Throughout the 1960s — before the ascendancy of the singer-songwriter — writers, producers, musicians and businessmen collaborated on pop, rock and R&B, each of them trying to stamp their own personalities onto records. Bert Berns was one of the behind-the-scenes geniuses of that era, framing the joys and pains of human existence in catchy three-minute hits.
Berns' son Brett co-directed the documentary "Bang! The Bert Berns Story" with Bob Sarles, and their impressive lineup of interview subjects properly tells the story of a man whose contributions to popular music have been largely unheralded.
The movie is named after the label Berns launched in 1965, which released chart smashes like "I Want Candy," "Hang on Sloopy" and "Brown Eyed Girl." Before that, Berns was a writer and producer at Atlantic Records, where he helped bring "Twist and Shout," "Tell Him" and "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love" into the world.
Both the editing in "Bang!" and Steven Van Zandt's narration are too stiff, and the occasional dramatic re-creations feel misjudged. But it's hard to complain when Solomon Burke, Paul McCartney, Keith Richards and Van Morrison are offering insights into Berns' personality and craft.
What matters most is that "Bang!" is filled with lively anecdotes about the days when hucksters and racketeers ran the music business, jostling for control — an art in and of itself.
'Bang! The Bert Berns Story'
Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes
Playing: Laemmle NoHo 7, North Hollywood