"I'll just get my gear."

The Commitments

August 14, 1991

THE COMMITMENTS is the story of a wannabe music manager in Dublin convincing his friends (all white) to put together a soul cover band. The conceit is that ’60s soul music is beautiful and “honest,” that working class Dubliners have more in common than they realize with the African-Americans who created this music, and that the novelty of white Irish people pouring their hearts into these beloved songs would be a cute and fun way to celebrate them in the context of a comical underdog story.

This is one of Mrs. Vern’s favorite movies, so I wanted to be open to it, but I definitely rejected the idea at the time, not taking any serious offense or anything but just under the belief that at best white singers can do pretty good soul music. Dusty Springfield was a one off and Amy Winehouse was 9 years old at the time so it just seemed delusional. I imagined some kind of “let’s all clap for these white people pulling off pretty good soul music” story of triumph for people who don’t generally listen to the real thing.

Okay, so I wish they didn’t nickname themselves “The Saviors of Soul,” and I question the music journalists in the movie believing this recently formed cover band could be “the next U2 or Sinead O’Connor,” but I’m relieved that the movie doesn’t pretend they’re anything too great. And when they’re all disappointed by promises of Wilson Pickett coming to their show falling through they admit that most of them actually had to have it explained to them who he was. When manager Jimmy Rabbitte (Robert Arkins) argues that “The Irish are the Blacks of Europe. The Dubliners are the Blacks of Ireland,” they look at him dumbfounded, so at most I think we’re supposed to find it kind of true. If at all.

But I feel like it needs to be said that even if they’re a very small percentage of the population, and even if you don’t see any of them in this movie, I do believe there are Black people in Ireland, especially in major cities like Dublin. And maybe they deserve the title of “the Blacks of Ireland” more than the Commitments do. But, other than that, honestly I have no problem with this movie. I enjoyed it.

It starts with Jimmy Rabbite (namesake of Jimmy “B-Rabbit” in EIGHT MILE? I honestly don’t know) laughing at his friends, bass player Derek (Ken McCluskey) and guitar player Outspan (Glen Hansard), playing in a shitty wedding band called And And And. He convinces them to ditch their singer and puts an ad in the paper to audition musicians for his vision of a ‘60s soul review. Cut to one of those wacky montages of slamming the door on or listening impatiently to various Irish folk tunes or heavy metal dudes who don’t get/fit what he’s going for.

The stroke of luck is when he meets Joey “The Lips” Fagan (Johnny Murphy, THE OUTSIDER), a trumpet player he says is his dad’s age, but who defends himself by saying he’s 16 years younger than B.B. King. Turns out this pony-tailed dork in the Jesse Jackson ’88 campaign gear is – or at least says he is – a veteran session and touring musician who has played with everyone from Aretha to Stevie (age 11). He’s stopped touring to chill out and take care of his mom, and is clearly the most qualified person in the neighborhood to teach these people not to totally ruin soul.

Jimmy also recruits his singer friend Bernie (Bronagh Gallagher, DEAR SARAH), and gets her to bring Imelda (Angeline Ball) just because all the boys think she’s a hottie, and she also brings her friend Natalie (Maria Doyle Kennedy) because she’s good. And for the frontman he chooses Deco (Andrew Strong), a sweaty pony-tailed Belushi type he saw drunkenly commandeering the mic at that wedding, an incident Deco doesn’t even remember because he had 14 rum and blacks and “No one told me.”

Deco is a fun character – kind of clueless about how much he annoys the others, but a good and very passionate singer as far as bluesy white dudes go. There’s a subplot about how the drummer hates Deco so much he has to quit out of fear he’ll beat him up and break his probation. They replace him with Mickah Wallace (Dave Finnegan), the infamous neighborhood hooligan they’d previously tapped for doorman/security. In one of the funniest scenes Mickah sees Jimmy in the crowd being shaken down by the gangsters who loaned him money, jumps off stage to beat the shit out of them, and then finishes the show with blood on his shirt.

