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37 So You Wanna.jpg
Raving it up: The Kursaal Flyers around the time of Mark Kidel's documentary

46

So You Wanna be a Rock 'n' Roll Star?

(Mark Kidel, 1976)In the days before MySpace, bands got famous the old-fashioned way, hitting the motorway hard. Southend pub rockers the Kursaal Flyers weren’t director Mark Kidel’s first-choice subject for this BBC film, presented by Melvyn Bragg, who apologises for all the swearing. He’d considered following Kokomo or Ace but struck gold with this stark depiction of three days on the road in Scotland and the north-east which must have had watching schoolkids running back to their careers advisors ready to reconsider accountancy.Like Keane to Dr Feelgood’s Coldplay, the trouble for our heroes is that everywhere their Transit pitches up, Canvey Island’s finest have been before and torn the proverbial roof off the joint. The camera lingers over some interminably long takes with only small talk about hotels to fill the gaps. The banality of a touring band’s daytime existence is typified by drummer Will Birch casing their Aberdeen hotel on arrival and nodding approvingly, ‘Hmm, big doors’.Throughout, the Flyers are winningly guileless; they dream of making it in America and ‘touching down in, er, wherever you touch down’. While Birch chats up the girls (‘What town is this again?’ he enquires five minutes into a conversation backstage in Middlesbrough) and Bull jollies the troops with updates on his piles, singer Paul Shuttleworth is keen to assert his aloofness. ‘I don’t go out raving it up like the others,’ he stresses in the film’s most poignant moment. ‘I prefer to look around decorating shops. I tore this out of the paper the other day, see? Compost.’Such moments of unintentional hilarity have led many to claim the film as the inspiration for ‘This Is Spinal Tap’. Certainly, the Flyers’ accents are reminiscent of Nigel Tufnell and David St Hubbins’ estuarine drawls; the band’s backhanded appraisal of a support act in Aberdeen (‘She’s all right. Bit flat, though,’ recalls the Tap’s ‘this much talent’ comment; while a remark from Shuttleworth about the band needing to tighten up their outros leads to Birch’s Tufnell-esque flounce, ‘In what way aren’t they perfect?’. ‘There are odd comments that are funny but unintentionally so – that’s true,’ the drummer recalls, 31 years on. ‘But I believe our documentary was more of an influence on “Bad News Tour”. Ade Edmondson was of an age that would have seen it when it was first aired. And there are several vignettes in it which were directly lifted. But I guess we did look a bit Tap-ish. Their drummer wears cycling gear like me. And the accents: they’re sub-Mick Jagger, Dartford Crosssing/ Bluewater/ Lakeside accents; we were all trying to be cockney wide boys!’Though not unhappy with the finished product, Birch feels that the Kursaals were the first victims of reality TV. ‘We were quite naive, in a way, to allow a crew to accompany us,’ he recalls, ‘little realising that it is the technique of film editors to make an end product that reflects their own agenda. There are things where we come over as a bit foolish or hopelessly out of touch but anyone filmed at that age is going to look cringeworthy. As for all that ‘raving it up’, he adds: ‘Me and Richie are in 50 per cent of the scenes; he was a funny guy and I was just showing off, really. I knew that Mark Kidel wanted it to be entertaining so I played to gallery – y’know, bring the ladies in and I’ll chat them up! I get the odd crack off my wife when it’s shown. Mind you, Anita, the young girl from Middlesbrough, I often wonder what happened to her…’ Martin HorsfieldGreatest hit Early morning, and the band Transit tours Southend, picking up each member from their mums’ houses.Top 50 index | 50-41 | 40-31 | 30-21 | 20-11 | 10-6 | 5-1

Author: Dave Calhoun. Written by Derek Adams, Geoff Andrew, Dave Calhoun, Wally Hammond, Michael Hodges, Martin Horsfield, Martin Hoyle, David Jenkins, Trevor Johnston, Eddy Lawrence, Sharon O'Connell, Chris Parkin, Graeme Thomson, Peter Watts



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