Bohemian Rhapsody (2018; UK/USA; Colour; 134m) **** d. Bryan Singer; w. Anthony McCarten, Peter Morgan; ph. Newton Thomas Sigel; m. Becky Bentham (music supervisor). Cast: Rami Malek, Joseph Mazzello, Ben Hardy, Gwilym Lee, Lucy Boynton, Aidan Gillen, Tom Hollander, Mike Myers, Allen Leech, Aaron McCusker, Jess Radomska, Max Bennett, Michelle Duncan, Ace Bhatti, Charlotte Sharland, Ian Jareth Williamson, Dickie Beau, Jesús Gallo, Jessie Vinning. Biopic drama following the life and music career of rock band Queen’s charismatic singer Freddie Mercury. Biopic is propelled by Malik’s extraordinary performance as one of the greatest rock showmen of all time. The actor accurately captures Mercury’s strengths as a performer and his weaknesses away from the limelight. This is not a portrait of the band but a study on the effect that fame has on talent. That the talent won through, albeit briefly, is brilliantly demonstrated in the finale of the band’s performance at Live Aid in 1985. 
ABBA: The Movie (1977; Australia/Sweden; Eastmancolor; 95m) ***½ d. Lasse Hallström; w. Lasse Hallström, Robert Caswell; ph. Jack Churchill, Paul Onorato; m. Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus, Stig Anderson. Cast: Anni-Frid Lyngstad, Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus, Agnetha Fältskog, Robert Hughes, Tom Oliver, Bruce Barry, Stig Anderson. An incompetent radio DJ tries to get an interview with the Swedish pop group ABBA during their famous week-long 1977 tour of Australia. This semi-documentary is both charming and entertaining making the most of both the impressive concert footage of a band at their peak and the side-story of hapless journalist following them. Hughes manages to keep this diversion both funny and diverting. The songs (including “Dancing Queen”, “The Name of the Game”, “Eagle”, “Fernando”, “Waterloo” and many more) are performed with the band’s distinctive polish but retain an energy that gives their adoring audience exactly what they want. Anyone looking for more depth should look elsewhere. [U]
Having last seen Phil on tour with Genesis ten years again, since when (bar a Motown covers album) he has been largely inactive musically, I had feared that that was it. Talk of retirement followed by health issues involving some vertebrae and back operations that have left him unable to drum or even stand for any length of time, plus his well-publicised battle with the bottle, led me to believe I would not see Phil or Genesis in concert again.
It was therefore enormously pleasing to see Phil and his band in such excellent form last night at Manchester Arena. His body may be battered, but his voice retains its soulful character and a set of great songs had the whole audience on its feet in the home run during the second set. His 16-year old son, Nic, filled in on drums and is most definitely a chip off the old block. A confident and powerful drummer he surely has a great career ahead of him. His 14-piece band was tight and powerful, conjuring up atmospheric moods with “Another Day in Paradise” and “In the Air Tonight” and grooves with “Something Happened on the Way to Heaven” and all of the aforementioned home run. The sound was amazing – the best I have ever heard at an arena venue.
Yes, I missed Phil’s mobility – he was confined to a seat throughout – but the energy of his vocal performance and the superb band more than made up for his lack of physical movement. If anyone was worried PC may not have it in him any more they can be reassured, this was a top performance. Reviews of the shows have been excellent and it seems Phil’s music is being re-appraised. He has already announced a tour to South America in 2018 and I am sure he will follow up in the US and maybe other territories. There are hints at writing new material and as he stated last night he is still in touch with his Genesis colleagues having met up again the previous evening – so you never know.
Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)
Another Day in Paradise
One More Night
Wake Up Call
Follow You Follow Me
Can’t Turn Back the Years
I Missed Again
Hang in Long Enough
Who Said I Would
Drum Duet (Nic Collins & Louis Conte)
I Don’t Care Anymore
Something Happened on the Way to Heaven
You Know What I Mean
In the Air Tonight
You Can’t Hurry Love
Dance Into the Light
Take Me Home
GENESIS – THE ULTIMATE MUSIC GUIDE (2017, Uncut, 122pp) ∗∗∗∗
Blurb: The Ultimate Music Guide: Genesis, then, seeks to explain the whole shapeshifting brilliance of the band. We’ve delved deep into the archives of NME and Melody Maker, finding interviews with the members that have languished unseen for decades. You’ll see characters emerging and plans being formulated, key figures stepping in and out of the spotlight. A career path being mapped out that does not always appear obvious, but which incrementally builds Genesis into one of the biggest bands of their era. Alongside all these revelatory interviews, we’ve written in-depth new reviews of every single Genesis album, from their 1969 debut right up until 1997’s Calling All Stations, stopping off at all auspicious points in between. We’ve also investigated the significant solo careers: not just of Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins, but of Steve Hackett, Anthony Phillips, Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks, too. It’s a tricky tale, but an endlessly rewarding one.
Uncut‘s series of The UltimateMusic Guide finally gets around to Genesis. The magazine stretches to 122 pages covering all aspect of the band. Each album is reviewed by a different writer, which ensures they get a dedicated hearing, but also means there are some inconsistencies in terms of judgement and comment. Having said that, there is an admirable balance across the whole of the band’s output as the writers resist falling into the trap of siding with the 5-man line-up or the trio. What this means, however, is that some tracks within the albums are not rated according to their status within the fan base. Classic Genesis songs like Firth of Fifth, I Know What I Like, Los Endos, Afterglow, Duke’s Travels/Duke’s End, Home by the Sea, Domino and Fading Lights all receive just 3-stars, which is hard to accept. However, everyone will have their own favourites and there are some compelling arguments here for the stance taken. The interviews pulled from the archives of NME and Melody Maker are weighted toward the early years. Both papers took with the punk crowd in the late 70s and were savage in their treatment of Genesis thereafter – the later review extracts demonstrate this. The band members’ solo careers are also covered, with particularly interesting perspectives on the output of both Peter Gabriel and Phil Colins. Despite its flaws, this is a good read and an interesting take on a band that, despite its popularity with the music buying public, continues to divide opinion amongst critics.
NOT DEAD YET: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY (2016) by PHIL COLLINS (2016, Century, 448pp) ∗∗∗∗∗
Phil Collins tells his life story as he would put it, “warts and all”. It is a fascintating, touching, funny and sad read showing how his dedication to his career resulted in domestic disharmony and ultimately psychological issues, alcoholism and failing health. A man who could do no wrong in the 1980s became pilloried in the 1990s, following what he terms as “Faxgate” – for which he puts the record straight here, and ultimately retreated into a form of semi-seclusion following his so-called “retirement”.
Collins has always been honest and forthright in his interviews and he is brutally honest here about his descent into depression and alcoholism over an 8-year period from 2005-2013. He is frank about how this affected those around him and he is big enough to lay the blame with no-one else but himself. He is riddled with guilt over how he put his career before his family and this is a constant theme throughout the book. It is sometimes hard to read as Collins lays bare his soul and his increased self-loathing, which obviously fuelled his near self-destruction. Fortunately he had people around him who cared enough, but it was a long hard and ugly road that has left many scars on himself and those close to him.
But the book is also balanced and is often very witty and funny. Collins tells of his adolescent years as a child actor and his early musical influences visiting clubs like the Marquee to watch his favourite bands; a strange tale of how, as a 19-year old star-struck percussionist, he was left off George Harrison’s first post-Beatles album All Things Must Pass; his audition and early touring years with Genesis then his ascension to group singer following Peter Gabriel’s departure in 1975. He describes 1987s four-night stint at Wembley Stadium (touring Invisible Touch) as the point where Genesis hit their peak and demonstrates great affection for all his former band mates.
His divorce from his first wife, Andy, set the tone for his song-writing inspiration and led to solo success and his elevation to the pop stratoshpere. He becomes in demand from the musical good and the great (John Martyn, Eric Clapton, Robert Plant, Bob Geldof, et al) and flattered he finds it hard to refuse his friends. The result is a constant workload throughout the eighties that bred contempt from non-fans and music journalists. When his second marriage broke down in the early nineties – this time through his own infidelity – the press had a field day and this was the catalyst for Collins’ gradual withdrawal from the limelight.
