Not flush away
It’s a mighty long way down rock ’n’ roll from being Buddy Holly’s object of desire to unblocking a tricky waste outlet. Craig McLean hears some Tales OfRock N Roll and finds out what actually happened to Peggy Sue.
‘My name is Peggy Sue Rackham and we‘re at Rapid Rooter in Sacramento. California. We're a sewer and drain-cleaning company. We also do sewer repairs and construction and we have a complete plumbing department.‘
From being a big hit with Buddy to be being a big number in toilets. Peggy Sue has had an . . . interesting life. Back in the 50s. in Lubbock. Texas. a lovestruck Buddy Holly swapped a looming life of bespectacled geekness for one of rock 'n‘ roll legend by penning ‘Peggy Sue‘ in eponymous homage to a girl at his school. Thereafter nothing would ever be the same again as the teenager was ‘invented‘ and rock 'n' roll became a way of life. Buddy. meanwhile. survived the trauma of his would-be bird marrying his drummer and the great records just kept coming. right up until his final. fatal smash hit. As for Peggy Sue herself she eventually divorced the drummer. divorced somebody else. and got into effluent.
And now the story can be told. ‘I think it’s an idea that kind of pre-existed because anyone who's heard a really good song. particularly if the song mentions somebody in particular. would have a kind of mental picture of who that person might be.‘ says James
l l l
Marsh. producer and director of Tales OfRuek 'N' Roll. This four-part Arena series peers behind rock- lore mythology. detailing the true stories and real characters inspiring a clutch of music‘s key moments — Holly‘s ‘Peggy Sue’. Elvis Presley‘s ‘Heartbreak
Hotel'. Bob Dylan's ‘Highway ()1 Revisited' and Lou
Reed‘s ‘Walk On The Wild Side'.
‘It‘s just a way of making mental ideas about songs actually real and finding out whether there really was a Peggy Sue or. in the case of ‘Walk On The Wild Side'. whether Holly really did shave her legs and who she actually was . . .'
Enter Holly Woodlawn. former Lou Reed associate and fellow member of Andy Warhol's legendary Factory collective. She now designs clothes in Los
Angeles. one of the few ‘great survivors‘ of that era —
fellow ‘Wild Side' denizens ‘Jackie' Curtis and ‘Candy' Darling died of a heroin overdose and spinal cancer caused by black-market female hormone pills respectively. ‘Little Joe' Dallesandro though. former male prostitute. is alive and acting.
‘That song is completely true about me hitchhiking from Miami.‘ Holly reveals in the documentary. ‘at the age of ftfteen-and-a—halfl might add — which wasn't easy. I think l plucked my eyebrows first then shaved my legs. After hitchhiking 1500 miles I landed in New York (‘ity not thinking but knowing I was a she.’
This seedy demi-monde of transsexuals. transvestites. rent-boys and drug-pushers. as so laconically relayed by Reed's classic. is the perfect source material for Marsh‘s series. offering wider insights into the hedonism and decadence of the underground culture of the New York of the late 60s. This was a pivotal scene in the genesis of rock — David Bowie. Patti Smith. Debbie Harry and the New York Dolls all stuck their heads round the door of the notorious Max's Kansas (‘in club popularised by Warhol.
The fourth programme has even wider resonances. “It's a road that has a great deal of significance for the culture and the music of the south.‘ says Marsh of Highway bl. that great ‘spine of America’. ‘There’s an old blues staple called ‘Highway 6] Blues‘ and Highway (ii is the main route out of Mississippi.
From pop dream-teen to effluent expert: Peggy Sue in 93
which is sort of the delta where the blues was born.‘ Highway ()l was also Dylan‘s way out of the
' stultifying confines of the small iron-mining town of : Hibbing and eased his self—mythologising passage
from Robert Zimmerman. teen rocker of comfortable middle-class stock. to Bob Dylan. parentally—
disowned poetic folkie.
‘When we went to Hibbing we tracked down a guy who obviously recalled Dylan growing up in the late
50s in Hibbing. and he quite casually furnished us
with some tapes that he'd made of Bob and him doing cover versions of Little Richard songs and Bob doing some of his own songs. which were very much of their time. Little Richard—inspired.‘
()n the tapes. never before broadcast. ‘Bob has a real passion for Little Richard and can’t stand Johnny Cash.‘ says Marsh. ‘()f course he later recorded with Johnny Cash on Nashville Skyline . . . It's all very instructive. you get the idea that Dylan didn‘tjust come out of nothing. he didn't just emerge as a folk singer. he almost manufactured that persona for himself. . . In the documentary we hopefully give you a more realistic picture of Bob Dylan growing up and his musical influences.‘
721/“ ()melv' 'N' Roll .S‘IUI‘IS at 9pm on Sat I7 (in BBC? with Peggy Sue.
Home and away
Remember The Family, that classic 70s urban saga of sex, sibling rivalry and steak-and-kidney pie? It had all the requisite ingredients of high soap, with the intriguing twist that it was for real. The Wilkins, sad to say, were a genuine family, filmed by Paul
are now so familiar with the old- fashioned fly-on-the-wall form that everybody knows that the Baker Donahers shave, shower and shout,’ he says, ‘because that’s what all families do. We don’t have to concentrate on that kind of minutiae any more. Instead we have pulled out the great moments and authentic dramas that make them unique, but with which we can all identify. It really is living soap.’
Sylvania Waters was somewhat too real for some Australian critics. When the series was screened there last
Watson’s fly-on-the-wall cameras over the course of a year.
Watson has returned to the same idea for a new series, Sylvania Waters. Appropriately enough though, he’s headed Down Under to the world’s tackiest soap nation, Australia, to film the Baker Donaher family for six months continuously. The format may
50 The List 9—22 April I993
be the same but the family is radically different. The Wilkins they certainly ain’t. For a start, there’s an ocean- golng boat parked outside the million- dollar home and a large Mercedes in the garage. Laurie and common-law wife Noeline (’fraid so) both have grown-up children, and the scene is
TV verite in a Sydney suburb
set for clashes personal and financial, battles with drink and weight problems and plenty of what Aussies affectionater call ‘strife’.
Watson wanted to offer a rather deeper insight this time around than he achieved with the unashamedly voyeuristic The Family. ‘TV audiences
year it was greeted by accusations that it depicted Australians as materialistic and bigoted. ‘I don’t know if we’re typical,’ understates 15- year-old Michael Baker, ‘it’s just our life.’ Strewth. (Tom Lappin)
Sylvania Waters begins on BBCI on Thursday April 22 at 9.30pm.