British Youth Culture Films featuring Music

Thursdays Robert Elms show on BBC Radio London discussed and took submissions from the listeners on their top-3 British Youth Culture films featuring music. I’d not heard of many of them, so I hit the BBC iPlayer pause button and made a list of all those mentioned. The films are listed as they came up on the show.

The most popular films mentioned, including by Robert were Quadraphenia, Take it or Leave It, and Babylon.

Quadraphenia (1979) features one Gordon Sumner aka Sting, as we as Phil Daniels and is set in London in 1965. The music is predominantly American acts, but features 4-tracks from the Who.

Stardust(1974) features then “teen pop-idol” David Essex as the pop star Jim Mclean and was a follow-on to the 1973 film, That’ll be the day. It was a surprisingly gritty film, and certainly had an impact on me. The soundtrack is primarily numbers by David Essex and Dave Edmunds(as the Stray Cats).

Babylon(1980) features Brindsley Forde’s character as he takes his reggae sound system based in west London. The film was for the most part set in “current times” and was no a retrospective. It was a relatively low-budget film compared to the first two entries.

Take it or Leave it(1981) autobiographical film of Madness.

Telstar – The Joe Meek Story(2008) set in the 1960’s about about Joe Meek, the flamboyantly gay, tone deaf, songwriter-producer behind the ’60s. Features many 1960’s tracks.

The Harder they come(1972) – Honorary entry, highly rated, not British. Features reggae star Jimmy Cliff(and others), filmed in Jamaica. Reggae soundtrack primarily featuring Jimmy Cliff, but also Toots & The Maytals, Desmond Dekker.

Breaking Glass(1980) London new wave/punk scene – featuring Phil Daniels, Hazel O’Conner and Jonathon Pryce.

Absolute Beginners(1986) Set in the late 1950’s, famously features David Bowie and Bowie tracks, but also Sade, Paul Weller and Gil Evans.

Young Soul Rebels(1991) Set in London 1977 and the Queens Silver Jubilee celebrations and two friends running a pirate radio station. Music features many jazz-funk style tracks popular at the time.

24-Hour Party People(2002) Retrospective on the mid-1970’s  with Tony Wilson setting up Factory Records whose acts included Joy Division(New Order), The Happy Mondays. Features racks by the Clash, the Pistols, Happy Mondays, Simpley Red, New Order.

Human Traffic(1999) features the Cardiff club scene of the 1990’s and a story around a weekend of music, love and club culture. Varied club, trance music tracks inc. Fatboy Slim, Public Enemy, Armand van Helden and more.

Velvet Goldmine(1998) set in 1984, but primarily about the 1970s glam rick era. Surprisingly features Ewan McGregor and Christian Bale, also Eddie Izzard.Music from bands of the glam rock scene inc. Roxy Music, T-Rexx and also contemporary artists such as Thom Yorke.

That’ll be the day(1973) drama set in the late 1950’s/early 60’s with David Essex as the lead, and featuring a soundtrack  of early rock and roll, primarily American inc. Jerry Lee Lewis, The Everly Brothers, Bobby Darin et al.

HELP!(1965) drama film featuring the Beatles and their music, but based on a story about Ringo and a ring being a human sacrifice.

The Commitments(1991) – story of a imaginary Irish band the Commitments and their struggles to make it. Features classic remkes by the band of classic songs. Features the vocals of lead singer  Andrew Strong.

Kill Your Friends(2015) drama set at the height of the Britpop music scene in the 1990’s.

Expresso Bongo(1959) drama about the music business featuring Laurence Harvey and Silva Sims, Cliff Richard. Cliff Richard provides much of the soundtrack.

Pink Floyd The Wall(1982) not clear(to me) this film belongs, but it is set in the UK and around the music business. Pink Floyd provide majority of soundtrack.

Control(2007) biopic/profile of Ian Curtis the troubled lead singer of Joy Division. Soundtrack includes tracks from glam rock(Roxy Music, David Bowie) through Punk through electronic and especially remade and original Joy Division tracks.

Backbeat(1994) dramatization of the Hamburg(late 50’s) period of the Beatles. Soundtrack by various artists from the time.

Flame(1975) drama featuring the band Slade as 1970’s band Flame. Features reworked Slade tracks, also many stars of the then pop-music industry are in Cameos.

Bronco Bullfrog(1969) gritty East London drama covering the period and influences that lead to the Mod movement.

A Hard Days Night(1964) biopic drama of a day in the life of the Beatles.

Radio on(1979) road trip drama set in 1970’s Britain. Soundtrack features Bowie, Kraftwerk, Ian Dury and the Blockheads

Born to Boogie(1972) – features Marc Bolan and Ringo Starr pseudo documentary about T-REXX.

