Home

New York, New York (Soundtrack Sundays)

Leave a comment

New York New York

New York, New York is a big song. A Manhattan skyline big song. Everybody from eight to eighty knows it. No, scrap that cliche. Plenty of people over eighty know it too. And maybe quite a few under eight too.

It’s the ultimate song for drunks at the end of a party. What a singalong. Belting out those lyrics about waking up in the city that doesn’t sleep and how if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere, and pretending to be Francis Albert.

As Sinatra signature tunes go, this is right up there. Only My Way can rival it. It has become the unofficial anthem of the great city and New York’s very own Martin Scorsese even named one of his early movies after it.

No, scrap that too. When Martin Scorsese hit on the idea to make a spec script by a screenwriting newcomer Earl Mac Rauch into a dazzling, hyper-stylised tribute to the big band era and to the golden age of Hollywood musicals, the song didn’t yet exist.

New York New York Happy Endings

To me, it sounds as if it was maybe composed when my grandfather was still a young man, or when my dad was a teenager in the 1950s, but it was written when I was fifteen, a time when The Sex Pistols were tabloid sensations, when David Bowie changed direction radically with Low, and John Travolta strutted his stuff in Saturday Night Fever.

I could get into some old tittle-tattle about Scorsese and Liza Minelli but won’t. He cast the star as his female lead, an up and coming singer Francine Evans, and brought in two songwriters Kander and Ebb, who’d become strongly associated with her through musicals like Cabaret, to supply some tunes.

Their original theme for the film impressed the director and singer but co-star Robert De Niro, who was to play saxophonist Jimmy Doyle, was much less happy about it. He requested that they try writing another theme which I’m guessing must have rattled the award-winning team, who were happy with their effort.

Still, they agreed to give it another go, in order to please an actor who was learning to play saxophone at this point, albeit only so he could better mimic a sax player as his own parts were to be dubbed in the movie by George Auld. Auld who also played bandleader Frankie Harte claimed that when he first met De Niro, the actor ‘Didn’t know a tuba from a taxicab.’

So what did this guy know about a successful theme tune?

This time Kander and Ebb came up with something that he did approve of, as did Scorsese and Minelli too, and this showstopper – which in the film, Jimmy composes – became the highlight of New York, New York (which I could never remotely love the way I loved Mean Streets or Taxi Driver).

Released as a single by Minelli during the long hot summer of ’77, this is Theme From New York, New York:

Was it a hit?

Like the film,* it failed to live up to expectations. It’s easy to imagine that from the moment people hear that killer opening vamp, they would fall in love with the track, but Minnelli’s original only managed to reach #104 in America.

Liza Minelli - New York, New York.jpg

‘Really?’ you might say. ‘But I bet the track must have went on to win Best Song at the Oscars and took off from there?’

Nope. In fact, it didn’t even earn a nomination from the Academy.

When it was first suggested that Frank Sinatra cover the song, he was initially wary. Ol’ Blue Eyes liked Liza’s version and treated her almost like family, due to his old friendship with Liza’s mother Judy Garland. By the autumn of 1978, though, he was persuaded to sing it live at a charity event at Waldorf-Astoria.

In 1980, he released the song as a single.

That must have been a huge hit then, you might think.

Nope, not really. In America it peaked at #32, while in Britain it made it no higher than #59.

Strange.

Both Frank and Liza continued to perform the song live and it continued to grow in popularity. A little research tells me that on these shores, Sinatra’s version was re-released early in 1986, and did finally go on to become a very sizeable success, joining the likes of The Damned, Sigue Sigue Sputnik and Simple Minds in the official UK singles chart, where it eventually peaked at #4, although I have absolutely no recollection of this.

Here are Frank and Liza live at Madison Square Gardens with a very showbizzy take on the song that doesn’t really work for me. Sorry but there’s no real chemistry between the voices and Frank, it would have to be admitted, is clearly past his prime. See if you agree:

* George Lucas – whose wife Marcia worked as an editor on the film – believed that New York, New York could have added another ten million to its box-office takings if Scorsese had chosen to close the film with a happy ending. Scorsese decided to ignore the suggestion but stuck with what he saw as the truth of the relationship.

