‘Elvis’, the trailer, plus a film about music made by a grown up


What a joy to be able to see the world as Baz Luhrmann does, through the eyes of a 9 year old boy. Many 9 and 10 year olds note what plea­sure they get from eat­ing the icing on a cake. And they have the bril­liant idea of ask­ing for one made of noth­ing else. 

But they note their parent’s weary dis­missal of that idea, and they spend a few years inves­ti­gat­ing gas­tron­o­my, learn­ing about appetite and acquir­ing taste. And they come to appre­ci­ate that plea­sure with­out pain, light with­out dark­ness and euphor­ic highs with­out the depths of despair sim­ply can­not be. They are mutu­al­ly dependent.

The Vel­vet Under­ground, Nica and Andy Warhol

But Lurhmann has said, sod that. I’m stay­ing just as I am. And he’s spot­ted how much we all enjoy watch­ing music videos and movie trail­ers, and he’s had the bril­liant idea of mak­ing fea­ture length ver­sions of them. 

So we got Romeo + Juli­ette, which man­ages to defang Shakespeare’s play of its tragedy, and turn it into a pop­tas­tic cos­tume fest. Then there was Moulin Rouge, which was a 2 hour music video, pure and sim­ple. Like­wise The Great Gats­by

Which, I have to con­fess, I’ve not been able to actu­al­ly sit through. So it’s per­fect­ly pos­si­ble that it’s a care­ful­ly con­sid­ered and thought­ful med­i­ta­tion on doomed youth and fin de siè­cle dis­il­lu­sion­ment. But I’m going out on a limb, and pre­sum­ing that it’s just A N Oth­er 2 hour plus music video.

The Vel­vet Under­ground and Nico

And now we have 2 ¾ hour movie trail­er about Elvis. So, as with any trail­er, you get told imme­di­ate­ly who the good­ies and bad­dies are. And every line of dia­logue is on the nose and means exact­ly what it says – just like this sen­tence. And every frame is stuffed full of infor­ma­tion, because you’ve only got two min­utes to tell the audi­ence about all the dif­fer­ent ele­ments in your story. 

Only it doesn’t go on for two min­utes. This is kept up for near­ly three hours. There’s stuff stuffed into every frame and on every cor­ner of the sound­track. It’s like watch­ing a teenage boy who’s just been shown what all the but­tons do in his edit­ing soft­ware. And so pleased is he with all the effects they can pro­duce, that he can’t stop press­ing them, repeat­ed­ly. And he’s com­plete­ly obliv­i­ous to the reac­tion of his par­ents when he shows them what he’s done.

It’s relent­less in its blind bom­bard­ment of the sens­es, and the tedi­um that results is inces­sant and mind-numbing.

The Vel­vet Underground

I always admire though rarely warm to the films of Todd Haynes. But his epony­mous doc­u­men­tary on The Vel­vet Under­ground is an unqual­i­fied joy from start to fin­ish. Seri­ous music from an extra­or­di­nary col­lec­tive who came togeth­er at a fas­ci­nat­ing moment in time. 

Struc­tured in an appro­pri­ate­ly left of field way, it’s a qui­et­ly intel­li­gent and thought­ful film about a unique­ly influ­en­tial band. Their first album is one of the great works of art of the 20th cen­tu­ry. And remark­ably, this film does them justice. 

Watch­ing it after sit­ting through Elvis is like drop­ping your child off at a birth­day par­ty, only to be greet­ed there by the excit­ed stare of the birth­day boy, as he offers you a slice of his sol­id icing cake. When sud­den­ly, you’re tak­en by the elbow and gen­tly led out into the back gar­den, where you’re hand­ed an ice cold beer and a glass of Jame­son. And you sit down togeth­er and lean back to con­tem­plate the stars.

You can see the trail­er for The Vel­vet Under­ground below:

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Glen Campbell, Musical Prodigy, Majestic Singer and another Superb Doc from BBC4.

glen-campbellGlen Camp­bell was one of the most sought after musi­cians of the 1960s. He played lead gui­tar on The Beach Boys’ Good Vibra­tions, Elvis’ Viva Las Vegas and on Frank Sina­tra’s Strangers in the Night. At one point, he end­ed up tour­ing with the Beach Boys hav­ing replaced Bri­an Wil­son as the lat­ter descend­ed into Sty­gian darkness.

Raised lit­er­al­ly dirt poor, in so far as he and his eleven sib­lings were per­ma­nent­ly caked in mud form the fields where they all worked, Camp­bell moved to Los Ange­les to become a star after estab­lish­ing him­self as a musi­cal prodigy. 

But his first four albums failed to reg­is­ter. So like many before him, he became a ses­sion musi­cian, and was one of the core musi­cians in what came to be known as the Wreck­ing Crew. 

51IMviBowvL._SL500_SS500_These were the pro­fes­sion­al musi­cians and back­ing vocal­ists who, famous­ly, Phil Spec­tor and all the major record pro­duc­ers in Los Ange­les relied on at the time. It was their sound that the kids were unwit­ting­ly lis­ten­ing to when they bought all those hit records.

The Mon­kees in oth­er words were very much the norm, and not the exception.

But there was one per­son who’d fall­en for Camp­bel­l’s unloved debut solo album, Turn Around Look At Me. A 14 year-old boy, who dreamt of one day becom­ing a song­writer, had lis­tened to it end­less­ly. And when the now 21 year old Jim­my Webb even­tu­al­ly teamed up with Camp­bell sev­en years lat­er, they began one of the most fruit­ful rela­tion­ships in mod­ern pop.

Songs like By The Time I Get to Phoenix and The Wichi­ta Line­man would see the pair sent into the pop stratos­phere. And Camp­bell, after years of hard graft, became an overnight success.

He was the per­fect anti­dote to the sus­pi­cion and para­noia that the 60s became increas­ing­ly mired in. And, with his good looks, whole­some image, and gen­tly con­ser­v­a­tive demeanour he was soon host­ing one of the most suc­cess­ful TV shows of the day.

Inevitably though, as the 60s drift­ed bol­shi­ly into the 70s Camp­bel­l’s star was on the wane. But in 1975 he was giv­en a brief reprieve, as his record label had one last stab at reviv­ing his career. The result was Rhine­stone Cow­boy, a song that sound­ed like it was reveal­ing­ly auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal. It was­n’t of course. It was writ­ten by the young Lar­ry Weiss. 

lThe con­ven­tion­al nose-dive into drink, drugs and dubi­ous mar­riages fol­lowed. But a blind date with the prim and pret­ty Kim Woollen would see his spir­it and his life revived, resus­ci­tat­ed  and re-born. And although Alzheimer’s has brought his tour­ing to a pre­ma­ture end, for the most part this was a sto­ry with a hap­py ending. 

Glen Camp­bell: The Rhine­stone Cow­boy was anoth­er in a long line of per­fect­ly pitched por­traits of musi­cal greats. And it fol­lows hot on the heels of a bril­liant Sto­ryville pro­gramme on the gen­uine­ly inspir­ing fig­ure of Har­ry Bela­fonte. And, if you missed either of these two excel­lent BBC4 pro­grammes, keep an eye out for them. 

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