New Documentary Reveals 1969 Music Festival That John Lennon Headlined

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John Lennon performing in a scene from the film

A new documentary recounts the 1969 music festival in Toronto that featured John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band, including Eric Clapton, headlining a lineup with other rock legends. The Toronto Rock and Roll Revival was a one-day event held on Sept. 13, four weeks after Woodstock. Lennon’s appearance was not publicly revealed until the last moment. The documentary, from director Ron Chapman, features never-before seen footage of the concert shot by renowned filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker. Following several film festival screenings, the film opens in Canada on Dec. 16. Watch the official trailer below.

From the Nov. 2022 announcement: REVIVAL69: The Concert That Rocked the World is a behind-the-scenes story of how a little known, but life-altering music festival came together — against all odds. Young, scrappy concert promoter John Brower worked to make his Toronto Rock and Roll Revival into a one-day event, later coined in rock mythology as “the second most important event in rock & roll history.” And it almost didn’t happen. “The week before the show, tickets weren’t selling,” he says in the film. “All of a sudden the show is gonna be canceled.” Lennon’s appearance saved the day.

Chuck Berry, in a scene from the film

The festival featured such rock legends as Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bo Diddley, the Alice Cooper Band backing Gene Vincent, and The Doors. But it was the 11th hour arrival of Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band that ignited a truly seminal moment for the 20,000 fans at Toronto’s Varsity Stadium.

Through exclusive conversations with iconic musicians Alice Cooper, Robbie Kreiger, Alan White, Geddy Lee, Chicago’s Danny Seraphine and Klaus Voormann, and over 60 minutes of archival footage and audio tapes, the documentary reveals the whirlwind chaos leading up to the festival — the biker gang, threat of cancellation, a mid-flight band rehearsal, and inexplicable luck that culminated in Lennon shedding the mantle of the Beatles and nervously taking the stage with Yoko Ono, Clapton, Voormann, and White.

The film offers rare, recently discovered behind-the-scenes Super 8 verité footage, and including never-before seen 16mm film of the concert shot by D.A. Pennebaker and his crew, told through the eyes of those who were there: the musicians, the mavericks behind the scenes, and other eyewitnesses.

Watch the official trailer

Distribution outside of Canada has yet to be announced.

Related: Another “lost” rock festival preceded Woodstock by two weeks

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