 

Advertisements

A Suzy Kendall Double Bill: Torso & Spasmo

Leave a comment

Suzy Kendall Double Bill

It’s Giallo time again. So pour yourself a J&B with ice and enjoy.

First up is Torso, also occasionally known as The Bodies Bear Traces of Carnal Violence, or just plain Carnal Violence.

This is my favourite film by Sergio Martino, a director who worked in many fields, from sex comedies to spaghetti westerns, Euro crime to the cannibal genre and even a not terribly good creature-feature Island of the Fishmen.

Martino, though, is today best remembered for his 1970s gialli output such as The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail, Your Vice is a Locked Door and Only I Have the Key, and The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh. Yes, like many other Italian directors in this field he did favour baroque titles.

Martino’s older brother Luciano had produced Mario Bava’s The Whip and The Body, and this film proved inspirational to Sergio, as did Dario Argento’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage. The former starred John Richardson, the latter provided a prominent part for Suzy Kendall.

Both these English actors star in Torso, Richardson as Franz, an urbane art history professor in a Perugia university; one of his students being Jane, an American exchange student, played by Kendall.

Suzy Kendall - Torso

The one time wife of Dudley Moore, Kendall is an actress whose early career saw her appear in a number of successes, most notably To Sir With Love and Up the Junction.

By the 1970s, she was also much sought after by big budget British TV series such as The Persuaders, where she was guaranteed to inject some instant glamour. Around this time she also established herself as a big name in the world of giallo after appearing in the aforementioned Bird with the Crystal Plumage.

After Torso’s opening credits sequence, which resembles something from a dodgy softcore movie of the era, we cut to a university hall, where Franz is giving a lecture to a large number of students on the subject of Pietro Perugino, an Italian Renaissance painter who he doesn’t rate very highly.

Afterwards, Jane, accompanied by her friends, chooses to discuss the artist further with him, arguing the case for Perugino. It’s easy to imagine a mutual attraction between the pair, even though Franz refuses to back down on his opinion.

Soon the murders begin. A balaclava wearing psycho brutally kills one of the females seen in the opening credits, after spying on her and her boyfriend canoodling in a car. He kills him too, but off-screen.

The murder of her friend, affects Jane’s pal Carol (Conchita Airoldi) badly. She troops off to what looks like a deserted warehouse with two motorbike riding students, where a gathering of hippy types smoke dope, relax, dance and play music.

Carol puffs on a joint and lets the two boys fondle her until one goes too far. She storms off, followed by them. This scene, as they chase her through a swampy forest, is particularly effective and the score works well, hinting at prog and helping to induce a real sense of dread. And the dread only increases when she glimpses a man through the mist.

Torso Psycho Killer

This won’t be the last murder in Torso, and most of the victims will be in Jane’s circle of friends.

The suspects are many and varied. Chief among them is intense student Stefano (Roberto Bisacco), who has been obsessed by Daniela (Tina Aumont) for years. He’s shown being abusive to a local prostitute, throttling her throat for some moments before managing to calm down.

Then there’s the chisel-chinned man in a smart suit, spotted earlier by Carol buying a black and red neckerchief – which becomes a major clue in the manhunt. He later boards the same train as Jane and co., and chooses to sit in the same carriage as them.

Gianni Tomasso is an incredibly creepy looking man and has a sleazy manner to match. He runs a little clothes stall in a piazza in the centre of the city, near to the university and obviously knows more than he lets on to the police when questioned.

As the carnage continues, Dani’s wealthy Uncle Nino arranges for his daughter and her friends (including Jane) to leave their homes in Perugia and stay temporarily at a cliffside villa in the country, where they’ll be safe.

Torso - Students

Is this a good idea? I think you can guess. And could Nino be involved in the slayings? After all, who doesn’t know how this kind of thing works?

Much as Torso is highly enjoyable, it must have been an even more remarkable watch in 1973. As many commentators have mentioned before, Torso is like a slasher before that cinematic term had even been coined.

The movie’s first half does start off in classic giallo fashion but as it progresses you can tick off a number of tropes and trappings of the slasher.

There’s the masked killer on the loose, the group of attractive young females, an isolated location, and the final girl – the sole survivor, resilient and resourceful and who just happens to be the most moral and pure member of the group.

