Posts Tagged Pat Harrington

Citizens of Boomtown: The Story of the Boomtown Rats

Citizens of Boomtown: The Story of the Boomtown Rats
https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000jjr5

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The Boomtown Rats in Ireland

This documentary about the Boomtown Rats has its faults but is hugely entertaining and informative. Director Billy McGrath records and analyses both the band’s history and its music. He highlights key (sometimes iconic) footage documenting its huge success and subsequent fall from popularity. Guests include Bono, Sinead O’Connor, Dave Stewart, Jools Holland, David Mallet and Sting, as well as music writers, photographers, and historians all give their views on the history and social impact of the Rats.

I should declare my interest. I am a Boomtown Rats fan. I loved ‘A Tonic for the Troops’ when I first heard it. I loved the mix of punk rebellion with people who could actually play instruments and carry a tune. I loved the relative complexity of the lyrics.

The Boomtown Rats originated in Ireland. An Ireland that was economically grim and socially frozen. Ireland was dominated by the allied Church and State and to many young people was depressing and corrupt. All many wanted to do was escape. That was certainly true of the members of the Boomtown Rats. Added to that sense of alienation or estrangement was there disrupted family backgrounds. All in all a mix for anti-authority, questioning and rebellious positions. And that’s exactly what you got.

For me, the relationship between their Irish roots and the state of that nation was one of the most fascinating aspects of the documentary. The lyric of Banana Republic written in response to the band being banned from performing in the Republic is uncompromising. Take the chorus:
“Banana Republic
Septic Isle
Suffer in the Screaming sea
It sounds like dying
Everywhere I go
Everywhere I see
The black and blue uniforms
Police and priests”

The Irish establishment took a dim view of this song and Geldof’s earlier “denunciation of nationalism, medieval-minded clerics and corrupt politicians” in a 1977 interview/performance on Ireland’s The Late Late Show. The Irish Times described the band as “a thorn shoved into the skin of church and state”.(1)

Yet the Rats were also one of Ireland’s most successful exports for a time opening up opportunities that other Irish bands followed. And Geldof never abandoned Ireland itself whilst maintaining his criticism of the system there.

There are many ‘might have been questions’ raised by the documentary. The Rats were ahead of their time in terms of producing music videos but there was no dedicated music video channel at the time. Had there been maybe they would have broken through in the United States. If Geldof had been less abrasive and understood America and Americans better perhaps they would have done better there. As the Irish Times put it: “Geldof, for whom keeping his mouth shut did not come naturally, went out of his way to alienate US audiences by deriding the sainted Bruce Springsteen.” (2)

You can mark the end of the band at different points but I would place it when they failed to breakthrough in the United States. It didn’t help that the anthemic I Don’t Like Mondays was blocked by legal threats from being produced as a single there.

Bob Geldof kept busy. He starred in Pink Floyd the Wall (released in 1982) cast as the mentally deranged Fascist leader Pink. He brought his energy to organise the massive 1985 Live Aid charity concerts and the Xmas hit Do they know it’s Christmas? and many associated efforts for famine relief in Africa.

The Rats reunited as a part-time touring act in 2013 and in 2020, 36 years after their last release. They also produced a seventh album, Citizens of Boomtown (after which the documentary is named). Although keyboardist Johnny Fingers and early-era guitarist Gerry Cott are both absent, the Rats of 2020 — Geldof, guitarist Garry Roberts, bassist Pete Briquette, and drummer Simon Crowe – are all original members. The album received mixed reviews but the live gigs were said to be filled with energy and passion by those who attended.

In both the documentary and in an interview with Rolling Stone Geldof insists that the band’s older songs aren’t nostalgia but are relevant today:

““When I sing ‘I Don’t Like Mondays’ I’m not in 1979,” he says. “I’m in last night’s school massacre, which nobody anticipated at the time. When I’m doing ‘Rat Trap,’ it’s not for the hopelessness of the people in that abattoir I wrote it in, but hopelessness now. When I do ‘Banana Republic’ it’s not for the Irish Republic, which eventually grew up and matured. It’s for the American republic as it descends ever further into political infantilism.”