In montages they practice at their jobs, singing on the bus or playing bass in a meat locker surrounded by pig carcasses. They slowly get better, they play a show in a church mostly for kids and relatives, they have inter-band conflicts, they start to believe in themselves. There are various quirky characters and funny lines. Jimmy’s dad (Colm Meaney, UNDER SIEGE) is obsessed with Elvis, and has a portrait of him on his wall above one of the Pope. Jimmy hates Elvis and says he’s “not soul,” which is a legitimate argument unless you’re the manager of The Commitments.

The topic of white people appropriating Black music also comes up in a scene where their piano player Steven (Michael Aherne) plays “A Whiter Shade of Pale” by Procol Harum on the church organ, Jimmy says they “nicked” the intro from Marvin Gaye, but Steven says “He nicked it from Bach,” obscuring the issue (that racial inequities caused pioneering Black artists to never be paid as much as the white artists they inspired) with the “all art is borrowed” idea. He’s a nice kid though. He means well. He knows not what he says.

One amusing subplot involves Dean (Felim Gormley), who only started playing sax recently when “My uncle gave it to me when his lung collapsed.” When he gets good enough to start adding in improvised bits it angers Joey and Jimmy because they think “that’s not soul, that’s jazz” and “jazz is musical wanking.” And then when Dean trims his pompadour/mullet combo they worry that he has “a jazz haircut.” Jimmy is full of these snobby music opinions; when he’s waxing poetic-ish about how soul music is “honest, there’s no fuckin bullshit” and how they’re “bringing the music back to the proletariat” and all that I feel like we and the people he’s talking to are both somewhere between “he has a point” and “this guy is so full of shit but it’s nice that he gets so into it.”

But part of what makes this work is that the practices and performances are a big chunk of the running time, and though they’re not the Funk Brothers or the Dap-Kings most of the actors are real musicians performing these universally enjoyable songs, and when they get into it it’s fun to watch. Especially as you get to know them and laugh at their quirks, like the way they go backstage and all yell at each and nearly come to blows before coming back out with smiles to do the encore.

And I think the inspirational part of it is effective because they do not manage to reach superstardom, or even stay together for very long, and they don’t get crushed by that. Like Rocky just being happy to get to the end of the match, they set themselves the smaller goal of learning how to play a little and prove to themselves that they’re “not a tosser,” and that’s enough for them. That speaks to me. I too hope I’m not a tosser. And I love the way it shows how important it is to Bernie to be able to look forward to singing with her friends after a long day at home in the projects taking care of her relatives’ babies.

For whatever his flaws, Jimmy is a dreamer who manages to get all these people excited about the thing he’s excited about, and that’s inspirational. I also like Joey’s optimism – after an iffy first practice he’s excited because “It’s a start. I like starts. Once you have the start, the rest is inevitable.” I’ll try to remember that.

Also, any comedy cliches or inauthentic moments are offset by the very grounded look director Alan Parker (PINK FLOYD’S THE WALL) and cinematographer Gale Tattersall (WILD ORCHID) come up with. It’s always overcast and they’re walking through weathered streets, depressing housing projects, kids are running around breaking windows and setting things on fire, and you can see why they’re dreaming of putting on matching black outfits and singing “Chain of Fools.”

By the way, hats off to Jimmy for selling tickets “half price to the unwaged.”

THE COMMITMENTS is a good example of a movie that wasn’t a giant hit at the time – at least outside of Ireland, where it was the highest grossing film of all time – but that ended up having a long afterlife. Here in the U.S. it only made back about its budget, but I’m sure it made plenty of money between the European box office, video, cable and the two different soundtrack albums. It won the British Academy Film Awards for best film, direction, adapted screenplay and editing, plus nominations for supporting actor (Andrew Strong) and sound. It was also nominated for editing at the Oscars and Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy at the Golden Globes.

