Monday, 15 August 2016

Let's Do The Show Right Here : Glam In The Movies

Glam Rock coincided, for me, with buying records, primarily singles, under my own steam. I'd be 9 or 10 and Glam appeared for da kidz in a way those early to mid sixties did for the older generation. It was your scene, your parents hated the clothes and the ambiguity of the dress and it was as though those buy an album days were over.

Albums were again made up of two or three singles and quickly recorded filler. If I had been older I'd have been drawn to the serious players, Bowie, Bolan, Roxy Music etc, but you just liked the singles, you could discover albums as you got older and more importantly, had more money.

The singles were primarily led by Chinn and Chapman and Mike Leander writing for bands on the RAK or Bell labels. Others got onto bigger labels, Sweet on RCA, Sweet and The Rubettes on Polydor. Others used the scene as a quick direction to something they thought more substantial, such as Sparks.

We may now look incredulously at the Boy Bands that crop up nowadays in a snobbish music collector way, but there were plenty of boy bands and one or two hit wonders in the Glam days, plenty to make the girls scream and the boys show how they were into something much more mature in Sweet and Slade.

Sweet only got the B Sides for their own stuff, Slade did it all in the prolific (for a time) songwriting axis of Holder and Lea.

It's easy to laugh now at someone like Les Gray who looked a bit like a Bricklayer dressed up in drag when he was asleep, but you can't deny how good those singles were, Tiger Feet, Dynamite and Rocket et al and remember Mike Chapman moved onto Blondie. I suppose Suzi Quatro was the token girl and you sensed that she was thrown fish, whilst the better stuff was handed to Mud and Sweet.

Music TV then was aimed at the teenage audience, it's nowhere to be seen now. It wasn't just Top Of The Pops, that 5.15 slot on ITV with the likes Of Lift Off and later, Supersonic feeding the frenzy of those teenage fans. This passed on to bands running the shows, The Bay City Rollers most notably, but also The Arrows, Granada TV being the most notable provider of this essential entertainment.

So it was only natural that the Big Screen would join in the fun, as it had a decade or more earlier with The Beatles and Cliff Richard. The majority followed the Cliff Richard, Let's Do The Show Right Here model and the results were patchy to say the least.

Only one film really reached any heights and that was obviously Slade's In Flame, but before looking at that in more depth, it's worth noting the two David Essex led films, That'll Be The Day and Stardust. Both could have been cliche ridden and for music fans, the latter did have a fair bit of that, but the quality of the writing of Ray Connelly  and some of the acting was largely first rate.

The two films also brought that first era of aiming music at the kids into the second. That'll Be The Day was for all intents and purposes, the story of Merseybeat, Billy Fury played a great take on Rory Storm as Stormy Tempest, Keith Moon and Ringo were present and correct too. The first Brit wave is there too with Marty Wilde and Adam Faith. The film's a cracker and takes the story to the Mid Sixties.

Stardust takes us onwards to the Glam days and despite some of the obvious plot directions, it's still a great film.Keith Moon is still present, now joined by Dave Edmunds and an uncredited, Nick Lowe as the fame comes, the group splits and David Essex's Jim MacLaine loses the plot. Larry Hagman's there in a rehearsal for his JR Role. MacLaine writes a Rock Opera which tells you all you need to know.

Ray Connelly got a BAFTA for the screen production of Stardust and Adam Faith, a nomination for Best Supporting Actor. In truth, Adam Faith is the star of both films as Jim MacLaine's manager, a tortured soul, in love with the star, it's a really poignant role.

Slade In Flame then. It still stands the test of time as a film now. It's often said that the film was reason that Slade's star dimmed because of the time filming it and the plot which made it look like the band hated each other. I go less with that theory, Glam was coming to the end of it's run anyway and Slade had partly realised this and wanted to break America, they failed miserably on the US Tours and by the time they got home, it was largely over. They did come again though as a sort of older brother to the NWOBHM brigade.

The film itself is a gritty take on the Music World, managers using thugs and muscling in on bands and the plot was largely stories related by Slade about things that happened to them and other bands in their careers. It's an absolute gem of a film, gritty, realistic and star turns from the Noddy Holder and Jimmy Lea.

An interesting side note is that the original idea of a comedy was rejected by Dave Hill because he got killed in the first fifteen minutes of the script. Set in the late Sixties, it's a highly recommended watch as are the two David Essex films. As for the music, a film that can open with How Does It Feel and close with Far Far Away, shows what a writing team Holder and Lea were, it wasn't all foot stompers.

Less recommended is Never Too Young To Rock, largely a vehicle for the Glam scene and starring Mud, The Rubettes and The Glitter Band. It's a bizarre tale of Freddie Jones searching out groups with the aid of a group detector van for a show and that largely is it. Most of the performances come in the last half hour and seem tagged on to try and sell the film. Truly awful.

Much better is Side By Side, another Glam vehicle and all these were coming to screen as the scene was dying. It's not Oscar material, but it's a funny in parts story of Two Music Clubs next door to each other, trying to outdo one another. Starring Stephanie De Sykes, Terry Thomas, Barry Humphries and Mud's drummer Dave Mount in the starring roles, it's fun knockabout stuff.

The film wins in the artists it promotes, all playing in the respective clubs. You have Fox, Mud, Kenny, Hello, The Rubettes, Desmond Dekker, Mac and Katie Kissoon and Stephanie De Sykes herself. The soundtrack is pretty good too with Lynsey De Paul and Skyhooks amongst the addition.

Finally, a mention for Three For All. A vehicle for Showaddywaddy, a band that get unfair criticism for their Rock and Roll Revival act in the Seventies, a shame really because they revived great sing along songs, as did Darts. But this film is dreadful.

Starring Adrienne Posta with the likes of Robert Lindsay, Paul Nicholas, Richard Beckinsale, Diana Dors, George Baker and Arthur Mullard. It even features Graham Bonnet, well before the Rainbow days.

The story of a band going off to Spain to record an album, I have no idea why, and the hilarious adventures of their girlfriends trying to get over there to join them after not being invited. 9 songs from Showaddywaddy, but you can listen to those on the Greatest Hits. Band can't act shocker and a true waste of money.

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