Torso - Suzy Kendall

I’m not much of a fan of slashers but I’m a big fan of Torso, although I only saw it for the first time years after the likes of Halloween and Friday the 13th had already begun spawning sequels.

Expect gratuitous gore, a shoal of red herrings, and a final third that is packed with suspense and features a fantastic performance from Kendall.

Spasmo

Spasmo is another giallo from a master of Italian genre cinema, Umberto Lenzi. This is a strange one and comes over like a particularly disturbing dream, especially with the running motif of female mannequins dressed only in lingerie, that are either mutilated or hanging on nooses.

The two leads here are Robert Hoffmann, an Austrian actor best known for TV’s The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, and a badly dubbed Suzy Kendall, who plays Barbara. I do tend to love Italian genre cinema but just occasionally sloppy post-synching can annoy, and I committed the cardinal sin here of choosing the English language version. My wrists have been slapped.

Christian Bauman (Hoffmann) is a Bee Gee lookalike with a small medallion, who shows his girlfriend Xenia a patch of land where he and his older brother Fritz (Ivan Rassimov) once discovered a dead dog that had been strangled when they were kids. And don’t ask how two young boys managed to identify that cause of death. maybe they carried out a psot-mortem.

Xenia spots what she looks like a female corpse on a stretch of nearby sand and she and Chrstian run over to investigate. This is Barbara, who of course isn’t dead, and is surprised that anybody could have made the assumption, even though she admits to fainting from sunstroke.

‘What you need is a double Scotch,’ Christian advises her. ‘That’ll pick you up.’

As he and Xenia go to his car to locate the whisky, Barbara mysteriously disappears, leaving behind a clue as to her identity, a flask bearing the name Tucania on it.

Christian and Xenia soon track down a yacht of that name harboured locally, and join a party on-board the vessel that is populated by Euro jet-set types and owned by Barbara’s possessive friend Alex, who is in love with her.

By nightfall, though, Xenia has been forgotten and Barbara won over by his chat-up lines like him calling her a ‘sweet, sweet whore.’ They head to the motel where Barbara’s staying, although she demands that Christian shaves his beard off before they get down to action. She has a razor in her room that is ‘big, sharp and sexy.’

Spasmo Suzy Kendall

While he’s removing his facial hair – with an electric shaver rather than any razor – a gun-toting intruder who looks like Dario Argento attacks him. Christian fights him off and grabs the gun. Then shoots him dead.

‘What’re you doing?’ Barbara asks a dazed Christian, as he walks into the living room. ‘Destroying my bathroom?’

He explains what happened. She suggests running away. He agrees. Luckily, she knows a property owned by a Brazilian artist friend currently in Rio. Here they can hide and plan their next move.

They break into the seaside home and soon discover that a couple are already renting it out, an older man Malcolm and a much younger female Clorinda, a redhead with the most piercing blue eyes imaginable, who Christian appears to vaguely recognise. I think I would personally remember that face forever more.

He confesses to Malcolm that he has murdered a man but Malcolm fails to believe him. This is like a decidedly disturbing dream and it is only going to get even stranger.

Spasmo Mannequin

Spasmo is a decent watch but nowhere near as effective as Torso. The dialogue is often abysmal and the plot too labyrinthine to easily follow, with a number of coincidences that are difficult to believe.

A revelation near the very end is clever enough and does make some sense of the batshit craziness that we have been watching but this comes just too late to entirely rescue the movie.

On the plus side, the mannequin motif is creepy and memorable, Ennio Morricone does provide a sometimes soothing, sometimes disorienting score, while in one great action sequence, Christian displays some driving skills that I don’t remember Jackie Stewart ever demonstrating back in the ’70s. And finally, Suzy Kendall is again in good form. A true giallo icon.

Suzy, incidentally, has now retired from acting but was persuaded to help out on 2012’s giallo influenced Berberian Sound Studio – another film with a disturbing and dreamy quality – where she is credited as ‘Special Guest Screamer’.

To see the trailer for Torso, click here.

To see the trailer for Spasmo, click here.

