Now Martika was the best of them, so reviewer Michael Dwyer assured me. Of the coterie of one-hit wonders now working their way around Oz, including to this wintery isle, her ‘…powerhouse pop-rap-soul managed to elude the clutches of kitsch to simply sound great. She looked great, too, in her bike shorts and bob. But maybe tunes like ‘Love…Thy Will be Done’ and ‘Tin Soldier’ were always bigger than pants and hair.’ He was not so impressed with the rest of the troupe of semi-has beens from the period, but still gave their show a healthy three and a half stars. And I suppose, for us of the Countdown generation, ‘Totally 80s’ would succeed in taking us back – back trippin’ through time.
Now when the ads for the show appeared on my little screen at home, ad nauseam, over a countless number of weeks, interrupting the footy, I never for a moment thought of heading off to Wrest Point, their venue of choice here. But maybe I should have done. After all, they packed out St Kilda’s venerable Palais. According to Dwyer they evoked ‘…where the 1980s lives in collective consciousness: as an almost satirical world of what-were-we-thinking fashion crimes, good-humoured self-deprecation and songs so bad they’re…well, obviously you had to be there.’ Yes, probably. I’m sorry I now missed their Hobart gig – it would have been fun.
But then again I have done a little trippin’ back through the decades myself in recent weeks – back to those times Molly ruled Sunday nights at six o’clock – in my recent viewings. So let’s go to the start of the ‘Countdown’ era in the 70s with ‘Vinyl’ – an HBO series that makes those times come alive with gusto. If you’d think, on watching it, that it has a similar vibe to the glorious ‘Boardwalk Empire’, that would be down to the involvement of Martin Scorsese and Terrence Winter in both. Throw in Mick Jagger in the mix off-screen and one of Nucky’s off-siders as its rip-roaring, coke snorting star and it would seem there would be a recipe for success. This was truly sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll on a stick with lashings of nudity, violence and wonderful music thrown in and I thought it was grouse. Sadly, the American viewing audience didn’t take to it and nor did the critics. After initially commissioning it for a second season, HBO pulled the plug before filming got underway. But it stands okay as a one off and is well worth a gander.
Bobby Cannavale is the fulcrum of the show and is hot wired throughout. He is eminently watchable. He radiated charm when he was not high on illegal substances or booze, but out of control otherwise. He’s the head honcho of American Century Records trying to keep the company’s head above water. He makes a play for various artists such as Led Zepplin and even the King, but with the latter he’s no match for the Colonel. He also passes on a certain Swedish quartet as being of little talent, but does sign up a band fronted by a charismatic drug addict played by Mick’s son James, doing a good take on his dad. Ray Romano is excellent as one of Richie Finestra’s (Cannavale) lieutenants with Olivia Wilde and Juno Temple very fetching as Finestra’s put upon trophy wife and a savvy, young go-getter trying to make it in a man’s world respectively. Political correctness is thrown out the window with all the mayhem that goes on. There’s bloody murder; greasing of palms, including payola; as well as lavish ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ type parties, seventies style.
Especially enjoyable for my lovely lady and yours truly was guessing the rock icons as look-a-likes performed takes on their hits. It’s a terrific ride and the doped-up Cannavale in full flight is a sight to behold. Could it have been that fly by your pants back then? Fair bet it was and it’s truly worth seeing all laid bare on the small screen.
Now if you have fond memories of another time and place, enjoying the smuttiness of fare of the ilk of ‘Porky’s’ and ‘Animal House’, then ‘Everybody Wants Some’ may be for you. Set in the early eighties, this take on the genre from esteemed director Richard Linklater (‘Boyhood’, ‘Before Sunset’), is more modest, in all ways, than the over the top ‘Vinyl’. Here we take a peek at the lives of a group of baseball jocks as they arrive on campus to settle into a frat-house. Classes are still a few days off so its party time. For a great party one needs copious drink, pot and what else? Oh yeah – girls. So our lads head off to check out the local talent and hopefully pick up some willing ladettes to entice back for some wild times. That duly occurs. As the Guardian states in review, ‘…, the air is thick with testosterone, Aramis after-shave and the musk of well-used jockstraps.’ There’s a pumpingly good sound track going with it and as the boys explore the local dives, we are cannily introduced to the musical fads of the day. It does contain a modicum more depth and character development than its aforementioned forebears, but I suspect this will not go down as one of Linklater’s better efforts.
From the same decade, but from across the Atlantic, we have ‘Sing Street’, a joyous movie that I really, really liked and my Leigh adored – so much so I was out buying her the soundtrack the following day. From the same people who gifted us, last decade, the gem that was ‘Once’ (remember it – a little battler of a movie that made a more than tidy profit on the sniff of an oily rag budget), ‘Sing Street’s’ director, John Carney, is again on song (terrible pun). It is another paean to the pleasures of Irish music. If we can imagine a mix of the guys from U2 starting out, the Commitments plus, as one critic pointed out, even a bit of ‘Gregory’s Girl’ from way, way back, you get the feeling of this uplifting affair. Its the story of how a group of lads – yes, more lads, but a tad younger – get together in high school, form a band and the rest is history. Well, not quite, but that’s beside the point. It’s a lovely, lovely journey this indie takes us on and it’s so amusing to watch our lead, Conor/Cosmo (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo), take on the personas of his latest musical heroes with his appearance – the Cure, Duran Duran, Elvis Costello, Spandau Ballet, Wham, Hall and Oates, they’re all involved. The object of his affection and his muse, Raphina ( Lucy Boynton) is quite luminous. She plays a lost soul and the ‘older woman’ who gradually succumbs to Conor’s charms. His older brother, Brendan, is an inspiration for much of what happens as well. In this role Jack Reynor is a scene-stealer.
So, how to sum up? It’s true that ‘Vinyl’ looks as though its had squillions spent on it and it’s worth taking the plunge and doing some binging, but for my money (boom-boom), it is outdone by ‘Sing Street’ as pure entertainment. ‘Once’ was a one-off (oh dear), never to be repeated classic, but ‘Sing Street’ lines up pretty well against it. But you be the judge. ‘Vinyl’, on DVD, is out there now and the other two will not be too far off on some form of small screen platform. Did I enjoy going back to those times of flares and platform shoes through these means? You betcha.
Trailer ‘Vinyl’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5wbEaqMjKU
Trailer ‘Everybody Wants Some’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6raUs0CiCQ
Trailer ‘Sing Street’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jYk2Vx1z6lk