“When I do ‘Lookin’ After No. 1′ it’s not about the conditions of life in 1979,” he continues. “It’s about Google and Facebook and [Mark] Zuckerberg always on, always monitoring, collating every thought you have, every friend, every choice, packaging and selling it to a third party who in turn exploits you and your preferences. It’s utterly now. That rage, that animus propels the Boomtown Rats.” (3)

I can’t hope to cover all the informative, thought-provoking, and entertaining aspects of this documentary. It is so full. Though there are still aspects missed such as Geldof’s support for Father’s Rights and his opposition to Brexit.

I said at the start that it had flaws. There is a very contrived ‘interview’ with Bob Geldof at the beginning which I think is meant to be funny but isn’t. I didn’t make much of the rather ‘art-schooly’ of the band walking through a tunnel behind a figure wearing a gas mask and pulling a board laden with rocks. Each to their own though! It is also a little self-congratulatory but given the band, and particularly ‘Saint Bob’s’ contribution to humanitarian relief and social progress maybe we can forgive them that!

Reviewed by Patrick Harrington

(1) https://www.irishtimes.com/…/the-boomtown-rats-citizens-of-…
(2) https://www.irishtimes.com/…/citizens-of-boomtown-bob-geldo…
(3) https://www.rollingstone.com/…/bob-geldof-interview-boomto…/

Picture credit: By Author unknown; Photo courtesy Orange County Archives – https://www.flickr.com/photos/ocarchives/5486877395/, No restrictions, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14267259

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1950s Tiki Culture / Exotica Documentary (“The Air-Conditioned Eden”) (Parts 1 and 2)

Tiki_Anthony_Eisley_Hawaiian_Eye_1961

Tiki culture gave repressed 50s Americans an excuse to be freer

This documentary is about “Tiki Culture” & Exotica in 1950s American pop culture. It aired circa 1999 as part of Channel 4’s “Without Walls” series. It’s a fascinating look at how Americans created a weird fusion of cultures (originally drawn from Hawaii, Polynesia, and Oceania), to escape from the sexual and social repression of their daily lives. Tiki had its own music (Martin Denny & Exotica music is featured) and the style influenced arts, design, leisure, architecture and much else. Some even tried to create a Tiki home. But why? What drove this?

Jarrett Hedborg, an Interior Designer who contributed to the documentary said:

“A lot of this look is about running away from technology. The idea of the White man’s garden of Eden and this feeling of refuge. It is feasible to have the fantasy of sitting on the beach under a palm tree looking out at the Pacific even though you’re sitting on your bamboo sofa in Des Moines, Idaho staring out at your back garden.”

Delusional? Maybe!

Walt Disney even created a big Tiki attraction at Disneyland.

At one point America (and particularly American men) went crazy for the idea of natives who lived by different standards and who gave them permission to be freer. The swaying hips and beckoning hands invited them to join a fantasy. The effect on other cultures and how they defined their identity was almost certainly more negative. Their culture was distorted and projected back to them. By the 60s Tiki began to disappear. It became an embarrassment and most hid their Tiki paraphernalia.

As one of the contributors sums up: “Tiki was a purely populist or pop culture phenomenon. It was very loved by the people but discarded and shunned by culture critics and writers. The elitists were demanding more authenticity. The people didn’t care. They didn’t know better so they just had fun with it.”

Fascinating.

Reviewed by Pat Harrington

Part one is here

Part two is here

 

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@JohnLewis: Never Knowingly Undertweeted

johnlewis

Simon Jay gives a compelling performance in this one man show

Venue 93
Laughing Horse @ The Newsroom – The Basement
12:00
Aug 4-7, 9-14, 16-21, 23-26
1 hour

Simon Jay gives a versatile performance in this fascinating one-man show. Based on a true story, the play is about an American teacher called John Lewis whose twitter account is confused with that of the well known co-operative Department Store. A strange tale and no wonder that the Standard picked it as one of the ten quirkiest shows of the Fringe!

It’s a story that is funny but raises serious questions about identity, corporate branding and social media. Jay portrays different roles apart from John Lewis including customers and staff at the HQ of the store. Jay oozes energy and humour. I liked his miming of shaving and his dancing (Jay is quite a physical performer!).