Mean Streets (Soundtrack Sundays)

Leave a comment

Mean Streets.jpg

If asked, I’ll say that The Ronettes’ Be My Baby is very likely the greatest pop song ever recorded. Not only that, its use on the soundtrack of Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets is one of the finest uses of any track in the history of cinema.

I’m guessing you’ve already seen the film. Harvey Keitel as Charlie wakes up. He’s alone in a spartan looking room where a crucifix hangs on the wall. Outside a siren blares and an interior siren seems to blare in his head.

Harvey Keitel in Mean Streets

Anxious, he rises, examines his face in a mirror and then goes back to bed. Scorsese gives us three rapid jump-cuts of Charlie’s face and as his head crashes back down on his pillow, Hal Blaine’s celebrated drum beat kicks in – three thuds of a deep bass drum, then another single hit on the snare, bolstered by some handclaps. Enter the startling vibrato of Ronnie Spector, cooing the opening lines: ‘The night we met, I knew I needed you so / And if I had the chance, I’d never let you go.’

As she sings, we see some handheld and grainy 8mm home movie footage of what we can only guess were happier times. A dapper Charlie at a baptism, hanging around with some buddies, and smiling while talking to a priest. All still soundtracked by The Ronettes.

Even in an age of Shirelles, Supremes and Shangi Las, Be My Baby stands out as something very special.

In his biography Good Vibrations, Beach Boy Mike Love wrote of the effect Be My Baby had on bandleader Brian Wilson: ‘When we’d go to Brian’s house, he would play that song over and over again, comparing it to Einstein’s theory of relativity.’

‘I felt like I wanted to try to do something as good as that song and I never did,’ the man who wrote the music for California Girls, Don’t Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder) and Caroline, No later admitted to the New York Times. ‘I’ve stopped trying. It’s the greatest record ever produced. No one will ever top that one.’

He is likely right. There isn’t a single click of the castanets too few or too many. The record is perfection. I’d go as far to say that if you’re just embarking on a relationship and wondering whether to take things further, ask the person what they think about Be My Baby. If they don’t absolutely love it, forget them, make your excuses and say goodbye.

That’s the only relationship advice I’ll ever give on here.

Here’s some footage of The Ronettes, shot in 1964, in (very appropriately) Little Italy in NYC, the setting of Mean Streets – okay, much of the film was shot in L.A. doubling for the neighbourhood where the young Scorsese grew up.

On discovering that Hal Blaine had died last Monday, I immediately thought of Be My Baby and that iconic and much copied drumbeat, even though it’s estimated that over the course of his magnificent career he played on over 35,000 recordings, 40 of which made it to number one in America.

A version of Hal made an appearance in the Brian Wilson biopic Love & Mercy – a far better film incidentally than Bohemian Rhapsody – where, during a break from recording, he tells the young Brian Wilson: ‘You name them, we’ve played with them. Sinatra, Dean Martin, Elvis, Phil Spector, Sam Cooke. Everyone. And we all studied at goddam conservatories for Christ’s sake but you, you gotta know… you’re touched, kid. You’ve blown our minds.’

‘More than Phil Spector?’ Wilson asks sheepishly.

‘Phil Spector has got nothing on you,’ Blaine replies, smiling.

Brian’s ecstatic. Instantly buoyed for when he returns to work on the session.

Here’s some more Hal, although that’s not him on drums on this clip, but rather Dennis Wilson, who looks like he hasn’t fully recovered from too much partying the nightbefore. But it is Hal hitting those drumsticks. From Pet Sounds, this is God Only Knows:

On hearing of his death, Brian Wilson observed: ‘Hal taught me a lot, and he had so much to do with our success – he was the greatest drummer ever.’

Ronnie Spector, who once said that she felt like she’d gone to heaven when she first heard Blaine’s drumbeat on Be My Baby, also paid tribute to the man, thanking him on her Facebook page for ‘the magic he put on all our Ronettes recordings… and so many others throughout his incredible career ‘.

Hal Blaine (born Harold Simon Belsky): 5 February 1929 – 11 March 2019.

Kes

4 Comments

Kes

This week, I’m working on a couple of reviews for elsewhere, so decided here to recycle a review from a few years ago for Louder Than War to mark Eureka’s blu-ray release of a favourite film of Krzysztof Kieslowski and Jarvis Cocker, the iconic and much loved British drama Kes.

