The best movie release of glam rock’s annus mirrorballis of 1975 was this delirious sci-fi oddity. Launched by GTO Records as a no-frills showcase for their glam bands of the moment, it lashed disparate performances unceremoniously together with a ‘let’s do the show right here (and then take the afternoon off)’ plot premise so perfunctory as to make its spangly cinematic stablemate Side by Side look like Crime and Punishment.
In a hazily defined near future, or maybe just a very well-defined near present with the calendars altered, pop music has been outlawed. Peter ‘Dennis off Please Sir!’ Denyer converts an ice cream van into a ‘group detector van’, enlists curmudgeonly old silver band fan Mr Rockbottom (Freddie Jones) to drive it and generally grumble, and goes out into the British countryside to, er, find some bands for a concert. What he comes up with is Mud starting a food fight in Sheila Steafel’s transport cafe, Bob Kerr’s Whoopee Band arsing about in an old house, the Rubettes doing Tonight on the back of a lorry travelling up and down Borehamwood High Street at roadmending speeds, and best of all, a pre-Tiswas Sally James smiling.
All the above strike a photogenic contrast in their DayGlo glam duds against the deep greens and sludgy browns of the good old 1970s British countryside, giving the lie to a fraught cultural tension that was stalking the land in those Wilson-administrated days… Only joking! The tatty glam just looks tatty in this overcast, rain-sodden trudge up and down the outer suburbs. If the bedraggled visuals evoke anything, it’s a hitherto undiscovered tranche of Public Information Films based around glam paraphernalia. (“Polish a floor and put Dave Hill’s wig on it? You might as well be setting a mantrap…”)
It’s a non-film, undoubtedly, but there’s something endearing about the opportunistic ‘cross platform’ nature of these celluloid vinyl plugathons. If this was a TV special with, say, Noddy Holder undergoing the daft sci-fi setup with a wink in his eye that says “yeah, we know, but bear with us, Hello are on in a sec!” no-one would bat an eyelid, and it’d be the biggest slice of agreeably idiotically contrived “pop meets transport” knockabout fun since Tom Jones signed up to The Special London Bridge Special (1972), which had Tommo leap onto a time-travelling London bus manned by Terry-Thomas and Hermione Gingold, which took him across the pond to the Arizona State Park. “Wooh! Well, since I’m here, might as well play tennis with Charlton Heston eh, kids?” See, that’s how to do it – knowingly ramshackle. Sadly Peter and Freddie are actors, this is a film, and the ramshackleness lacks that essential self-awareness that could have prevented this film going down in a hail of semi-masticated Butterkist.
One thing works on the abovementioned silly terms, though: while not holding a candle to Slade in Flame‘s magisterial closing rendition of Far, Far Away, this film’s final song’s a belter – an ensemble performance in a knackered ballroom of Denyer’s specially-written anthem of rockular defiance which neatly sums up the determinedly inoffensive ethos of the GTO films in 6½ words – Bless My Soul, It’s Rock ‘n’ Roll.