Steve Katz and John Scheinfeld spoke to Bill & Mike about Stranger-Than-Fiction Music Documentary 'What The Hell Happened to Blood, Sweat & Tears? Through documentary footage shot during the Iron Curtain tour (and thought to be lost) and present-day interviews with band members and historians, as well as the unsealing of government records, WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO BLOOD, SWEAT & TEARS? unravels the details of this extraordinary year in the life of the band
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ABOUT WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO BLOOD, SWEAT & TEARS
In June 1970, hot off their spectacular Grammy® win for Album of the Year (besting The Beatles' "Abbey Road"), Blood, Sweat & Tears becomes the first American rock band to perform behind the Iron Curtain, doing concerts in Yugoslavia, Romania and Poland on a tour sponsored by the U.S. State Department.
Like much of the youth in America, band members have been outspoken and critical of the Nixon administration and the Vietnam War. The Iron Curtain Tour seems to be a curious decision by the band, which was at the very height of their popularity.
Upon their return, the band becomes a victim of the significant societal upheaval and culture wars in a polarized America, divided as much then as it is now. Political criticism typically comes from one side or the other. But in 1970, Blood, Sweat & Tears find themselves in the crossfire from both the Right AND the Left and the group suffers greatly as a result. Suddenly, they are no longer hip and cool and lose support from fans, the media, concert bookers and the recording industry.
In short, the Right is outraged by the U.S. government footing the bill for an anti-war/anti-Nixon rock band to tour overseas and refer to Blood, Sweat & Tears members as "Communists". The Left is critical of the band for appearing to be an instrument of the U.S. government and/or the CIA.
Through documentary footage shot during the Iron Curtain tour (and thought to be lost) and present-day interviews with band members and historians, as well as the unsealing of government records, WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO BLOOD, SWEAT & TEARS? unravels the details of this extraordinary year in the life of the band.
Here's the trailer:
ARTICLE FROM VARIETY ABOUT THE FILM
Stranger-Than-Fiction Music Documentary 'What The Hell Happened to Blood, Sweat & Tears?' Lands at Abramorama, Sets Theatrical Release
Abramorama, a New York-based film distribution and marketing company, has acquired worldwide rights to "What the Hell Happened to Blood, Sweat & Tears?" Described as a stranger-than-fiction political thriller, the documentary takes a deep dive into the disappearance of one of the great counterculture bands of the late 60s and early 70s.
"What the Hell Happened to Blood, Sweat & Tears" chronicles the never-before-told story about a rock group who was unknowingly embroiled in a political rat's nest, one that involved the U.S. State Department, the Nixon White House and a controversial concert tour of Yugoslavia, Romania and Poland (countries that were behind what was then known as the Iron Curtain). As a result, they found themselves in the crossfire of a polarized America.
Blood, Sweat & Tears is known for hits such as "Spinning Wheel," "You've Made Me So Very Happy" and "And When I Die." Prior to its accidental political entanglement, the group headlined Woodstock Festival and won multiple Grammy Awards, most notably 1970's prize for album of the year over The Beatles' "Abbey Road" and "Johnny Cash at San Quentin."
A press release categorizes the movie as such: "Blood, Sweat & Tears was a darling of both the mainstream and rock press, icon of the counterculture and inspiration for a generation of horn-based bands. Their future was limitless. And then it all went wrong."
John Scheinfeld ("The U.S. vs. John Lennon") wrote, produced and directed the film, which was co-produced by Dave Harding ("Herb Alpert Is."), and executive produced by James Sears Bryant. Abramorama will release the film, which was created with full participation from Blood, Sweat & Tears, in North American theaters March 23rd.
"What happened to Blood, Sweat & Tears 50 years ago is especially gripping because it clearly shows that political and cultural history can and does repeat itself," said director John Scheinfeld. "Like so many public figures today, the band learned all too well that, as goes their biggest hit, 'What goes up, must come down.'"
Executive producer James Sears Bryant adds, "John has done a masterful job solving the mystery of how one of the greatest groups of its time became an early victim of cancel culture."
Abramorama's CEO Richard Abramowitz and head of music Evan Saxon described the movie as "a thriller wrapped in sheep's clothing."
"It's well known that Blood, Sweat & Tears was a seminal influence in fusing rock and roll with jazz," they said in a statement. "John Scheinfeld's movie tells an entirely different story, one of political intrigue and back room dealing at a time when popular music was revolutionary and had a global impact."
STEVE KATZ BIO
Steve Katz's professional career started in the late fifties on a local Schenectady, New York television program called Teenage Barn. Accompanied by piano, Steve would sing such hits of the day as "Tammy" and "April Love". At 15, Steve studied guitar with Dave Van Ronk and Reverend Gary Davis. It was at this time that he met and befriended guitarist Stefan Grossman. Steve & Stefan would sometimes act as road managers for Reverend Davis and, in so doing, met many of the great "rediscovered" blues men of an earlier era, like Son House, Skip James and Mississippi John Hurt.