The screenplay is credited to Dick Clement & Ian La Frenais (OTLEY, THE PRISONER OF ZENDA, NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN) and Roddy Doyle, based on Doyle’s originally self-published 1987 novel. At the time the book was the first of his “Barrytown Trilogy” about members of the Rabbite family, and he came to resent that the movie made it so much more popular than the later ones. The other two, The Snapper and The Van, were soon turned into movies scripted by Doyle, with Colm Meaney returning, though the film rights to THE COMMITMENTS forced them to change the character’s name. Doyle also wrote two more Barrytown novels, Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha and The Guts.

In 2000 Miramax bought the rights to THE COMMITMENTS and announced a sequel, written by playwright Warren Leight (also a writer on the early Troma movies MOTHER’S DAY and STUCK ON YOU!). I have to imagine it would’ve been a getting-the-band-back-together comedy promoted as “this year’s THE FULL MONTY!” It definitely wouldn’t have taken the same approach as Doyle’s 2013 novel The Guts, which centered on 47-year-old Jimmy and his misadventures (including an affair with Imelda) after learning he has bowel cancer. Sounds good, but maybe not a crowdpleaser. Probly would only get one soundtrack album, at most.


Cultural references:

The band has a meeting in a video store, where they watch footage of James Brown performing (I think from THE T.A.M.I. SHOW?) so we get to see some posters, including LOOK WHO’S TALKING, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 5 and LEVIATHAN. As an in-joke there’s a special “Alan Parker Week” section with a cardboard cutout of Parker and tons of copies of BUGSY MALONE, ANGEL HEART, MISSISSIPPI BURNING, etc. Also there’s a scene where Jimmy sells somebody a bootleg of MISSISSIPPI BURNING on the bus.

When Jimmy is trying to get the band to study soul music he tells them to stop listening to Guns ’n Roses and the Soup Dragons. One of those bands is still remembered and one I think you had to be there. (I saw them open for INXS, only because this older goth-ish girl I had a huge crush on let me go with her. I tried to convince myself I was into it. I was not that into it.)


Aftermath:

Alan Parker directed four more movies before his death last year: THE ROAD TO WELLVILLE, EVITA, ANGELA’S ASHES and THE LIFE OF DAVID GALE. Cinematographer Gale Tattersall went on to shoot TANK GIRL, VIRTUOSITY, THIR13EN GHOSTS and ATLAS SHRUGGED: WHO IS JOHN GALT?.

Andrew Strong (Deco) became a successful recording artist, while Kenneth McCluskey (Derek) and Dick Massey (Billy) toured with a 9-piece band called “The Stars from the Commitments,” who actually did get to play with Wilson Pickett. Felim Gormley (Dean) played sax in the band for The Late Show with David Letterman. Andrea Corr (Jimmy’s sister Sharon) and her siblings Jim, Sharon and Caroline became a huge group as The Corrs. Glen Hansard (Outspan) continued playing with his band The Frames and in 2005 co-starred with Marketa Irglova in ONCE; the two also composed and performed the film’s songs and won the Best Original Song Oscar for “Falling Slowly.” Bronagh Gallagher (Bernie) wore a The Frames t-shirt playing Trudi (one of the stoners at Eric Stoltz’s house) in PULP FICTION, and she got blown up in the opening scene of THE PHANTOM MENACE. Angeline Ball (Imelda) was on an episode of Highlander as well as being a cast member on EastEnders, Shameless, Keeping Faith and other shows. Maria Doyle Kennedy (Natalie) was on The Tudors, Dexter, Downton Abbey, Orphan Black and Outlander, plus movies including JUPITER ASCENDING and THE CONJURING 2.

In 1996, the characters of Deco, Imelda, Natalie and Bernie were featured on an Irish postage stamp as part of an Irish cinema series.

In 2010, eight other cast members joined the “the Stars from the Commitments” tour for the 20th anniversary.

In 2013 Doyle wrote a stage musical of the novel, which played on the West End through 2015, then toured the UK and Ireland for two years and was going to start up again last year but has been postponed due to Covid. The author had turned down offers for years, until his kids’ love of the movie and of musicals helped him get over his hangups about it.