Fans of Collins will likely be shocked as to how self-destructive he became in the 8-year period from 2005-2013, when he was lout of the public limelight for long periods, excepting a brief Genesis reunion, work on a Broadway production of Tarzan and his Motown covers album Going Back. It’s incredible none of his issues became public at the time – although the press had probably moved on to other targets. Non-fans may find Collins’ humility refreshing and be prepared to re-assess their views of a likeable man who undoubtedly likes to be liked and is hurt by “unwarranted” criticism. But, he is ultimately harder on himself than any of his critics.
That Collins has retained his sense of humour is encouraging and this book will undoubtedly have acted as a release for him. It is a sobering parable of how a single-minded dedication to your career will ultimately lead to unhappiness and loneliness. But there is always the hope of redemption if you are willing to see past the psychological wall and admit your failings. Collins is loved by all his children and is on good terms with two of his three ex-wives. An unwritten postscript to the book is that Collins is now reunited with Orianne, his third wife, and living a family life again,. He has also come out of retirement to tour again – on his own terms – with his son, Nic, on drums.
When I finished the book there was a sense of a story incomplete. Maybe there will be a happy ending for Collins after all – his music is being re-appraised and many modern artists have come out to say he was an influence. His fans have not deserted him and the tour sold out instantly. So, there may be a few more twists to the tale. Collins says at the outset the book is his story as he remembers it and no-one can deny it is a compelling and cautionary tale.
The final pair of remastered re-releases of Phil Collins’ studio albums completes the Take a Look at Me Now campaign. A 2-CD and 3-CD collection of his singles (unimaginatively but accurately titled The Singles) will follow in October alongside an autobiography (Not Dead Yet).
...BUT SERIOUSLY (1989) ∗∗∗∗∗
THE ESSENTIAL GOING BACK (2010/2016) ∗∗∗½
…But Seriously was Collins’ monster hit album. It is a slickly produced affair with a very strong collection of songs. Thematically Collins veers between social conscience (“Another Day in Paradise” – the plight of the homeless and “Colours” – racial oppression); relationships (the slow ballad “Do You Remember” and the lighter, upbeat “Something Happened on the Way to Heaven”), regret (the reflective “All of My Life” and bluesy “I Wish it Would Rain Down”). There are also the contrasting tempos from the stomping white soul of “Hang in Long Enough”, the mournful lament at the troubles in Northern Ireland in “That’s Just the Way it Is” and the jazzy instrumental short “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning”. The album closer is a plea to “Find a Way to My Heart” and with this album many listeners did just that. Whilst …But Seriously may lack the adventure of Face Value, it is perhaps the strongest example of the quality of Collins’ songwriting abilities and as such is the most representative album of his solo career. The second CD contains a collection of b-sides, live material and demos.
Collins apparently felt there was too much material on Going Back, Collins’ 2010 release of meticulously authentic Motown covers. The Essential Going Back is therefore an edited version of that well-received album. The biggest debate will be around what songs were left on and what were taken off and as such this release may not find a home in the racks of those who own the original. But the second CD contains a live performance of the songs that makes this an essential purchase for fans.
Phil Collins has intimated many times over the years that he would eventually write his autobiography. Well now it seems the time is right. With health problems curtailing his musical career Collins has made a publishing deal with Penguin Random House for an October 2016 release date.
Collins says, “Having found the right publisher in Penguin Random House I am ready to go on record about my life in music with all the highs and all the lows and to tell the story from my point of view – warts and all!”
With a mega-star career spanning nearly 50 years as drummer and singer with Genesis, solo artist, session player and producer as well as, for a time, actor, It promises to be a great read.
