Who’s Whose What?

“Girl Stroke Boy” – Directed by Bob Kellett – Starring Joan Greenwood, Michael Horden, Clive Francis, Straker – Classic Victoria (834 6388) – Cert “X”

05-197208xx-8The basic idea is good, and has a lot of potential – two boys are in love, and want to meet each others parents. How will they break the news, and what will the reactions be?

Unfortunately, that is all it remains – a good idea, which gets swallowed in a mess of theatrical jokes and finally drowns in a confused sea of innuendo. Why Ned Sherrin thought this script, which flopped on the West End stage, was “a strange comedy . . . perfect for the times”, remains a mystery.

We see the whole situation from the point of view of Laurie’s parents, in their middle-class home counties residence, coping with bitchy neighbours, central heating jammed at full blast, and the nagging worry that their son has never shown any interest in girls. What, then, will his West Indian girlfriend be like? Mother, who writes romantic novels, including one titled ‘Love in Marrakesh’, feels that all will be well when she has her boy home, although her racial prejudice makes that unlikely. Dad, played with some depth by Michael Horden, wants peace after a tough week at the sec.modern school where he is headmaster, and when the young people arrive, he attempts to keep the situation calm.

Mother (Joan Greenwood) doesn’t know the meaning of the word, and the ambiguity of the girlfriend, Jo (Straker – Peter Straker of ‘Hair’ to his friends) leads to some of the nastiest bitching since ‘Till Death Do Us Part’.

The son, Laurie (Clive Francis) attempts to protect Jo from his mother, but she has her say, several times, until we see what Laurie means when he tells her he showed her books to his psychiatrist, and “he couldn’t believe they were written by a happily married woman”. While the ‘young people’ escape to the pub, Lettice persuades her husband to phone Jo’s parents – Michael Horden has his best moment panicking over the telephone – only to find that the Caribbean High Commissioner and his wife are looking forward to meeting Jo’s girlfriend Laurie. A row follows when Laurie and Jo find out about Lettice’s spying, and the story limps to a close in which the family close ranks in the face of an evil neighbour, the boys claim to be married, and Jo asks if he/she can call Lettice “Mother”. What a cop-out.

There are some good moments, including Michael Horden’s sincere but confused assertion: “I don’t give a damn if she’s a man – if she is she’s a jolly fine chap!”, and a radio weather report which refers to snow “in the homosexual counties”. The setting, a country house referred to in the credits as Faggot’s End, is attractive, if rather cramped, and one feels that the cast, especially the inimitable Miss Greenwood would really have felt happier on a stage. From the point of view of gay awareness, the film is so cramped it hasn’t even opened the closet door, and don’t let any publicist tell you otherwise.

It’s all been done before

“Jesus Christ Superstar” Music by Andrew Lloyd. Words by Tim Rice. Directed by Jim Sharman, Palace Theatre, Cambridge Circus, London W1. Tel: 01-437 6834

05-197208xx-8To begin at the beginning. I was born a Jew but not brought up to follow the faith. When I reached the age of understanding it occurred to me that even though we weren’t supposed to believe in the existence of Jesus Christ, anyone who received that much publicity must surely have existed.

Therefore it was with much trepidation that I went along to the Palace Theatre not knowing quite what to expect. JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR has already been a big box office success in the States and it really wouldn’t matter if every critic in the land panned it because it is one of those ‘automatic hits’ that the public will flock to like sheep.

The fact that there were so many irreverent moments in the show didn’t bother me that much as I’d already been warned by fnends who had seen the show and heard the record. Indeed there were several very moving moments handled quite tastefully mixed up with all the other bits.

This ‘rock-opera’ deals with the last 7 days in the life of Jesus who is portrayed suitably poker-faced by Paul Nicholas. The role of Mary is filled by a last minute replacement Dana Gillespie who does fine with her big ballad ‘I don’t know how to love him’ even though she seemed a trifle nervous. But the emphasis in this show seems to be on Judas or maybe it was just that Stephen Tate in this part seemed to eat up the stage every time he came on. This was without doubt one of the most hammy performances in the entire history of the theatre.

The earliest song to score is ‘Everything’s alright’ but as the tricky rhythm beat of this number is then repeated in several later songs it becomes rather a bore. There’s one called ‘Hosanna’ which to my ears sounded like a steal from Kurt Weill. This song involves a big routine with a dozen red streamers which are first lowered for Jesus to walk over and at the end of the number are thrown every which way.

