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Sunday, March 21, 2010

A pedant sees "Nowhere Boy"

Watching "Nowhere Boy" I realise that all those years spent obsessed with music have left me with a pedantic nature that makes it impossible for me to just enjoy pop biopics. I can't buy the young John Lennon pinching 45s from a rack in a record store in 1954 because even if I believed that 7" singles were widely available then I suspect they certainly weren't racked out where you could pinch them. Having stolen them John Lennon is disgusted to find they are all jazz and throws them into the Mersey. One thing I remember about the 50s is that nobody threw anything away. Records of any kind were unbelievably precious. They never threw anything away because they had no money. That's why I can't take the idea that he stops his mother in the street and gets her to give him five pounds to buy his guitar back. If anybody was carrying that much they wouldn't hand it over. Once that string is un-tuned the false notes in the script come one after another. The sex wouldn't have been anything like as easy as it's depicted and the swearing wouldn't have been as casual. Having been suspended from school for having a copy of a girlie magazine Lennon wouldn't have called it "pornography". That's a 70s notion. Teddy boys might have had flick knives but they didn't wield them on suburban streets in broad daylight. John and Paul wouldn't have formed a rock and roll band. They would have started a group. His mother wouldn't have picked up the banjo and said "think Bo Diddley". Would Mimi really have picked up the phone and dialled instead of asking the operator for the number? And on and on in that vein. It's a curse. You'll be like that one day.

19 comments:

Andy said...

"You'll be like that one day." - in many respects I'm already most of the way there but am at my most pedantic/obnoxious at science, technology or espionage-related programmes.

I'm banned from the room when the GLW wants to watch Spooks. Any more than 10 minutes of 24 and I'm at risk of suffering a prolapse.

rivets said...

A group or indeed a combo.

It isn't pedantry to object to things that are just historically wrong.

jnanagarbha said...

Believe me, if you came from Liverpool your list would more than double in length. At least the film showed that the legendary 'working class hero' had a thoroughly middle class upbringing. But carrying on the pedantry theme, I guess all he did was to observe that a working class hero was something to be. Did he ever actually claim to be working class?

Andrew said...

I'm 28 and I'm already like that. Makes me most unpleasant to go to the cinema with, I imagine.

Chris Brown said...

I'm a pedant (albeit one with no memory of 1954) and I haven't seen Nowhere Boy because even though large parts of it were filmed near where I live, the one mainstream cinema in the area never showed it.

Maybe it's just as well I didn't try to see it in town, then.

Archie Valparaiso said...

And anachronistic actions like those you mention increasingly go hand in hand with dodgy dialogue. Nobody seems to have any ear for era any more.

Take Frost/Nixon."Focus, sir!" Kevin Bacon's gofer urges the rambling-prone former president. Er, sorry? This is 1975. Who are you - David Bailey's camera loader?

BLTP said...

Isn't the problem DH really that the film didn't engage you.I'm the king of pedants but they only bug me when I'm not being entertained. The other main problem with mistakes like this is that they rob the past of its richness and replaces it with being like today but with funny clothes.

Five-Centres said...

I am already like that, especially with music. And the second something's not right all the enjoyment has gone.

Andrew Collins said...

Anyone else still bothered, especially post-Oscars fuss, that in An Education, set explicitly in the period 1961-63, a teacher makes two individual mugs of tea, using a single teabag in each mug? I don't even remember seeing a teabag in my childhood and I was born after the film is set. Maybe teachers in London were at the cutting edge of tea, and paid so well they could waste teabags.

Leo Salazar said...

Andy, you'll enjoy this: http://xkcd.com/683/

Rob Spence said...

Yes, I agree, and remember the arival of 7 inch singles and EPs in the very late fifties. All the Elvis Presley records in our house were 78s. There was a similar anomaly in Ian McEwan's On Chesil Beach, which I described here . McEwan's corrected it, but that's easy to do in the second ed. of a novel. You wonder why filmakers go to the trouble of finding authentic backdrops and clothes if they are going to get this sort of detail wrong.

Fakesensations said...

My mother had same issue with An Education: in one scene they make tea by putting tea bags straight into the cup, which she sad would never have happened back then.

TaraTex said...

Agree 100% DH. No matter how well-told the story, there is always something fundamentally wrong with the way filmos depict "Rock 'n' roll". Like townsfolk writing about milking cows.

"Backbeat", "Almost Famous", "The Commitments", "The Young Ones", "Velvet Goldmine", "Telstar": there is something cringingly OFF in all of them, something so false that you know what you're seeing is merely a director's "rock 'n ' roll" fantasy wish-list.

As a working musician, engineer and producer for nearly 40 years, I still maintain the only true "rock 'n' roll" films ever made were "A Hard Day's Night" and "This Is Spinal Tap".

Leo Salazar said...

Tara, your comment made me recall MGM's wonderful compilation film from 1974, "That's Entertainment." It showed how Hollywood has frequently portrayed the musically creative process as one that occurs in a state of wonder, almost miraculously bestowing the muse on hapless average Joes who just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

At least the producers of the film were good natured enough to admit, with some chagrin, how unrealistic these portrayals were.

londonlee said...

Complaining that 'Velvet Goldmine' isn't accurate seems a bit odd to me.

TaraTex said...

@londonlee. Although I don't think Velvet Goldmine is a particularly good movie, I'm not complaining that it's not "accurate" - it is a fantasy after all despite the characters obviously being based on real people . Indeed, scenes like our protagonist taking home the new album and lovingly poring over every inch of the cover remind me unnervingly of my youth.

It's just that, in this film and all the others, there is moment upon moment where I keep thinking "they just wouldn't do that" if they were real musicians/producers/engineers/roadies.

It's the equivalent of the airline pilot saying "Alpha One to Base. Come in please!" In real life no-one ever says "Come in please" over the radio, but in movie-land it's alive and well. Pilots in the audience cringe, but no-one else notices.

BABSÄ° said...

I searched a quote on the internet but i couldn't find it. Maybe some of you can know about that. When John sees Michael Fisherwick, he says what do you want to do when you grow up and Michael responses biochemistry. I really want to remember the whole conversation! Thank you.

Josh said...

It was a great movie, the "Nowhere Boy" isn't a pedant movie enough. I think you can't take the principal idea behind the real topic in the movie. Generic Viagra

Stuart Penney said...

One of many implausible scenes in Nowhere Boy shows John and his mates riding the top of a Liverpool double decker bus, a near-suicidal act which would have resulted in death or serious injury at the first red traffic light or bend in the road. In truth it's probably an exaggeration of the oft-told yet more mundane story found in countless Beatles books where Lennon would ride the bumpers of Liverpool trams.