I’m guessing that most of you have already seen the film, so I’ll allow myself a spoiler later in this review.

Based on Barry Hines’s novel A Kestrel For A Knave and mainly utilising non-professional actors, Kes was shot on location in Barnsley bookshops, bookies, chippies and the school where Hines was once a teacher and the young lead was then a pupil. It’s a bleak story with a particularly gut-wrenching finale, and the dialogue consists almost entirely of broad Yorkshire accents that people from outside the North of England might struggle at times to understand.

Put this way, it’s maybe not too surprising that Kes initially struggled to find distribution in an era where the duopoly of the Rank Organisation and ABC largely controlled the cinema distribution circuit around the country. The former turned it down flat out while the latter saw fit only to give it a run out in selected Yorkshire cinemas.

These screenings proved highly successful but it would still be a full two years after the film had wrapped before audiences nationwide were given the chance to see this captivating slice of working class life by multi-award winning director Ken Loach, or Kenneth Loach as he is credited here.

Two brothers share a single bed with a solitary pillow in a room that I doubt was going to be a contender for Good Housekeeping’s Seal of Approval any time soon. Billy Casper (David Bradley) is fifteen and on the brink of leaving school, although he looks much younger, a ‘weedy little twat’ according to half-brother Jud (Freddie Fletcher), who likes to remind Billy that he’ll soon be following him down the local pit at the end of the current school term, a scenario that Billy dreads and one he denies will ever happen.

Billy Casper and Jud in Kes

Billy though will have limited options in life. He can hardly read or write and is inarticulate. He’s no budding George Best either and lacks any exceptional artistic skill like Billy Elliot that could potentially lead him straight outta Barnsley to fame and fortune.

In his baggy two sizes too big shirt (presumably handed down from Jud) and shabby trousers held up by a snake belt, he continually looks a sorry figure. If he does manage to avoid the mines, he looks destined for a life of unemployment or maybe a low paid job as a factory wage slave.

Billy daydreams. Billy lies. Billy gets bullied by Jud, by vindictive teachers and by his fellow pupils – although he is capable of bullying too. As he waits outside the headmaster’s office, he helps ‘persuade’ a younger boy to hide his ciggies for him before he is inevitably searched along with some other members of the ‘smokers’ union’.

He steals chocolate; he steals milk and most significantly, he steals a female fledgling kestrel – a horrible theft really, snatching the startled creature from its natural environment, a nest atop an old manor house in ruins, in front of another bird nesting there.

Casper, though, does this with good intentions and quickly dedicates himself fully to feeding and training the kestrel, which he names Kes.

Luckily for us, Loach is clearly no believer in that old maxim – never work with animals and children.

Billy Casper and Kes

In contrast to Billy, Jud (Freddie Fletcher) is the ‘cock of the estate’, an arrogant loudmouth, drinker, gambler and womaniser. He’s likely trying his best not to let the bastards grind him down but this almost perpetually angry young man, you sense, will ultimately be fighting a losing battle. His resentment at the world appears perilously close to snapping at the slightest provocation – and Billy will provide him with plenty of ammunition later when he fails to use Jud’s money to place a bet that would have won him enough money to take a week off work.

Several scenes in Kes will linger long in the memory: the fantasy cup tie between Spurs and Manchester United orchestrated by Brian Glover’s Mr Sugden is comically absurd; the caning scene makes me flinch every time I see it – Loach had guaranteed the boys that he would call ‘cut’ just before the cane whipped the palms of their hands but didn’t and the tears of the youngest boy were real.

The boys were furious. Ironically for a notable socialist, his duplicity had caused the young actors to go on strike – point-blank refusing to shoot the scene again. Producer Tony Garnett salvaged the situation, promising the boys ten shillings (50p) extra each time they were belted. David Bradley & co ended the day £3.50 better off.

Billy Casper belted in Kes

Then there’s the emotionally gruelling final sequence where Billy desperately searches for Kes, his hopes sliding inexorably into his worst nightmare with Jud gaining the cruellest of revenges.