There were many other young musicians and potential college dropouts around Greenwich Village during this time who were as obsessed with American roots music as Steve, whether it be bluegrass or blues. Many would look for a common ground in which to play music together and some, including Steve, Stefan, Maria Muldaur, John Sebastian and David Grisman found the common denominator in jug band music - the music of Cannon's Jug Stompers and The Memphis Jug Band. They and some other friends formed the Even Dozen Jug Band and were courted by Elektra Records for whom they recorded an album in 1964. Dwarfed by some of the finest young guitarists of the time, Steve opted to play washboard in the band. He would later use the same tactic of avoiding tough chords by mastering the harmonica.
After a brief sabbatical from college, Steve, while teaching guitar in Greenwich Village, was asked to audition for the Danny Kalb Quartet as a two-week substitute for the vacationing Artie Traum. Frightened by the power of the sound of an electric guitar and amp, Steve turned his volume to zero, thereby making no discernible mistakes. He got the job. Artie never came back, Al Kooper joined, and they had the Blues Project, a foray of young white middle-class musicians into the amplified world of Chicago blues. But they worked out of New York, and it was the mid-sixties, so the Blues Project experimented, dabbled in their own style and gave Steve an opportunity to showcase his own songs, as did Al and Danny. The Blues Project recorded three albums while together in their first incarnation. "Steve's Song", on the Projections album was the first original song that Steve had recorded.
The Blues Project, after two glorious years as house band at the Cafe Au Go Go and Murray the K's last "submarine race-watching" spectacular at the the RKO 58th Street theater in New York, decided to break up, playing the Monterey Pop Festival as their last major gig. The Blues Project's lasting contribution during its short life was to open the airwaves of radio to more album-oriented Rock. All attempts at singles failed but, like the consciousness of the era, people looked for alternatives in fashion, politics, lifestyles and musical tastes. The Blues Project gave people an alternative and, at the same time, made people aware of music that they might never have otherwise heard.
After the demise of the Blues Project, Steve, Al Kooper, Bobby Colomby and Jim Fielder decided to work up a set, mainly of Al's new songs, for a benefit concert whereby enough money would be raised to send Al to London where he wanted to live. Joined by Fred Lipsius on alto sax, the concert raised enough money for Al to get a cab to the airport. There was no choice but to start another band. Influenced by the Electric Flag and an album by the Buckinghams entitled Time and Charges, a horn section was utilized with rock arrangements that were a touch more sophisticated than most horn arrangements in rock up to that time. Thus, the formation of Blood, Sweat & Tears, a Columbia Records contract, and the album Child is Father to the Man. Recorded and mixed in only two weeks, the album sold moderately well but was a huge critical success. Steve sang one original song ("Megan's Gypsy Eyes") and a song by his friend, the late Tim Buckley.
Al left Blood, Sweat & Tears after only six months and while they were reorganizing, Steve wrote record reviews for Eye Magazine, a Cosmopolitan spin-off. Getting the record company to continue with the band without Kooper was difficult. Auditions were held and David Clayton-Thomas was hired as lead singer. Columbia reluctantly agreed to go ahead with a new album. That album sold six million copies worldwide and fostered three number one singles, a major feat for 1969. Steve continued with Blood, Sweat & Tears for six years, during which time the group received a large number of accolades. They won three Grammies, were voted best band by the Playboy Jazz and Pop Poll two years in a row, and won three major Downbeat awards, to name a few. Steve wrote many songs during his tenure with BS&T, including his well-loved "Sometimes in Winter".
In 1972 Steve met Lou Reed and they quickly became friends. After the commercial failure of Lou's album Berlin, Steve was asked to produce his next record. Steve jumped at the opportunity to start a new career and produced Rock & Roll Animal and Sally Can't Dance for Lou. After a number of productions during this period, including the wonderful Nightlights by Elliott Murphy, Steve wanted to return again to playing music.
Although American Flyer was not a performing band, it gave Steve another creative outlet in which to work and talented people to work with. Steve was joined by the prolific writer Eric Kaz, Craig Fuller from Pure Prairie League, and Doug Yule from The Velvet Underground. The first of their two albums was produced by George Martin who was interrogated constantly by Steve about his production techniques with The Beatles.
Steve was offered an opportunity to get closer to the business of music in 1977 with his appointment as East Coast Director of A&R and later as Vice President of Mercury Records. The highlight of the three years that Steve spent at Mercury was his being able to produce the great Irish group Horslips. Rather than sit in his office listening to 12-minute conga solos on disco demo tapes, Steve opted to spend a good deal of time in Ireland during this period and produced three albums for the group. As a New York A&R executive in Dublin, Steve had also passed on a young group by the name of U2, a decision that Steve would regret for the rest of his life.
