Tuesday, 29 December 2020

Too old for glam? Never Too Young to Rock (1975)

It’s 1975 and I’m thirteen, obsessed with tapes of Dark Side of the Moon, Foxtrot and Brain Salad Surgery and eagerly awaiting my pre-order of Wish You Were Here… I loved Slade, T-Rex and Sweet in 73-74 but things move fast when you’re young and within eighteen months I’d be hoarding punk singles and from there onto Magazine, the Banshees and the Bunnymen. So much changed in the seventies and despite reading the NME, Sounds and Record Mirror I have no recollection of this film at all.

A musical comedy celebrating the second wave, and second tier, of glam, Never Too Young to Rock was released in summer ’75 and it missed the boat, certainly in my case but also with much of the record buying public with a soundtrack LP coming out in August – weeks before WYWH - and spending five weeks on the charts peaking at no. 30… All of which is very unfair on the acts involved but pop’s a fickle thing and the majority of these bands are either still touring or, in one case, writing multi-million selling songs for Kylie Minogue, Sophie Ellis Baxter and many more.

The plot’s a load of hooey but it’s just an excuse to let The Glitter Band, The Rubettes, Mud, Slik and Bob Kerr's Whoopee Band (!?) perform some of their hits and, in Mud’s case, to lark about allowing their personalities to shine. Pop music has been banned from TV and our Hero (Please Sir’s Peter Denyer), has invented a device to track bands wherever they may play – just like a TV detector van only for glam. His aim is to gather the forces of glam for a concert to save the future of Rock although I’m not quite sure how.

Freddie Jones and the Group Detector Van

He’s enlisted the help of brass band aficionado Mr. Rockbottom (Freddie Jones), who drives him around the country in search of those lost chords, grumbling under his breath about “real music”. Just as Rockbottom is conflicted so are the forces of anti-rock out to stop Hero from his mission led by Bandsman Milligan (John Clive, always reliably energised for bad deeds) who drives his crew around on a steam engine that would make Fred Dibnah proud.

First act to be located are the mighty Mud who’re performing in a roadside café full of red and blue football fans. Sheila Steafel is the over-stretched Cafe Proprietor and the legendary Nosher Powell is a footie fan encouraged by Mr Rockbottom to start a fight with the opposing fans. Seventies snapshots don’t get more pointed than this one as the food flies into the faces of Donny, Bowie and assorted pop star posters and the great British sport of footie thuggery is celebrated as in a John Wayne western.

Mud enetertain the footie fans before the fists and the flans start flying

Hero gets Les, Rob, Ray and Dave to agree to play in his concert and they also set off on their mud motorbikes to protect him on his quest, stunning the opposition with sucker-tipped darts just when all seems lost. As with the other bands, the songs they perform, Tiger Feet, Dyna-mite and The Cat Crept In are all from 1973-74 and even now my song-sense places them before 1975… That aside, you can see the band’s appeal and the songs remain daft fun.

Next up the van finds Bob Kerr's Whoopee Band singing 5,000 Year Old Rock from the balcony of a stately home which is probably where you’d expect to find them. It’s an odd inclusion in some ways, Kerr was a member of both the Bonzo Dog Doo-dah Band and the New Vaudeville Band, and the jazzy eccentricity is hardly glam but underlines the film’s attempt at surrealist comedy.

Freddie can't watch as Dame Sally James and Peter Denyer groove to the Glitter

Definitely glam are The Glitter Band who are located on a river boat supposedly making a film. Their droning groove, sax and twin drums stands up far more than expected as a continuation of the epic sound of Rock n’ Roll Parts 1 (and 2) with the now disgraced leader of the gang… No Gary here, just glitter and I especially enjoyed the mob chanting of Let’s Get Together Again. Also present on the boat is a young Sally James – later to inspire a million schoolboys on Tiswas – who injects much needed feminine presence on this very male movie.

There’s a glimpse of a new band, Slick, playing their debut "miss", The Boogiest Band In Town in the iconic Marquee Club of all places... and featuring a long-haired pretty boy lead singer called Midge Ure. Within a couple of years, he was in Glen Matlock’s post-Pistol power pop band, Rich Kids before joining Ultravox and co-writing the biggest charity song ever. There’s a wealth of musical history in this film… 

The Rubettes were never my cup of tea and yet here they also are proving me a little bit wrong as they are driven through the streets on the back of a truck showcasing their fresh sound and impressive hooks, not just for their number one smash Sugar Baby Love but also Tonight and Juke Box Jive. Glam was For The People, and music that celebrated simple pleasures.

Midge Ure on white guitar; get yer bloody hair cut!!

Hero and Rockbottom end up on an army assault course martialled by army captain Peter Noone (ex-Herman and the Hermits who had an unlikely hit with a version of Bowie’s Oh You Pretty Things…) and just as the nonsense reaches a peak, we finally make it to the big finish. Two songs each from Mud, the Glitter Band and Rubettes leading to a rousing finale as they all sing the title song and My Rockbottom gets to play a few notes on his tuba.

Dusty Verdict: It’s only rock ‘n roll but I liked it.

As directed by Dennis Abey the film’s series of set pieces maintains a pop-tastic pace and in spite of the fact that all of this is just so uncool, it’s still enjoyable… As a snapshot of an era that fell foul to the shifts in trend that undermine almost every attempt at capturing the immediacy of popular culture. By the time a band is big enough to warrant a feature film and by the time you’ve spent filming and producing it, in most cases release comes after the window of success has started to close. The exceptions to the are, of course, The Beatles and Elvis, but even Slade’s excellent In Flame and, er, Spice World… landed after the big bangs for both bands.

All together now: Mud, Glitter Band and Rubettes

But here we can see exactly why the bands were popular and the exuberance of their performance transcends the weakness of the plot device and wacky narrative. You’re never too old to rock is my guess!

You can watch the film on Amazon Prime Video for FREE whilst DVDs are also available. It’s no classic but it is fun and that’s what glam was all about.

Mud on manoeuvres

Because I’m mad, I had to list the songs and their chart placements… so here they are.

Bob Kerr's Whoopee Band - 5,000 Year Old Rock

Scott Fitzgerald - Never Too Young to Rock - Single 1975, didn’t chart

Slik - The Boogiest Band in Town - 1st single early 1975, didn’t chart

The Glitter Band - Let's Get Together Again - No. 8 1974

The Glitter Band - Angel Face - No. 4 1974

The Glitter Band - Just for You - No. 10 1974

The Glitter Band - Shout It Out - Hey! LP track 1974

The Rubettes - Sugar Baby Love - No. 1 1974

The Rubettes - Juke Box Jive - No. 3 1974

The Rubettes – Tonight - No. 12 1974

The Silver Band - Something Old, Something New

The Silver Band - Quadrangular March

The Cast - Never Too Young to Rock

Three tracks by Mud are heard in the movie but don't appear on the soundtrack LP, probably for copyright reasons. They’re all classics!

Dyna-Mite - No. 4 1973

Tiger Feet - No. 1 1974

The Cat Crept In - No. 2 1974

The soundtrack album peaked in the UK chart at number 30in August 1975 and is going pretty cheap on Discogs!




1 comment:

  1. Any idea where I can get a copy of Curriculee Curricula? You are probably the only person on the net who talks about it. Good blog you hasve here. Cheers! Titus https://theluxordream3.blogspot.com/