“Rock and roll is a nuclear blast of reality in a mundane world where no-one is allowed to be magnificent.”
Kim Fowley, former manager of the Runaways
In the 1970's the music scene was all over the place. Soft Rock, Art Rock, Southern rock, Reggae, Disco, glam rock, Punk Rock, funk rock, Heavy metal, and Billy Joel was still the piano man to me. Some people were even suggesting that Rock and Roll was dead.
Long live disco! There is a biopic announced last year called Spinning Gold about record company executive Neil Bogart, who died in 1982 at age 39.He set up his own label in the 70's, Casablanca, and proved to be an astute exploiter of music trends, signing Kiss in 1973 then later popularizing disco acts like Bill Withers, Donna Summer and the Village People. Justin Timberlake is set to star in this disco-era biopic, due out 2015.
Of course the rage against Disco, the homogenization and corporatization of rock music was the burgeoning sound of Punk Rock.
Sid and Nancy (1986)
1975 London, The Sex Pistols, the band given the credit for starting the punk movement in England. Their only album Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols, is considered one of the most influential albums in modern rock history.
When the Sex Pistols broke up after their troubled 1978 US tour. Bass player Sid Vicious then attempted a solo career while in the grip of heroin addiction. Sid and Nancy is the morbid biographical story of Vicious and his girlfriend Nancy Spungen. It contains a fictionalized account of Nancy Spungen's murder which Vicious was charged with. It then portrays Sid's fatal heroin overdose with a romantic cab ride. Sid's band mate and Pistol's lead singer Johnny Rotten thinks the movie is complete shite. But most agree this early performance by Gary Oldman was a hugely sympathetic reading of the punk figure as a lost and bewildered man-child.
The Runaways (2010)
The Runaways, the first all-female rock band featuring Joan Jett, Cherie Currie, and Lita Ford among others recorded and performed in the second half of the 1970s. They were soon put in the Punk Rock category. The band released four studio albums and one live set during its run. One of their best-known songs, "Cherry Bomb" is featured in the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy.
The film based on the book Neon Angel: A Memoir of a Runaway by the band's original lead vocalist Cherie Currie stars Dakota Fanning as Currie, Kristen Stewart as rhythm guitarist and vocalist Joan Jett, and Michael Shannon as record producer Kim Fowley. According to Currie the movie doesn't even begin to tell the epic story that she wrote. It was liked by Joan Jett (Executive producer) and well received by critics though. The film was under appreciated in my opinion. I usually don't, but I even liked Stewart as Joan Jett in this film and Dakota Fanning in her first grown up role as Currie.
Originally influenced by Punk Rock Joy Division developed a sound and style that made them one of the pioneers of the post-punk movement of the late 1970s.
After their debut EP caught the attention of local Manchester, England TV personality Tony Wilson he signed the band and released their debut album Unknown Pleasures in 1979. The band was quickly garnering critical acclaim throughout England. Unfortunately the bands lead singer was diagnosed with epilepsy and suffered from depression. With his health deteriorating and his marriage falling apart Curtis took his own life on the eve of their first North American tour.
Control is the story of Ian Curtis. It is the first feature film directed by Anton Corbijn, who had worked with Joy Division as a photographer. The screenplay by Matt Greenhalgh was based on the biography Touching from a Distance by Curtis' widow Deborah, who served as a co-producer on the film.
What's Love got to do with it (1993)
There are many stories of Rock stars that self destruct and even die after they reach stardom. Some are killed, some stars just fade away after the music that started them gets replaced with a new sound. The Queen of Rock and Roll has survived all of these including being married to the man who played piano on the first so called Rock and Roll record "Rocket 88". Born Anna Mae Bullock in the small town of Nutbush, Tennessee. She started singing under the name Little Ann in 1958. She soon married Ike Turner and they started touring as The Ike and Tina Turner Review. They had hits with songs like "Proud Mary" ( Rollin' on the river) and River Deep, Mountain High This song Nutbush City Limits was written by Tina herself. She divorced Ike Turner in 1978 and had a successful solo career during the 80's and 90's
Tina Turner wasn't just a survivor she has done some movie acting as well. Here's one of my favorites- The Acid Queen from The Who's Rock Opera Tommy.
Although the film was only loosely based on Tina Turners autobiography I, Tina and has many historical errors, Angela Basset's performance as Turner was nominated for an Oscar and won her a Golden Globe for Best actress.
I know some of these are closer to coming of age films or just segments of a life. Some biopics have become formulaic. They've even become the subjects of satire (Dewey Cox. Most of these films are historically inaccurate yet become breakthrough and award winning roles for actors. People do love a real life rags to riches story especially if it's got a great sound track. Let me know what you're favorite rockin' biopic is or which ones I've missed. Until then Rock on and Like Dewey Cox says "Walk Hard!"