 

 

This entry was posted on Wednesday, August 18th, 2021 at 11:42 am and is filed under Comedy/Laffs, Drama, Music, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

27 Responses to “The Commitments”

  1. I love this film. It still boggles my mind that Andrew Strong was only 16 when they shot this. His performance in Try a Little Tenderness is, imho, up there with the original.

    And Maria Doyle Kennedy……….sigh.

  2. Whoah, I didn’t realize he was that young!

  3. I always think I think Alan Parker is underrated, until I look at his filmography and realise that for me it’s really just BUGSY MALONE and MISSISSIPPI BURNING, and really the latter is just Hackman’s righteous good ol’ boy badass. The rest are some films I think are fine, MIDNIGHT EXPRESS, BIRDY and, yeah, THE COMMITMENTS. And then there’s all the other stuff.

    Roddy Doyle, by contrast, is a bloody genius who writes serious books that are seriously readable about people whose lives feel recognisable and real. And he’s funny. So if he took a while to come around to the success of this movie that is all right by me. Oh, and if you have children who need books, get them The Rover Chronicles.

    And Vern, I think being a tosser is like being a psychopath: if you are sufficiently self-aware to hope you’re not then you probably aren’t.

  4. I don’t know, Borg9, I’m pretty sure I’m a tosser. I’m on my second beer already at 5:30pm, watching GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY for the sixth time. Aside from other extenuating circumstances, that sounds pretty tosser-y.

    But also…MIDNIGHT EXPRESS is fine? FINE? It’s been a minute, but that one’s kind of a masterpiece in my book. It’s a hard watch, but I think that’s kind of the point.

    When I think of Alan Parker, tho, I think of ANGEL HEART first and foremost. Maybe it’s coz I first saw it when I was 7, maybe it’s Rourke and DeNiro’s performances, maybe it’s just Lisa Bonet but I still think it’s one of the best noirs of the ’80s.

  5. I always get this confused with Backbeat.

  6. I’m with this movie until he tells the band members to stop listening to GnR, then I’m out. That’s just a straight-up attack.

    Honestly, though, this is a fun one. It’s a bit clumsy, steps on its own feet on occasion, but it’s lovable in spite of this. The energy of the band mates, whether directed on stage or at each other, keeps it going until the credits roll.

    Now ‘scuse me, I’ve gotta go listen to Appetite for Destruction for the 17,983rd time…

  7. I love this movie and have watched it numerous times. Maybe it made me feel less self-conscious about hosting soul shows on the air as a white DJ. I hope you get to watch THE VAN and THE SNAPPER also. They are more difficult to find on disc, and now I understand why.

    CALL THE MIDWIFE is a BBC soap about midwives in a similar milieu ( but London not Dublin) also based on books (memoirs by Jennifer Worth).

  8. The 90s were a great decade for British blue collar (and below) cinema. Much of it was of the feel-good kind, some had a bit more tragic note. In the end, we are talking about a decade that gave us this, THE VAN, THE SNAPPER, TRAINSPOTTING, BRASSED OFF, BILLY ELLIOT or THE FULL MONTY, just to name a few. A highly underrated chapter in the book of 90s cinema, that is often overshadowed by the sensation that was the American independent film of that time.

  9. By the way, the movie inspired a bunch of German honkys to form a soul band too. They gave it the simple but brillant name DIE KOMM’MIT MANN!S (The Come Along Man!s) and are, from what I’ve heard, still going strong. I saw them life during a local festival during the 90s, when they were already known, but not that big yet. Didn’t think much of them at that age though.

    I Heard It Through the Grapevine

    I Heard It Through the Grapevine. Cover von Marvin Gaye. Die Komm'Mit Mann!s im Bahnhof Langendreer, Bochum. Gefilmt von Dirk Stabenow.

  10. I dunno, Jerome, I think setting myself up as the Arbiter of Tosser would be a tosser move, but that doesn’t sound too awful, and circumstances really have gone out of their way to be extenuating these last 18 months. I really just wanted to reassure Vern that there’s a good chance he’s not a tosser.