The best thing about Kes though is the extraordinary performance of David Bradley, a teenager with no acting experience bar some Christmas pantos. Remarkably he is in almost every frame of the film, bar an extended scene where his feckless mother and Jud separately visit a dingy boozer with some dodgy live entertainment, an overlong scene that is pretty much irrelevant too, one of the few complaints I would make about the film.

Watching Bradley as Billy outlining to his classmates his recently learned expertise about falconry reminded me that his naturalistic turn here really is one of the great British performances on the big screen, up there with the likes of Malcolm McDowell in If… and A Clockwork Orange and David Thewlis in Naked.

Loach has had artistic successes since Kes such as Sweet Sixteen and most recently I, Daniel Blake – and failures too like Looking for Eric and Ae Fond Kiss – but it is Kes that will surely always remain his most fondly remembered cinematic excursion. Powerful and poetic, humane and haunting, this is one of the high-points in British social-realist cinema and one that still resonates with viewers half a century after it was released.

Trivia: Composer John Cameron provides Kes with an effective folk inflected score, a plaintive piece with a lovely pastoral feel. After Kes, he helped form the band C.C.S, who provided the theme music for Top of the Pops with their cover version of Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love. He also arranged the Hot Chocolate hit You Sexy Thing.

For more on this release: https://www.eurekavideo.co.uk/moc/kes

Derek’s Jarman’s Jubilee

Leave a comment

Jubilee Quad Poster

Jubilee is no dreary slice of social realism, although the backdrop of the raw sprawl of dockland London, full of bombsites and crumbling buildings, would have been perfect for that. There’s no ‘straight’ political message either, Jarman even dedicated his script at one point to ‘all those who secretly work against the tyranny of marxists Fascists trade unionists maoists capitalists socialists etc’.

Instead, this is a tale of time travel with Queen Elizabeth I (Jenny Runacre), resident court astrologer John Dee (Richard O’Brien) and Lady in Waiting (Helen Wellington-Lloyd) being transported to a 1970s London by Ariel. The same Ariel who served Prospero in Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

None are impressed by what they witness. This is a truly broken down Britain, where cops beat up or kill young people for fun and where homicidal girl gangs maraud around the streets. Jubilee comes across at times like a Kenneth Anger movie with a screenplay by Valerie Solanis. With a little John Waters style sick humour thrown in for good/bad measure.

The cast is of the ensemble variety. Five youngish women share a commune style warehouse squat. Bod – presumably short for Boadicea – is the unofficial leader and is played by Jenny Runacre. Amyl Nitrate (Jordan) is obsessed by history and likes to recreate Mondrian canvases with make-up on her face. Mad (Toyah Willcox) is a loudmouthed pyromaniac with bright orange hair; Crabs (Little Nell Campbell) a promiscuous and easily impressed actress; and finally there’s Chaos (Hermine Demoriane), a tightrope walker who looks good and says nothing.

They sometimes hang around with two bisexual and possibly incestuous brothers, Angel (Ian Charleson) and Sphinx (Karl Johnson), and an artist Viv (Linda Spurrier),the nearest thing to a sympathetic character that Jarman gives us.

The casting is odd. Jenny Runacre (who plays Queen Elizabeth I in addition to Bod) was already an experienced actor and had already worked with Tony Richardson, Pasolini and Antonioni; Richard O’Brien and Little Nell had recently been involved in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, while Toyah had just graduated from drama school.

Toyah Jubilee 1978

Many who took part, though, were picked on the whim of Jarman. Adam Ant (The Kid) was selected on the basis of the director spotting him walking through Chelsea with the word Fuck carved on his back by a razor blade. By a complete coincidence, Jordan, who’d performed the carving duties, had just been cast in a leading role. In fact, the first scene that Jarman chose to shoot for Jubilee involved Mad carving the word LOVE on Bod’s back, before sprinkling salt on to the wound.

The performances range from the professional to verging on the kind of thing you might see in a one-star student production at the Edinburgh Festival. If Tommy Wisseau has ever seen this, he might even find Orlando’s turn as Borgia Ginz, a megalomaniac impresario who inevitably breaks into cackling laughter after he has spoken, annoyingly hammy.

