and Ray left the music business almost as soon as they entered it, but they remember the experience in detail and Dan Kruse hauls in an agreeable amount of appropriate experts to back up their stories. What comes out of the interviews is a magic time of opportunity where prices were low and ambition high, but naivete was stronger than anything. Never mind just the kids, they were no more naive than the folk they worked with; they all learned as they went on. Wallace himself didn't know what a B-side was even as he was recording a single. King Rock and the Knights were getting reviewed in Billboard, even though their manager, Bill Wershing, hadn't heard of it. Hearing themselves on KTKT in Tucson was jaw dropping.
While the subject matter, wisely advertised in the film's title, is enough for me all on its own, others will benefit from choices Kruse made while creating it. It wouldn't have been the same without Burt and Ray, so their inclusion is key, not only to talk about what they did but also to revisit their past in the present. There aren't many other interview subjects but there are enough and, with only one exception, they're a perfect selection. Most were actually part of the Zoom! story at the time, including everyone mentioned thus far. Others include Al Perry, a singer/songwriter and record collector; John Dixon, an Arizona music historian; and Brian Moon, Kruse's musicology professor at the U of A who's really interesting even if his voice really isn't. Kruse also plays many of the Zoom! hits, so we can hear what they're all talking about. There's even a telling scene where Burt and Ray visit Miller at Canyon Records in Phoenix to see just how much the industry has changed since they contributed to it. That's a perfect cap to a great documentary.