I should make special mention to the enjoyable and diverse music soundtrack which accompanies the show and underlines themes in the script. Best of all the show is part of the free festival so go along, enjoy and put money (what you can afford) in the bucket at the end!

Reviewed by Pat Harrington

#IntoTheUnknown #EdFringe2018 #EdFringe

5 Star Images - Clipart library

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Bowie: The Man Who Changed the World (2016)

bowiethemanwhochangedtheworld

Click on image to buy

Bowie: The Man Who Changed the World (2016)

1h 25min | Documentary, Biography, Music | 9 May 2016 (UK)
 
Genres: Documentary
Director: Sonia Anderson
Starring: David Bowie, Lawrence Myers, Paul Nicholas
Supporting actors: Dana Gillespie, Mary Finnigan, ‘Whispering’ Bob Harris, Clive Langer, Chris Sullivan, Breege Collins, Angie Bowie
Studio: Under The Milky Way
 
 
There are things to like in this documentary. It offers some of insight into a very complex, multi-faceted and creatively restless man. A man stimulated by new ideas and experiences. It features interviews with Bowie himself and people who knew him (if you ever could!). The documentary is fascinating because the subject never ceased to amaze, entertain and, at times, baffle us.
 
Bowie was a versatile innovator who had a huge impact on popular culture. Everyone saw the waves emananting from what he did but Bowie the man was a mystery. This documentary doesn’t solve that mystery but the interviews do give us some glimpses of the character behind the creativity.
 
For me the most interesting part was the first part dealing with his early life. Both Dana Gillespie and Mary Finnigan paint a bleak picture of his homelife.
 
Mary Finnigan says of Bowie’s mother “she was very stiff, very starchy, you had no chance of getting to know her properly, very reserved”.
 
Dana Gillespie speaks of visit to his home – “a cold house” “it was like walking around with cement blocks on your shoulders” and reveals Bowie said “Whatever it takes I want to get out of this place. I never want to grow up here”.
 
The rest really charts his escape to and triumph in a different world. There are some great Bowie moments. The 1976 interview with Russell Harty is very funny. Harty tries sarcasm on Bowie but he more than meets his match. The interviews with close friends and business associates can be informative. I had no idea that when he was broke he auditioned for the musical Hair! or how hands on he was on different aspects of his stage productions like lighting.
 
There is some great information in this documentary but it does jump around in terms of timeline and isn’t well structured. The images don’t always match the story being told and some are overused. My other big criticism is the complete lack of Bowie music which I’m guessing was down to not reaching agreement with the Bowie estate.
 
I saw this on Netflix so if you’re on there check it out. Would I buy it if I wasn’t on Netflix? On balance yes because, as a Bowie fan, despite my criticisms, it is worth watching.
 
Reviewed by Pat Harrington

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 Sicario 2: Soldado (2018) 

JoshBrolin

Josh Brolin in Sicario 2: Soldado. Photograph: Allstar/Columbia Pictures

Sicario: Day of the Soldado (original title)
15 | 2h 2min | Action, Crime, Drama | 29 June 2018 (UK)
Director: Stefano Sollima
Writer: Taylor Sheridan 
Starring
Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Isabela Moner, Catherine Keener, Jeffrey Donovan, Elijah Rodriguez, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Matthew Modine, Shea Whigham

Sicario 2 is a bleak film. It breathes hopelessness. The subject matter is the failed U.S. war against the Mexican drug cartels as in Sicario 1. The Spanish word “sicario,” means hit man or contract killer. It’s difficult to know if the government agents or the cartel gangsters are being referenced. Perhaps it describes both. In Sicario 2 what few rules there were have been torn up as the drug cartels have smuggled ISIS terrorists over the border. One kills himself and takes out members of a US border patrol and another makes it across to take part in a bomb attack on a crowded supermarket.

US secretary of defense (Matthew Modine) orders a dirty war. The man for the job is obvious – Matt Graver (Josh Brolin). He has few moral qualms and likes to get the job done. Matt has a plan – divide and rule. He wants to get the cartels fighting each other and plans murder and kidnapping to provoke that. Alejandro Gillick (Benicio Del Toro), a US black-ops ally with a grudge against the cartels is reactivated to help.