    Now, I asked myself as I was writing whether I was being too hard on MIDNIGHT EXPRESS, so maybe I should give it a rewatch. It’s been a while, and it’s always fun to see a relatively young and unwrinkled John Hurt, but the ending has in the past felt rushed and weak.

    But ANGEL HEART, no. I saw it in a theatre on first release and have maybe watched it once since, but it falls, stumbles even, between the two genre stools of detective noir and gothic horror without ever becoming something wholly different and itself like the best genre-hopping movies do; see, for example, BUGSY MALONE -It’s a gangster movie! It’s a musical! You know, for kids!

    ANGEL HEART also intruduced me to the then wholly unfamiliar feeling that De Niro was coasting. It does look nice though.

  11. I’ve never seen it, it’s always seemed like something I would find particularly cloying; in the 90s and 00s I always found there to be a certain chest thumping earnestness and portentousness that always surrounded discussion of this specific type of soul music, usually proselytised with the wide eyed zeal of a true believer, even without getting into the whole appropriation debate and irrespective of the quality of the music, which didn’t always seem entirely sincere to me and which I always found off-putting. But I can testify to the effect it had in the UK; at my high school (which in the UK, at the time, was for 12-16 year olds) four of our teachers would perform an end of year or Christmas show or something which would end with them singing Mustang Sally. I found that embarrassing at the time, but in retrospect I think that was pretty cool. I wish I hadn’t been so cynical. Oh well.

    I received Alan Parker’s book of cartoons, WILL WRITE OR DIRECT FOR FOOD, as a gift about ten years ago, and I like it quite a bit.

  12. Not a fan of MIDNIGHT EXPRESS, but I do think highly of some of Parker’s other movies: THE WALL, ANGEL HEART, BIRDY and THE COMMITMENTS. MISSISSIPPI BURNING is fun, but like MIDNIGHT EXPRESS the rewrites of historical facts are so stupid that it hurts the whole experience of the movie for me.

  13. It’s been awhile (1991 to be exact…) but I think you may be missing the joke a little. During Jimmy’s “Say it loud, black and I’m proud” and other speeches, I think his cluelessness and hucksterism is the joke. And only through hard work and suffrage do they become a decent band, not because of any of Jimmy’s theories (and for all his professed love of the music he himself doesn’t quite get it)

    My viewing of this movie was interesting. Me and my friend Ry were talking about checking it out. Ry’s mom overheard us. She had become aware and interested in the movie from someplace, and asked if she could come along. To explain her, I’ll offer one bullet point from he resumé: she was formerly a back-up singer for Rick James. So yeah…

    Anyway, Ry and I dug the movie. I liked how knockabout it was despite being a “feelgood” picture. She LOVED it. She felt that it showed how “her” music was capable of healing and uplifting all people from all cultures. And thought “it was a beautiful thing”. So whatever criticisms about appropriation (and I’ve heard a bunch over the years) were lost at least on her.

  14. Count me among ANGEL HEART fans. I love it!

  15. I thought I remembered the use of the N word in this movie. Am I correct in that? That wouldn’t be cool, in my opinion. But I always struggle with the appropriation stuff. I am not talking about the originators of the music being unfairly screwed out of money. I think we can all agree that is bullshit. But when something is cool, it’s going to get spread around. Cultures are going to recycle stuff. Half of the time I wonder if the offended cultures are really even that offended. It seems like a lot of white liberals take up the banner on behalf of people when they really don’t know what they’re talking about. I think of a few years ago when there was some white girl in some small town USA who wore an Asian inspired outfit to the prom. I don’t remember what it looked like, but I don’t think it was full on geisha or anything. But the internet got ahold of it and ran with how horrible this girl was, but then a lot of people Japan were all, “um, actually we think it’s pretty cool.” But, again, I’m a white woman, not a Japanese person, so maybe I’m doing exactly what I was saying white liberals need to shut up about.

