Groovemonster, a Quantum Media Arts film, propels viewers through a historical journey of the electric bass, Motown’s heyday and, (Antonio) Tony Newton’s prolific musical career. With historical accuracy and engaging pacing, this movie will both inform and entertain.
The artistic documentary based on Newton’s autobiography Gold Thunder (and produced by Newton along with Louis Nathan) combines a unique fusion of Newton’s voice over historical narration with first person accounts—from Tony, his family, friends, and fellow musicians—and live performance footage. But it isn’t simply the eclectic style that works; it’s the artful execution of the style. Thanks to Dennis Passaggio (Director of Photography) and Rockmore de Franke (Editor), Groovemonster’s 115 minutes rarely drag. If an occasional interview segment runs long, viewers can expect to reengage with one of the film’s many engaging montage sequences.
One particularly memorable pastiche includes performance stills along with footage from the 1965 “European Tour” featuring Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross & the Supremes, Martha & the Vandellas, and Smokey Robinson & the Miracles. Equally entertaining is concert footage of Newton jammin’ to the always-groovy “Everybody Get Funky” combined with a whirlwind of pop culture images and icons, past and present. Retro album art, colorfully-wild computer-generated graphics, Motown footage—and much more are vibrantly intertwined with “funky” performance video—all of which is seamlessly edited.
The success of such montages, however, cannot be entirely attributed to visual appeal; they also serve as visions of history. This infuses Groovemonster with a palpable tone and mood of vibrant nostalgia. The segment dedicated to time-honored venues such as The Apollo and The Fox (among others), for instance, captivates viewers with majestic photographs.
However, Groovemonster’s obvious attention to production value could not—would not—enthrall viewers to the extent it does without one unifying and charismatic element: the Groovemonster, himself. To be honest, few viewers these days have the attention span to handle two hours, documentary or otherwise. That’s where Tony comes in. A large percentage of the film is Newton, the musician and philosopher, up close and personal. Does it keep most viewers (fans and otherwise) engaged? Amazingly, yes.
Whether or not viewers go in knowing Newton’s extensive contributions to the music industry, they will likely leave with a sense of respect and awe. The film’s homage at the start to the underappreciated bass player could really serve as a microcosm of the underappreciated musician who spends decade after decade perfecting his craft…the one who dedicates his heart, soul, and talent to his God-given calling in life.
Through the chronology of Newton’s life via candid and raw interview material, we follow Tony as he navigates an abusive stepmother, crime-laden Detroit in the 60s (as a professional, teenage musician), and the harsh (often unfair) politics of an industry full of egomaniacs. Somehow (and in stark contrast to many talented musicians), Newton rises above the fray. Besides the obvious musical successes (Gold and Platinum recordings), he masters piano (even writing entire symphonies), designs the three-necked bass guitar, and continues to evolve as a musician and (just as admirably) a highly intelligent, spiritual philosopher. Perhaps this last element is what, ironically, sets Groovemonster apart from the typical “music history” documentary or “star” biography—Newton’s gentle wisdom, intimate reflection, and insightful analysis.
If the bass line (bass) is “the heartbeat” of a song (as Newton so eloquently describes it), it seems to this viewer that the artist himself is the heartbeat of Groovemonster. Overall, Groovemonster appeals to musicians, music fans and anyone who appreciates the heights one can soar with enough perseverance, dedication, and purpose.
The film tells Newton's passionate and inspirational saga through live concert footage, interviews, narration, and historical photos. GROOVEMONSTER uses a dynamic new format "Music Cinema" which features both live concert performances and recordings from the CD album. The GROOVEMONSTER movie also comes in an innovative triple-pak, "Xtreme Entertainment Bundle," including the "Gold Thunder Book," and a “FREE” "Thunderfunkfusion" CD album from the iconic Newton.