The main part of the story centres on the kidnapping by the US black-ops team of Isabel Reyes, played by Moner (the daughter of a Cartel leader) and the fall-out from that. Another story that intersects concerns another teenager Miguel Hernandez (Elijah Rodriguez), a Mexican-American boy with a family on both sides of the border who joins a gang of human traffickers. Sicario 2 emphasises the profitability of human trafficking and the cartels involvement. This depiction of crime, terrorism and migration has proved uncomfortable for some in the US as it may resonate with those who want to build a wall to keep people out!

There aren’t any conventional heroes in Sicario 2. It’s clear that this war will go on and on with brutal inhumanity the norm on both sides. This is underscored by the score by Hildur Gudnadottir. It’s relentless and fills you with dread and foreboding. The Beast from Sicario (2015), written and Performed by Jóhann Jóhannsson, is played over and over again.

The ending was unconvincing and out of keeping with the tone of the Movie and the likely actions of those inhabiting this shady, amoral world. Far happier than I expected though still depressing!

Reviewed by Pat Harrington

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Don’t Say That

dontsaythat

How far should we limit free expression?

The Age We Are’s ‘Don’t Say That’ raises questions about our use of language reminicient of Newspeak in Orwell’s 1984. Newspeak is “politically correct” speech taken to its maximum extent. Newspeak is based on standard English, but all words describing “unorthodox” political concepts have been removed. Don’t Say That asks whether we are censored or self-censor to avoid causing offence. Should we just say what we want? Should we be frightened of causing offence? Is it possible to be conditioned to avoid causing offence? Is there a line and where should it be drawn?

The production is set in a paralell world centred around The Bureau. The Bureau monitors communications to limit expression in order to limit the possibility of causing offence. Serious stuff but the cast work in a lot of humour. I particularly liked the physicality when they came togehter in a choreographed routine to represent censorship machines. I also loved the sketches of a supermarket checkout girl and customer showing the politically correct and incorrect ways to conduct a transaction. The language of the Bureau was spot-on, New Labour helping or facilitating your ‘choices’ (which was, in truth, a thinly veiled coercion).

The production raised more questions in my mind than it answered but perhaps that is no bad thing!

Reviewed by Pat Harrington

Fri 28 Aug
1330
Space 3, 80 High Street, EH1 1TH
£5 / 0845 508 8316

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Pip Utton: Playing Maggie

piputtonplayingmaggieIf you go to see Pip Utton playing Margaret Thatcher looking for a flawless impersonation you will be disappointed. Pip looks nothing like Maggie even with a wig and make-up! He has the voice close though and the combative and imperious manner down to a T.

Here’s the really strange thing though: after a while the audience starts to buy-in to the whole thing. They want to ask Maggie questions and even get quite heated about reliving past political battles. At the performance I attended we had questions about the sinking of the Belgrano, the miners strike and the effect on her of the Brighton bombing (I actually asked that one!). Pip was amazing showing that he had done loads of research and was able to answer in character everything that was thrown at him. Even more impressively when asked about present issues such as her views on Corbyn’s bid for the Labour leadership the answer given seemed to be in tune with what Maggie was likely to have said. Predictably given how divisive Thatcher was the audience seemed to align themselves along political lines but you could sense that all understood that agree or disagree with her that her stance was clear.

There was also a conceit of the actor playing Maggie being the Son of a miner which was interesting but not really necessary. The principal enjoyment was centred on listening to Pip perform a speech as Maggie at the start (which was very well done) and the question and answer session with the audience. It was funny, informative, strange and hugely entertaining.

Reviewed by Pat Harrington

Assembly Rooms. Until Aug 30. Tickets: 0844 693 3008; arfringe.com

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Beethoven in Stalingrad

beethoven

Universal Soldier? Jesper Arin

12 letters are read to the audience. 12 letters from trapped men facing almost certain death to loved ones. Letters written by dispirited, depressed and doomed German solidiers to their relatives, friends and lovers back home. To people who had no idea of the reality of their situation and who were being fed a diet of propaganda and misinformation about the war. Jesper Arin gives an intense performance as he takes as through the distressing but sometimes touching letters. All is accompanied by a mix of the Appassionata by Scottish violinist Ian Peaston with electronic distortion that creates a chilling, sorrowful atmosphere.