  16. As a musician myself, this is one of the very, very rare movies which feels like an authentic (if occasionally exaggerated for comic effect) portrayal of the experience of playing with a band. The squabbling, the mix of genuine love and phony pose, the endless shows in front of tiny crowds of well-meaning-but-not-really-into-it friends or bored bar patrons, the cobbled-together practice space where it’s a struggle to just get people to show up half the time, the gradual shift from total ineptitude to capable showmanship to, every now and then, a moment of true transcendence. Always, of course, followed by another setback. If Jimmy Rabbitte is a little full of shit, well –and you can trust me on this one– you’ve got to be a little full of shit to even imagine it’s possible to herd this particular group of cats.

    I actually love the script, even if it gets a bit cutesy, but the authenticity really comes from Parker, who subtlety but clearly lets us see what a depressing world these kids live in and why they so badly need the band just to imagine they’re worth a damn.

    “Sure, we could have been successful, & made albums and stuff, but that would have been predictable. This way…it’s poetry.”

  17. About cultural appropriation: I do think it’s an interesting and important topic, but I also think it should stay out of music (and food). Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we should forget the roots and originators of respective genres, but please stop gatekeeping! Music is universal! And I would hate if for example some Chinese kid wouldn’t be allowed to make a Hip Hop track with a Mariachi sample and an Indian Tabla drumbeat, because none of that is part of his culture.

  18. jojo – I don’t think we disagree. As I tried to convey in the review, I think you’re supposed to find Jimmy charming but also kind of full of shit.

    Maggie and CJ – I have mixed feelings about modern ideas of appropriation too and I don’t believe I have the right to police it anyway. And I deliberately wanted to name drop the Dap Kings because I think they’re part of a contingent of mostly white dudes on the younger-ish side who have helped keep some of the old styles alive through their musicianship and genuine understanding of the sounds and traditions they love. Also Joey “The Lips” makes me think of those long-haired white guys like Steve Cropper and Donald “Duck” Dunn, who were in Booker T and the MGs before they were Blues Brothers. Certainly white people can and have been part of soul, funk, R&B and hip hop.

    I think plenty of people have proven themselves and earned their keep and they generally don’t get people pointing fingers at them. Like, there are other reasons to get mad at Eminem, but the only time I saw someone call him Elvis was when another rapper with a grudge against him owned The Source for a while. What I’m trying to express at the beginning of this review is just a kneejerk aversion to some cheeseball white person who’s not that good being accepted by other white people as a substitute for the real thing. That makes me uncomfortable and I was always afraid of this movie being that.

  19. Vern, I want to be clear that I, in no way, lump you in with the white liberals trying to carry the banner of appropriation for other cultures, in case that wasn’t clear. I always appreciate your nuanced and thoughtful approach to these kinds of things.

  20. Yeah, same here. I was pretty much just saying how I think about that stuff in general, not accusing you of being one of those gatekeepers, just in case it sounded like that.

  21. Oh yeah, one other thing worth pointing out: I think there’s actually an extremely important reason that The Commitments are appropriating a form of music which isn’t really native to Ireland. 1991 was still deep in the years of “The Troubles,” and if they’d been playing traditional Irish music, there would have been an inescapable undertone of Irish nationalism to their performances, which would make the experience a lot less personally liberating for them. They identify with Soul music’s unpretentious appeal to “the proletariat,” but they’re able to use it as a means to imagine something better for themselves precisely because it’s not a home-grown artistic movement, and therefore not tainted with all the problems of that home. They’re able to identify with an aspect of it, but also create a new context for it which is more resonant in their own lives, which opens up new possible ways to imagine themselves. In fact, identifying with this “foreign” music is kind of a political statement in itself, a tacit proclamation that they’re deliberately looking outside the boundaries of their own failed nation-state for meaning and identity, rather than clinging to it.

  22. Saw this in the theater when it came out and loved it. When I mentioned this to a cineaste friend he just shook his head and said, “what a terrible lapse in judgement”. I couldn’t figure that out at the time and I love reading this review – sounds like it holds up!