Jubilee is usually claimed to be a punk film but the former public schoolboy director Derek Jarman was no punk. In August 1976 he laid out his thoughts on the ‘King’s Road fashion anarchists’, deriding its instigators as ‘the same old petit bourgeois art students, who a few months ago were David Bowie and Bryan Ferry look-alikes – who’ve read a little art history and adopted some Dadaist typography and bad manners, and who are now in the business of reproducing a fake street credibility.’ Ouch.

Despite this opinion, he did include a number of punkish tracks in Jubilee, with Jordan – then the manager of Adam and The Ants – advising him on which music to use.

Only three days after recording their debut single Plastic Surgery, The Ants filmed the track for Jubilee in the Drury Lane Theatre. Wayne/Jayne County supplied a track Paranoia Paradise, that was supposedly number one in Moscow, having sold 30 million copies in three days, while Siouxsie and The Banshees are briefly seen performing Love In A Void.

Gene October & Little Nell in Jubilee

There’s also a blast of Chelsea’s Right to Work, a song that verges on a dirge and which I’ve never been able to figure out – is it a protest against rising unemployment of the era or is the right to work for employees who believe that they should be able to put in a shift even when the trade unions insist otherwise? The band’s singer Gene October also plays Happy Days, who meets a grisly end, being asphyxiated in a red plastic sheet and then dumped into the mud of the Thames at low tide. A far from happy day.

Additionally, The Slits, like the younger sisters of Alex and his droog pals in A Clockwork Orange, destroy a car with great relish. The band quickly decided that they didn’t want to be portrayed as violent and become associated with mindless destruction. They pulled out of any further involvement with the project and asked Jarman to bin the footage already shot. But, of course, he didn’t. ‘Can’t blame him really,’ Viv Albertine noted in her autobiography Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys.

Interestingly, the first music we hear in Jubilee is the other-worldly ambiance of Slow Water. Initially released in 1976 on a limited edition of Music for Films, which was sent out to directors in the hope that they might include some of it in their films, Jarman was the first to take him up on the opportunity.

Jordan with trident

The song with the most impact, though, has to be Jordan (miming to Suzi Pinn’s vocals) performing a discofied version of Rule Britannia while wearing suspenders and carrying a trident. This apparently being England’s entry for that year’s Eurovision Song Contest.

On its release, Jubilee polarised opinions. Punks might have enjoyed the nihilism but tended to resent the message that punk acts could be co-opted so easily by the capitalist world. The Banshees condemned it while Vivienne Westwood despised it to the extent that she designed an Open T-Shirt to Derek Jarman, denouncing it. Jenny Runacre got her hands on one and wore it with pride, while Jarman was shown photographed wearing one in one of the Criterion re-release extras, A Time Less Golden (2003). When Westwood accepted an OBE in 1992, he called her as a ‘dipsy bitch’.

Derek Jarman in Vivienne Westwood T-shirt

Conservatives meanwhile were likely even more pissed off with the nudity, castration, asphyxiation, murder, blasphemy and sex – especially the orgy sequence supposedly being carried out in the bowels of Westminster Cathedral.

Despite the controversy generated, Jubilee was never a big cinema attraction and by the time it made its debut on British television in 1986, punk was dead and tracks like Sleezy D’s I’ve Lost Control would soon signal a new musical revolution in acid house.

A true provocateur, Derek Jarman was uncompromising here and remained so throughout his career. He was referred to as the ‘English Andy Warhol’ by several critics and Bowie described him as a ‘black magician.’

Don’t expect a traditional narrative here. It’s very episodic, and Jarman made much of it up as he went along (and it tells). It can often be frustrating but equally, it is extraordinary in many ways and not one single scene is bland.

The artist/director/stage designer/writer/gardener believed Jubilee proved prescient. In Dancing Ledge, he wrote: ‘Dr Dee’s vision came true – the streets burned in Brixton and Toxteth, Adam was on Top of the Pops and signed up with Margaret Thatcher to sing at the Falklands Ball. They all sign up in one way or another.’

Ginz’s observation that ‘this is the generation who grew up and forgot to lead their lives’ and how ‘the media became their only reality’, struck me as far more prescient, albeit concerning many of today’s millennials, more interested in recording their lives on phones and social media rather than just leading their lives.