The play hits you emotionally and makes you think about big questions of belief, survival, suffering and love. As the production notes say: “The letters contain messages of hate, longing and despair but they also send us reassurance, love and hope.” You can’t help but identify with the soldiers because they are experiencing emotions which are part of all of us, they are universal.

The letters never arrived, they were censored because they did not support the German war effort.

Reviewed by Pat Harrington

Sun 16th – Mon 31st Aug – 12.15pm
(45 mins)
Spotlites
Venue 278. 22 Hanover Street. EH2 2EP

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Review: 1985 – A Sequel to George Orwell’s 1984 by Gyorgy Dalos

1985bookcover

Click on image to buy book!

This book begins with the unthinkable – the death of ‘Big Brother’. The orthodoxy of the totalitarian system is threatened by this, the ensuing power struggles and the near destruction of the Oceania air force by Eurasia. Using the characters and framework of Orwell’s classic, 1984, Dalos moves the plot further.

Elements of the Thought Police recognise the need for Perestroika (Reconstruction) and Glasnost (Openness). Leading secret policeman O’Brien explains:-

“Earlier during the rule of Big Brother… we were content if people were afraid of us. Today we want them to support us. And that without pressure – of their own free will and intelligently”.

O’Brien sees the need to “create a kind of public sphere – naturally under our control.”  The book gives two reasons for this: 


– to put pressure on Party cliques through public opinion
– to convert the functionaries of the Outer Party to the new policies required by changing conditions.

It is interesting to compare this thought process with what Gorbachev (himself a former KGB leader) attempted to practice in the former Soviet Union. As this book was first published in 1982 we should credit the authour with prescience.

The decision to create a “public sphere” inevitably leads to a number of consequences which O’Brien had not anticipated.

For political activists this book is very amusing. Written through the accounts of the different main players the accounts are highly subjective and often contradictory. The language parodies each character. The most amusing example of this was to my mind, the compromising survivor Julia Miller. Her writings use language to qualify and excuse. It reflects the logic of what she thinks is a dialectical process; in writing of O’Brien, for instance:-

“But it is a fact that O’Brien, so long as he was not ruled for a pathological greed for power, played a certain positive part in the beginning of our Reform Movement.”

This “misuse” of language is familiar to those of us who still read Marxist publications….

1985 is different from 1984 in many ways. There is more humour in 1985 and, to begin with at least, less of an all enveloping sense of evil. In 1984 you begin to believe that, as the Daleks would say, “resistance is futile”. In 1985, even O’Brien seems uncertain, worried and hesitant….

Reviewed by Pat Harrington

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Interstellar (2014)

interstellarposterInitial release: October 29, 2014 (London)
Rating: PG-13
Running time: 169 minutes
Cinematography: Hoyte van Hoytema
Screenplay: Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan

You’ve heard the expression ‘a game of two halves’? Well, Interstellar is a film of two halves. I loved the first half. Humans are struggling to survive on an Earth that should be renamed Dust. The population is growing thin as food shortages and ecological disasters hit. The air is growing thin too as it becomes ever more toxic.

The film shows how Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is trying to run a farm and feed his family in extremely adverse circumstances. The widowed Cooper lives in a modest Mid-West farmhouse with his teenage son, Tom (Timothee Chalamet), his daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy, Jessica Chastain and Ellen Burstyn – it’s complicated!) and father-in-law, Donald (John Lithgow). Technological advance isn’t so important any more as farming and food production is what counts. The accomplishments of the past are no longer celebrated but instead denied. The establishment are even teaching that the Moon landings were faked (an odd nod to conspiracy theorists). Yet even though Cooper, an ex-NASA pilot turned corn farmer and his young daughter Murph are in the gutter they are looking up at stars. The dust storms which smother everything reminded me a lot of Steinbeck’s ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ as did the bleakness of the family’s situation.

Once Cooper gets to the stars it’s almost like another Movie. The imagery hits you and there has been much said about Nolan’s advocacy of shooting on film. Some of the imagery is beautiful.

I didn’t like the story-line in the second-half. I’ve talked to a lot of people about this film and some really do. For me, however, it didn’t match the expectations built in the first hour. Still, this is a good film and well worth the ticket price – just not a great one.

Reviewed by Pat Harrington

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