Synopsis: The legendary Paul McCartney creates a rousing musical fantasy about a pop singer/composer (played by McCartney) who realizes that the master tapes of his about-to-be-released album are missing.
To make matters worse, if he doesn’t locate them by midnight, businessmen will take over his company. With captivating musical direction by Beatles producer George Martin, McCartney is joined by top rockers from Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, and fellow Beatle Ringo Starr. Among the spectacularly staged tunes are Beatles classics “Yesterday,” “Eleanor Rigby” and “Good Day Sunshine.”
Give My Regards to Broad Street 5.0
eyelights: George Martin’s arrangements. the 19th century fantasy sequence.
eyesores: Macca’s post-Beatles songs. the boring, pointless script.
“It’s gonna be one of those days.”
‘Give My Regards to Broad Street’ is a 1984 vanity project… ahem.. motion picture starring, written by, and featuring the music of, Paul McCartney. It was a longtime ambition of his to spend more time on the silver screen, to recreate the success of the Beatles former big screen outings.
So he got his good friends together and made a movie. (sound familiar?)
It failed miserably. But its companion soundtrack was a hit, and its award-nominated single (one of only three new songs on the album), “No More Lonely Nights” was number one in the U.K. – and went Gold in the U.S. In any event, the picture’s poor reception put a stop to Macca’s acting career.
‘Broad Street’ isn’t all bad however. It’s boring as all get-out, yes, but it’s not as horrible a film as it’s made out to be. Although it’s the first and only feature film that director Peter Webb would make, it’s actually competently delivered. The key problem is in the script, which lacks excitement.
And almost everything else, actually.
The picture follows a day in the life of Paul, from the moment that he is advised of the disappearance of the master tapes for his new album, to the end, when he finds them again. It’s basically an excuse for watching Paul perform some of his well-known songs in various contexts for over 100 minutes.
We start the day with Paul on the road. Then he goes to a board meeting to discuss the missing tapes. Then he goes to the recording studio and plays. Then to a movie set… where he plays. Then to a rehearsal space, plays some more. Then he goes to the BBC for an interview… and plays some more.
Then he drives around. To a medley of his tunes.
Nothing goes on other than this. Sure, Macca casually tries to find out where the tapes have gone, with everyone assuming that his old friend (and ex-con) Harry has run off with them, but it’s a loose continuing thread. The only “tension” is that if they don’t find them by midnight they’ll be bought out.
Of course, we all knew going in that this won’t happen, right?
Paul acquits himself of his acting duties arguably well; he was always a natural in front of the camera anyway. As is Ringo Starr, who joined him as his drummer. Heck, even Linda McCartney was alright. Mind you, she barely had any lines, but Barbara Bach (Ringo’s spouse) just sat there and stunk.
It would be Bach’s last motion picture (something good did come of this picture, it turns out).
The only reason to watch this is for the performances, most of which are stripped down, but some of which consist of elaborate numbers (such as on the movie sets, one of which had a ’50s ballroom/’West Side Story’ theme, and the other an alien/David Bowie motif) and an extended 19th century London fantasy.
The latter served up probably the most interesting piece of music, courtesy of George Martin, who produced the album: an elaborate orchestral arrangement of “Eleanor Rigby”, called “Eleanor’s Dream”, which extends Paul’s rendition of the song into a nine-minute opus. It’s delicious enough that I might buy the CD.
But the rest of the music consists of stringed-up version of Beatles classics, all of which are superb (although Paul’s vocals are weak on “For No One”), and a bunch of horrendous tracks from Paul’s solo years. I don’t know if he was trying to spotlight his new music, but it really sucks in comparison to his classics.
Now I understand what Rob Sheffield was on about when he said that this album was released “in the nadir of (Paul’s) tragic Hawaiian shirt phase”, that he “doesn’t worry about looking cool”, and that Heather Mills was the “Give My Regards to Broad Street’ of Beatles wives. Hahaha. That sums it up so well.
In the end, ‘Give My Regards to Broad Street’ is only of interest to extreme Paul McCartney fans. I mean EXTREME fans. There’s really nothing else of note here. It’s not fun, funny, suspenseful, exciting or even entertaining. The only reason to watch this is to see this pop idol on screen, playing some tunes.
And even that has limited value, given that he’s done it so much better before.
Date of viewing: May 10, 2015
I’ve always thought that this movie was custom-built for an academic Freudian dissertation as the only lasting impression of the movie is that McCartney is a prime candidate for deep therapeutic deconstruction.
It seems that he came up with a project on the back of a stamp, proceeded to solicit and ignore advice that it needed work and in response, used all of his credibility and commercial clout to make sure it got made according to that postage stamp script. Not only that but, hidden to most observers is the movie production’s technical ‘innovation’, at McCartney’s insistence, that musical performances be retaken ‘live’ in each take. If I go further to explain that George Martin, was running 24 tracks of playback onto the set and simultaneously recording 24 tracks of live performance FROM the set, it only serves the redouble the suspicion that McCartney was trying to BURY HIMSELF.
That’s before you get to the ‘plot’ which, to some conscious degree, aims to reference stuff such as Lennon’s heroin habit at the end of The Beatles, the Allen Klein takeover and how things could have been differen…that end tilt shot of a (fictional) MPL headquarters which turns into a flying shot across a very familiar rooftop next door is the only signature on the possibility that McCartney was afraid to develop his idea beyond basics in order to thwart his own need for therapy.
Unfortunately the scholarship required to unpack the movie fully is likely to remain unavailable because the movie is SO untouchable. And not in a good way.
I should add that while teaching film and multimedia in the nineties, I set an essay of the deconstructionist flavour and, during the preamble, said that I was hoping somebody would choose ‘Give My Regards to Broad Street’. Two of the students had heard of it and one told the group that ‘It was so bad that Broad Street railway station, which appears at the end of the film, had to be demolished’.
While it is true that this did indeed occur, only an abuse of exact science could connect the two events. Nevertheless, I was minded to give the student an A+ before he wrote a word of his essay.