Nowhere Boy(2009) dramatization of the formative years of John Lennon. Sountrack features tracks by Elvis Presley, Dickie Valentine, Gene Vincent and others, as well as remakes of tracks by cast members.

Beat Girl(1960) (I assume not the 2013 DJ based remake?) Released in the US as Wild for Kicks. Set in the late 1950’s features numerous British character actors including Adam Faith, Oliver Reed and Christopher Lee. Notable John Barry’s first music soundtrack commission, with vocal tracks performed by Adam Faith.

Blow-Up(1966) archetypal mod photographer shoots mysterious beauty drama featuring David Hemmings, Vanessa Redgrave et al. great jazz soundtrack by Herbie Hancock.

Performance(1970) Classic Nicolas Roeg film about an east London gangster and a former rcok superstar. Stars Mick Jagger; also an appearnce by one of my favorites from the 1970’s Callan series, Anthony Valentine.Sountrack features track by Merry Clayton and Buffy Sainte-Marie, and one by Jagger.

Sid and Nancy(1986) morbid biopic about Sid Vicious of the sex pistols; features Gary Oldman. Soundtrack features classic Pogues performances, also Joe Strummer and the Sex Pistols and others.

The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle(1980) “documentary” about the Sex Pistols break-up, from the point of view of Malcom McLaren the Pistol manager. Soundtrack includes many Pistols songs specially engineered for the album using older lyrics and band members, as Johnny Rotten refused to participate.

Catch us if you Can(1965) released in the US as “Having a wild weekend”. Eponymous movie named after the David Clark 5 (DC5) hit, filmed at the peak of their success. The film is a drama about a model and a stunt actor.

Still Crazy(1998) (incorrectly called Strange Fruit on the Elms show). Features Billy Connolly, Jimmy Nail and Bill Nighy, as well as many others. The seminal 1970’s band “Strange Fruit” reuniting after twenty years of silence. Soundtrack contains tracks by the cast, written by the likes of Chris Difford, Mick Jones, and Jeff Lyne(ELO).

It couldn’t happen here(1987) Surreal Pet Shop boys movie, based on memories of Lowe/Tennats childhood, crossed with Mrs Thatchers late 80’s England. Ensemble British cast including Barbara Windsor. Soundtrack by, and featuring classics of the Pet Shop Boys.

Smashing Time(1967) Comedy drama filmed in London and written by George Melly. Stars Rita Tushingham, Lynn Redgrave and Michael York. Lots of satire, also Juke Box Jury is parodied.

SPOOFS:

Spinal Tap(1984) American film, Directed by Rob Reiner and set in 1982 about a British heavy metal band, Spinal Tap. Film didn’t qualify for a formal entry in the list as it is staged around the bands American comeback tour, filmed in California, and thus not about British youth culture. Soundtrack features songs written and performed by the cast.

The Rutles(1978) original title All You Need Is Cash. charts of the adventures of the prefab four, a total Beatles send-up. The soundtrack also parodied many Beatles songs, and features the work of Neil Innes of Monty Python. Actually, if you like the Beatles, this film is quite good, if you don’t like the Beatles, this film is very good.

From the Robert Elms Facebook page:

British Hustle(1978) – Few details, seems to have been a film shot at Clouds, Brixton, featuring some of London’s club dancers at the time, including Tommy Mack. Also includes Greg Edwards as DJ.From this clip and this clip on YouTube, seems to be a documentary rather than movie.

Pirate Radio(2009) original title The Boat that Rocked. Movie about the early days of pirate radio, set in the 1960’s, primarily a comedy parodying Radio Caroline. Soundtrak contains many classic tracks from the time, mostly British.

Stuart Kolnick, Recycled Sounds (Omaha, Nebraska)

I mentioned this list and the show on Stuarts facebook page. Stuart runs a fantastic used music and record shop. He is a brillaintc resource, and in a flash came back with these two films which hadn’t previously been listed.

Rude Boy(1980) Features The Clash and a fictional roadie as well as actual events from the time. Shot in Birmingham and the West Midlands. Soundtrack includes live, rehearsal and recorded versions of Clash tracks.

Dance Craze(1981) documentary film about 2 Tone. Film includes broad selection of live performances of 2 Tome bands at the time including Madness, Bad Manners, The Specials, The Beat.

LPSDo you have any others to include in the list? The classification was British, and Youth Culture, that featured music. Documentaries were not really included. Feel free to add a comment below and I’ll update the post.

While you can find copies of most of these movies online, many legitimate through the British Film Institute aka the BFI, also through streaming services such as Amazon, and Lovefilm, I’m not going to include links here.

Author: Mark Cathcart

Formerly an Executive Director of Systems Engineering and a Senior Distinguished Engineer at Dell. Prior to that, an IBM Distinguished Engineer working for the Systems Group in NY and Austin. I'm currently "retired until further notice".

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