    In terms of the filmed works of Roddy Doyle… I remember thinking THE VAN was great when I saw it on video when it first came out, can’t remember exactly why…

  23. I remember seeing a clip of that “we’re the blacks of Europe / Ireland” scene, ending with “say it now, say it lood, I’m black and I’m prood” and over the years I remembered the speech but not what movie it’s from.

    At the risk of further steering the comments toward this one issue, I think it might be iffy to assume that racial divisions are always more important than national divisions.

    It might also be iffy to assume that just because here in the US people of Irish descent are just plain old mainstream assimilated white people, that this is also necessarily the case on the other side of the Atlantic where divisions of class, religion, accent etc. might have been more historically entrenched. In fact that might be why so many white Europeans (including the Irish) emigrated to the US in the first place.

    The whole point of that speech (as I saw it) was to acknowledge a class-based kinship with someone else’s art despite their different race and nationality. Historically it has been conservatives who’ve had the biggest problem with that.

    I don’t claim to know how large the black population is in Ireland without looking it up, but American music might not necessarily be “theirs” just because they look like the people who made it, any more than, say, Kraftwerk is ethnically “mine” as an American listener because I’m white like they are.

    On the other side of the debate, though , it does warm my heart as an American whenever I hear that black American music has been inspiring and empowering to black people in other countries, in contrast to the view thattAmerican pop culture has been an overreaching and stifling influence on other cultures.

    II apologize for the wstypos in these last couple paragraph s. My phone is misbehaving

  24. Speaking as a (sorta) musician type person who had a punk band at a very young age that completely self-imploded after a summer of practice and 1.5 live shows (DISASTER AREA forever!), this is one of the 3 most accurate film depictions of being in a band, the other two being ALMOST FAMOUS and THAT THING YOU DO.

    There’s always tension because every member of the band is an asshole in their own unique, special way — but that tension is exactly what gives the live performances their spark and energy, which will usually not be remotely captured in the studio.

    There’s always non-performing manager/booking-type people circling around to be the external villain for the band to unite against and blame for every bad thing that happens.

    There’s always someone (or multiple someones) with an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, drugs, or sex or all of the above – and if those people start to outnumber the “straight” members of the band, then look out.

    It’s inevitable that the most purely and naturally talented member of the band will not appreciate their own talent, and will denigrate the other members that have to practice like bastards just to stand on the same stage with that guy/gal and not look like a fool. That person will also be told by a ton of people that they need to dump the rest of the band and “truly unleash their full potential”.

    There’s always some event coming up that will make or break the band: a big gig, someone famous “maybe” attending a show, trying to purchase some equipment that will cause you not to sound like you’re playing with tinkertoys, a session in a recording studio… SOMETHING for everybody to fight about and get all intense obsessing over.

    If the band is young, there will be constant issues with parents. If the band is older, there will be constant issues with significant others.

    All in all, being in a band is a massive pain in the ass, and after it’s over you will absolutely look back on it fondly – unless you’re dead. Then not so much.

  25. Good points, Curt, and everyone.

  26. After Andrew Strong left the band and went solo, the others kept on touring with pretty much the lineup we see in the movie. I’ve never been big on this kind of music, and didn’t follow on any social media whatsoever, but I found it amusing that one evening in the mid 90s in my local Chinese restaurant I went to the men’s room and there stood half of the band members. I’m not saying that there’s something wrong with playing in Fredrikstad, Norway after being hot shit all over the world, but it’s not…poetry.

  27. Phil Lynott & Thin Lizzy were Irish (this may not be news to people, but it blew my mind when I found out… I thought they were appropriatin’ with Whisky in the Jar!)
    I’ve always thought the Black & Proud line to reflect the way people view the Irish if not Europe, at least the UK. But I do like Curt’s take above better than mine.

Leave a Reply





XHTML: You can use: <a href="" title=""> <img src=""> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <b> <i> <strike> <em> <strong>