DEAR BOY: THE LIFE OF KEITH MOON by TONY FLETCHER (1998/2005, Omnibus, Paperback, 596pp) ∗∗∗∗∗
Blurb: Keith Moon was more than just rock’s greatest drummer, he was a phenomenal character and an extravagant hell raiser who – in a final, uncharacteristic act of grace – actually did die before he got old. This new edition includes a newly written After word that consiers Moon’s lasting legacy, the death of John Entwistle and The Who’s ongoing career in the new millennium. In this astonishing biography, Tony Fletcher questions the myths, avoids the time-honoured anecdotes and talks afresh to those who where closest to Moon including Kim, his wife of eight years, and Linda, his sister and Annette Walter-Lax, his main girlfriend of the final years. Also interviewed are Oliver Reed, Larry Hagman, David Putnam, Alice Cooper, Dave Edmunds, Jeff Beck, John Entwistle and many others who worked and partied with him. In interviewing over 100 people who knew Moon, Fletcher reveals the truth behind the ‘famous’ stunts that never occured – and the more outrageous ones that did! He also uncovers astonishing details about Moon’s outrageous extravagance which was financed by The Who’s American success.
Keith Moon was one of rock music’s most innovative drummers, but it was ultimately his lifestyle that created the legend. There are more myths surrounding Moon’s alcohol and drug fuelled adventures than surrounds any other rock ‘n roll legend. In his exhaustive and frank book, Tony Fletcher unravels the truth and in doing so creates one of the most absorbing biographical dissections of self-destruction ever written.
Moon’s death at a young age, he was only 32 when he died, was inevitable and yet throughout the pages here Fletcher also demonstrates his impressive capacity for survival. The constant diet of drink and drugs turned a natural eccentric – who was warm, funny and generous – into a wild and often uncontrollable force with a legendary track record in ritual destruction of hotel rooms, a chaotic home lifestyle and a 24-hour party mentality. There were also tragic events, which coloured his personality and brought out a dark side that contradicted his outward joviality and desire to make people laugh.
Tony Fletcher, a keen fan of The Who, is determined to present a balanced view on Moon’s life and doesn’t gloss over the more unsavoury aspects. He lets us in on the real Keith Moon through a series of frank interviews and extensive research. The band largely distanced themselves from the story with Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend unwilling to be interviewed and quotes being restricted to archive material, but the book does not suffer because a greater objectivity is achieved as a result. This version, published in 2005, also contains an Afterword following new interviews that add further clarity(and in some cases uncertainty) to some of the key events in Moon’s life.
With today’s heavily corporate approach to rock music it is difficult for the current generation to understand that when rock was in its infancy it was at its most out of control. If any one book conveys the sheer scale of the wildness of the rock ‘n roll lifestyle in the 1960s and 1970s, then this book is it. If any one person conveys the chaos then it is Keith Moon.
Stardust (1974; UK; Technicolor; 111m) ∗∗∗½ d. Michael Apted; w. Ray Connolly; ph. Anthony B. Richmond; m. Dave Edmunds, David Puttnam (music producers). Cast: David Essex, Adam Faith, Larry Hagman, Ines des Longchamps, Rosalind Ayres, Marty Wilde, Edd Byrnes, Keith Moon, Dave Edmunds, Paul Nicholas, Karl Howman, Richard LeParmentier, Peter Duncan, John Normington, James Hazeldine. The rise and fall of a rock singer (Essex), in the mid 60s, with his manager and his group, “The Stray Cats.” Sequel to THAT’LL BE THE DAY is a well-made parable on the trappings of fame. Apted authentically captures the mayhem with well-staged crowd scenes. Strong performances from Faith and Hagman dominate, whilst Essex struggles manfully to convey the angst of the artist caught up in the business and media frenzy that surrounds him. 
That’ll Be the Day (1973; UK; Technicolor; 91m) ∗∗∗ d. Claude Watham; w. Ray Connolly; ph. Peter Suschitzky; m. Neil Aspinall, Keith Moon (music supervisors). Cast: David Essex, Ringo Starr, Rosemary Leach, James Booth, Billy Fury, Keith Moon, Rosalind Ayres, Brenda Bruce, Robert Lindsay, Verna Harvey, James Ottaway, Deborah Watling, Beth Morris, Daphne Oxenford, Kim Braden. Abandoned by his father at an early age, Jim MacLaine (Essex) seems to have inherited the old man’s restlessness. Director Watham mirrors the kitchen-sink dramas of the era in his approach to this episodic rights-of-passage tale. Essex creates an unlikeable central character with a colourless performance, but a strong cameo from Ringo and excellent period detail make this an interesting and authentic depiction of youth in the 1950s. It spawned a sequel, STARDUST (1974).