American Hot Wax is a biopic (biographical film) directed by Floyd Mutrux and written by John Kaye.
It tells the story of avant-garde DJ and concert promoter Alan Freed, who was a key player in the introduction and diffusion of Rock’n’Roll in the Fifties. He is often credited as having coined the very term ‘Rock’n’Roll’.
It is an exuberant docu-drama set in the Fifties and centred around Alan Freed’s attempts to put on a Rock’n’Roll show at the Paramount Theatre in Brooklyn.
The film does not only tell us about the golden age, it also lets us relive it in part thanks to the participation of some of the era’s great artists: Chuck Berry, Frankie Ford, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Brooklyn Dreams and Jerry Lee Lewis.
Check out this scene from the film, where Jerry Lee Lewis interprets himself.
Although we enjoy a medley of these unforgettable artists, the story really concentrated on Alan Freed’s battle against the payola practice, the scandal surrounding the payments made by record companies to ensure their artists got airtime. Throughout this war of interests, the government tolerated the corruption so they could concentrate their efforts against Rock’n’Roll music.
A&M Records released the film soundtrack, in collaboration with Brooklyn Paramount. One recording, Record 1, is a performance from the film recorded in stereo; Record 2 is the original recording used in the film and was recorded in mono.
The soundtrack reached #31 on the Billboard ranking. It is an unmissable film that many people are unaware of. Was that down to poor promotion or had the establishment really won against Rock’n’Roll?