Browse all reviews by letter     A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 0 - 9

USA 2016
Directed by
Brett Berns / Bob Sarles
94 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Bang! The Bert Berns Story

Unless you’re a mad keen r’n’b and soul music fan you probably haven’t heard of Bert Berns but there is little doubt that you’ll know the songs he wrote during the heyday of pop music in the 1960s. ‘Twist and Shout’, ‘I Want Candy’, ‘Hang on Sloopy’, ‘Piece of My Heart’, ‘Cry to Me’ and ‘Cry Baby’ are just a few of the hits he wrote either single-handedly or in collaboration.  Remarkably, he achieved this in the decade before his untimely death at the age of 38 in 1967

Bang! The Bert Berns Story is very much in the traditional style of documentary, one that takes us through its subject's life and career as a songwriter, record producer and music entrepreneur interpellating contemporary clips of performances of his songs with interviews from family members, principally his wife, and a wide range of people variously associated with Berns during his short life, including an unlikely Van Morrison whose firs hit as a solo artist 'Brown-Eyed Girl' was produced by Berns.

Bar an amusing opening quote from Atlantic co-founder and some-time business partner Jerry Wexler, the film, which was produced by his family, is very much a tribute to Berns but despite the word “genius” being bandied around it does not come across as a beat-up. His songs, many of which he produced himself, are testament to that. Thus we learn how Berns salvaged ‘Twist and Shout’ written by Berns (under the name Bert Russell) and Phil Medley, after Phil Spector butchered it with a version by the Top Notes.  Berns restored the Latin-tinged rhythm and had a hit with it with the Isley Brothers before it was covered by the Beatles launching Berns briefly onto the international stage.

If anything there is too much information here, too many talking heads (we really could have done without Paul McCartney and Keith Richards who gets a guernsey because The Stones had a early hit with a Berns tune ‘Everybody Needs Somebody To Love’). This is so particularly when dealing with Berns’ connections with the New York Mob whose lifestyle he apparently admired. The latter seem to have helped him in some of his business negotiations particularly with Wexler, who is painted as a villain in no uncertain terms, a one-time mentor who tried to appropriate his protégé’s success.

Unfortunately there is no footage of Berns himself but Bang! The Bert Berns Story serves as a fitting memorial to one of pop music’s lesser-known architects. In this respect, for music buffs at least, it will be obligatory viewing.




Want something different?

random vintage best worst