wonderful 1963 UK rock-and-roll film, with David Hemmings and distinctive Joe Meek music, but not for all tastes!
I've been watching some of the US (dating before Hard Day's Night) rock and roll movies over the last few months, and this UK effort from 1963 is much better than virtually all of them. First, it's very well acted and the script is full of little details that make the characters seem real--the Dad who works the night shift and rides on his son, but privately hopes that the son proves him wrong and stands up to him; the Mom who once had been an entertainer of some sort and understands her son's need to perform, but is also grounded in the real world; the hilarious American TV and film producer who is a tasteless and boorish man (kind of like Jack Palance's character in CONTEMPT but funnier) yet incredibly creative in his own strange way (a shame he didn't arrive on the scene 30 years later, he could have worked for the Fox Network!). David Hemmings does a fantastic job as the young messenger-service worker who buys all the music magazines, practices the guitar, listens to records all the time, and has the burning desire to play rock and roll. UK singing sensation and Joe Meek protégé Heinz Burt, whose records I always enjoyed (and who sings a few songs here), handles the acting well also as a member of Hemmings' band (as is a young Steve Marriott). As for the music, well, how much do you like Joe Meek's patented other-worldly production sound? I played my fiancée a few of the songs, and she asked "is that sea of echo and all the distortion intentional?" Yes is the answer. Meek also wrote virtually all the music in the film, including one number sung by Gene Vincent (I thought I had most of Vincent's records, but I sure as heck do not have this Meek-produced song, which Vincent sings while polishing some huge steam-powered locomotive or something, and while flirting with a young lady). Some of the female Meek vocalists are a little imprecise in the intonation department, and on the whole the rockers work better than the ballads, which tend to be of the moon/June variety. But the rockers are incredible, including the title track, LIVE IT UP, which is performed a few times in the film. Some of Meek's fine instrumental units perform too, and it's fascinating to see a world depicted where the musical backdrop is produced by Joe Meek. It's like some kind of alternate universe. My copy is a few generations removed from a UHF TV broadcast in the early 80's (probably the last period when one could see something like this on TV), and it also sports the much less interesting US release title SING AND SWING. For any fan of Joe Meek or of David Hemmings, this is an amazing film, and as an American I find the depiction of the up and coming British rocker quite convincing. I wish that I had seen this film as a child back in the 60s--I didn't see it at all until the late 1980's. It is crying out for a DVD release. Fans of 1960's rock and roll films should track this one down...
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