It was during his visits to Ireland that Steve became enamored with all things Irish, especially the traditional music and Irish literature. Horslips had originally been an acoustic band that sang some of their songs in Gaelic, and the band members made Steve aware of great Irish traditional music. This awareness turned into obsession and in 1987, Steve became Managing Director of Green Linnet Records, the foremost record label of traditional Irish music in America. Steve stayed on at Green Linnet for five years, during which time he married his one true love, Alison Palmer, a ceramic artist.
As time passed, Alison's craft achieved popularity and recognition. Alison and Steve soon found that they had a thriving small business. Steve recently released his first solo album, The Juggle. He still performs, does book talks, is a professional photographer, and has produced a memoir, published by Lyons Press. Steve and Alison live in Kent, Connecticut with their African Grey Parrots, TuTu and KuKu, their two dogs, Paco and Frankie, and the remains of their guinea pig, Sid.
JOHN SCHEINFELD BIO
From pop culture to politics, sports and religion, ABC, PBS and Netflix to the Telluride, Toronto and Venice film festivals, Emmy®, Grammy® and two-time Writers Guild Award nominee John Scheinfeld is a critically acclaimed documentary filmmaker with a broad range of subjects and productions to his credit.
Scheinfeld is currently in production on two feature documentaries: What The Hell Happened To Blood, Sweat & Tears?, a compelling tale of music, politics and social commentary and Baseball As A Road To God, produced in association with Major League Baseball. The latter is a fresh and unique view of baseball and spirituality that takes the audience on an entertaining and inspiring journey toward hope, happiness, and overcoming life's challenges.
Scheinfeld directed, wrote and produced The Happy Days of Garry Marshall, a documentary that aired on ABC prime-time in May 2020. This heartfelt tribute to a Hollywood legend featured 25 of the biggest stars in film and television and generated second place ratings for the night.
Also in Spring 2020, Scheinfeld completed work as director, writer and producer of Herb Alpert Is..., a passionate and inspiring theatrical documentary exploring the personal and creative journey of the music icon and renaissance man for which he was nominated for the prestigious Writers Guild Award. Originally booked for a nationwide theatrical release, the film's preeminent global theatrical and rights management partner Abramorama pivoted to a global virtual theatrical roll-out plan due to the COVID pandemic, with 125 theatres participating and subsequent availability on TVOD platforms worldwide.
Scheinfeld's feature documentary about the remarkable life of world music artist Sergio Mendes, Sergio Mendes: In The Key of Joy, had its World Premiere to a standing ovation at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival in January 2020. A planned theatrical release was canceled due to the COVID pandemic. HBO premiered the film in Latin and South America in May 2021, PBS brought it to US audiences in June and the film is currently streaming on TVOD platforms.
Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary, with Academy Award winner Denzel Washington speaking the words of the iconic musician, was an official selection of the Telluride Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival before playing on theater screens worldwide during Spring 2017. Directed, written and produced by Scheinfeld, the feature was originally licensed by Netflix and began airing on Hulu in 2021.
This Is Bob Hope, directed, written and produced by Scheinfeld with Billy Crystal speaking the words of Bob Hope, premiered on the prestigious, award-winning PBS series, American Masters in December 2017.
Scheinfeld is best known for two widely acclaimed feature documentaries: The U.S. vs. John Lennon, which tells the true story of the US government's attempt to silence the beloved musician and iconic advocate for peace and Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin' About Him)?, a riveting yet wildly entertaining documentary about one of the most talented and uncompromising singer-songwriters in pop music history.
The U.S. vs. John Lennon was an official selection of the Venice, Telluride, London and Toronto International film festivals in 2006 and was released theatrically worldwide by Lionsgate. Born out of his love for the music of the Beatles and a keen interest in freedom of speech and personal courage in the face of significant obstacles, Scheinfeld earned the trust of Yoko Ono and was given access to her extensive archive.
For Who Is Harry Nilsson...?, Scheinfeld was nominated for the prestigious Writers Guild Award and USA Today named him one of the Top 100 People of 2010 in their pop culture poll. In Entertainment Weekly, best-selling novelist Stephen King lauded the film as "close to genius."
That same year saw the theatrical release of We Believe, an exuberant celebration of hope, loyalty, faith and the extraordinary love affair between a great city, Chicago, and its baseball team, the Cubs. Scheinfeld established a close working relationship with Major League Baseball, the Major League Baseball Players Association and the Chicago Cubs throughout production.
On the heels of a Grammy® nomination for producing Beautiful Dreamer: Brian Wilson and the Story of SMiLE, Scheinfeld wrote, produced and directed Electric Youth: Teen Stars in the Music Business, a 2-hour special for A&E which garnered him an Emmy® nomination as writer.
During his career Scheinfeld has also written, produced and/or directed projects about pop culture legends including the Bee Gees, Nat 'King' Cole, Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, the Marx Brothers, Ricky Nelson, Norman Lear, Peter Sellers, Frank Sinatra and Jonathan Winters.
Scheinfeld received a B.A. in Communications and Sociology from Oberlin College and holds an M.F.A. in Radio/Television/Film from Northwestern University.