The entry on Purple Rain, for instance, is a three-and-a-quarter pages long rehash of the movie’s production history and features interview material from the film’s director, Albert Magnoli. On the other hand, the movie House, a B-grade horror schlocker included in the book because of its 1960s rock-heavy soundtrack, is barely a quarter of a page rundown of its synopsis and why it’s in the encyclopedia.
For as well-, or at the very least passably-, written as the majority of the entries are, they prove to be the book’s major flaw. Not because of what’s included, but because of what isn’t.
In his introduction, Muir writes “for the purposes of this book, films that involve rock music, but also disco, rhythm & blues, soul, and pop are all included in the mix.” Oh, if this were only true. There are glaring omissions in the book of important works of soul cinema. This isn’t meant to mean blaxsploitation, but instead movies with a soul soundtrack, soul artists, or simply about soul music. While What’s Love Got to Do With It, the Tina Turner biopic starring Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne, is included in the encyclopedia, it is one of the only examples of a movie with a soul or R&B subject.
Shaft is missing, as is Superfly, two movies notable for their exceptional, influential soundtracks by Isaac Hayes and Curtis Mayfield, respectively. The Harder They Come, while more reggae than Muir's rock, is considered a soul film in certain circles and is likewise notable for its soundtrack. Most egregiously, though, two important documentaries were left out: Standing in the Shadows of Motown and Wattstax. It’s impossible to conceive of an encyclopedia framed around the idea that one rock show can change the world and missing from that book is Wattstax, a documentary about the “black Woodstock” that took place in 1972 in Los Angeles, that featured the likes of Isaac Hayes, the Bar-Keys, Eddie Floyd, Carla Thomas, the Staple Singers, and Albert King, and that was one of the most socially relevant music events to happen in the United States.
Equally shameful is that The T.A.M.I. Show is missing. This concert film from 1964 is as rock and roll as you can get. The concert, which took place in Los Angeles, featured the Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, Marvin Gaye, Gerry and the Pacemakers, and early performances from James Brown and the Rolling Stones. Granted the movie is a bit esoteric because it isn’t readily available in any format, but that’s no excuse. Any rock and roll film encyclopedia worth its weight must include The T.A.M.I. Show or it is incomplete.