Any moment I expected them to throw in some of His most publicized stunts such as walking on the water, or wandering into the audience with the loaves and fishes, or at least pass the wine around as they so kindly did in ‘Godspell’.

In the second act ‘King Herod’s Song’ stops the show. Its a trite corny number but it comes as light relief just before the trial. I must admit the crucifixion was handled beautifully and as nothing can follow that I won’t try to.

HORNY?

“Moody Jr.” —J unior Walker and the All Stars – Tamla Motown STML 11211
“Bump City” – Tower of Power — Warner Bros. K46167
“MF Horn 2” – Maynard Ferguson – CBS 65027

05-197208xx-8The last month has seen the release of three albums whose basic ingredient, although used in different pop/musical contexts, is the use of horns, in the form of both trumpets and saxophones.

The first of the three is Moody Jr. by Junior Walker. Released last year in the States, Motown have finally acknowledged the small but ardent following Junior Walker has in this country. It is bound to please some, but I found it lacking in the ‘guts’ and ‘funk’ that has made his past albums so enjoyable. Gone apparently have the days of Junior Walker’s exciting ‘dirty’ sounding sax solos, that made albums like Road Runner such a success and which still remain immensely enjoyable despite the amount of time they have been available.

Jr’s latest offering is comparatively tame, with an over-indulgence in the use of strings and girly-group backings. Once in a while Jr’s unique blues/soul playing comes through unhampered by the excesses of over-production. This is more an album for late-night listening, unlike his hits from the past, such as Shake and Fingerpop or How Sweet It Is, which are still some of the most irresistibly danceable records Motown have ever produced. Moody Jr. is worth a listen if you have liked his last couple of albums. Standout tracks are Way Back Home and Don’t Blame The Children.

The second horn dominated album I’ve been listening to is Bump City by an American band known as Tower of Power. The band has a following in the States but is virtually unknown over here. This is their first release to be issued here, apart from a track or two on the Last Days of The Fillmore triple album set.

Tower of Power unfortunately don’t live up to their name though. The playing is good, as is the production, but it is all without anything original to distinguish them from the many bands into brass backed rock. Blood Sweat & Tears have done all of this before, and that particular band, by the time they had finished their first two albums, had run out of anything musically interesting to say. And why does every American band of this kind have a vocalist whose singing is so embarrassingly similar to that of B.S. & T’s or Chicago’s vocalist? (as it is the last two mentioned groups singers have always sounded extremely alike to me.)

Tower of Power’s music is a mixture of rock/soul/jazz, just like all the other bands working in this popular musical area. Give this a miss and wait for Chicago’s new album or try and get a listen to an import copy of one of the sadly under-rated Sons of Champlin records.

The trumpet playing of Maynard Ferguson is the main ingredient of MF Horn 2. This is not strictly a rock album, for the music is of the big band jazz variety. But much of the material Ferguson is working with here has been successful in the pop world. Numbers like Hey Jude, Lennon’s Mother. B.S.& T’s Spinning Wheel and an outrageous version of Theme from “Shaft” are included on the album. I’m not a big band devotee, but I found the record had a consistency in it’s inventive arrangements and the production is faultless. My only complaint is that after hearing the album through a few times, one track tended to sound much the same as another; possibly because I’m not into jazz enough to appreciate the finer points of Maynard Ferguson’s playing.

RADIO GAY

05-197208xx-8The Campaign for Homosexual Equality has been given two hours of air space on Radio London. On August 30 it will take over the regular Wednesday evening programme, Platform, which gives minority and pressure groups a chance to sound off about their aims and objects and particular points of view.

Though the programme will clearly act as a recruiting opportunity for Che, it does have much wider reverberations and will cover most aspects of the homophile situation. In particular special attention will be paid to the age of consent, the implications of the IT judgement and the extraordinary situation of the female homosexual and the bi-sexual. Real people will spell it out and there will be several authoritative voices in the studio including representatives of the Gay News collective.

Platform is one of those programmes during which listeners are invited to telephone questions in as the discussion continues. This is a vital part of the programme and it is hoped that gay people throughout London will gather round their VHF wavebands and phone in. August 30th. 8.15 pm. The studio telephone number will be given regularly during the course of the programme.