‘Everyone has their own idea of who John Lennon was. It’s a very subjective thing.’
intensity in all they produced. There‘s a sort of
race for life going on.’
The best parts of Back-beat home in on this raw, seething energy: speed-fuelled gigs in Hamburg’s subterranean clubland. Sutcliffe
attacking his canvas in a desperate search for expression. the wildly changeable emotions of
the band. And it all cooks along to The Beatles" pre-Merseybeat style — tearing up the house with covers of Little Richard. Chuck Berry and Eddie Cochran. With concert footage shot in Kilburn‘s National Ballroom and the Dome in Tufnell Park (as well as a Ladbroke Grove warehouse). much skill is in evidence in re- creating the spirit of the early Beatles in performance.
As for Sheryl Lee. she seems somewhat nonplussed by the whole thing. ‘1 knew who The Beatles were when l was a kid.‘ she says. ‘and I liked their songs. But I didn‘t have any idea what was going on at the time. so it‘s all very new for me.‘ But even she. growing tip far away from Liverpool. couldn‘t fail to be unaware of the band’s profound and far- reaching inﬂuence. as director Softley concludes: ‘When I first came to this project. i wasn’t looking to make a story about The Beatles; it was the story of Astrid. Stuart and John that struck me. As I worked on it. I realised that somehow The Beatles. particularly Lennon. were very deep within me. They had a massive impact on anybody who grew up when I did. They were always there.‘
Backbcat Opens in Scotland 011 Friday 8 April.
ROCK’N’ ROLL MUSIC
Craig McLean speaks to musical director Bob Last about recreating that raw, rough-edged Hamburg sound by using the 90s breed of raw, rough- edged rocker.
“this one’s called Teenage Riot.’
hen I first listened to the Beatles’ Hamburg tapes I heard the sound of frustration and optimism colliding. This is the sound that the film sets out to capture. The sound that was at the heart of punk fifteen years later and inspires grunge today.’
Bob Last. Edinburgh-based musical director of liar/(brat. nails the logic of calling in a coterie of 90s alternative rock heroes to recreate the speed-fuelled. ramshackle sound of the world’s first real rock 'n‘ roll band. Afghan Whig Greg Dulli’s in there. doing his Lennon bit. Joining Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore on guitar is Gumball mainman Don Fleming. Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum manfully attempts the MacCartney role. The mild— mannered genius that is Mike Mills reprises his day-job in REM. harmonising and bass—playing. That beat boom/R ‘n‘ B urgency comes from drummer Dave Grohl of Nirvana. who seems to have a lot of time on his hands these days. And so. these representatives of what Moore sarcastically calls ‘the burgeoning indie rock scene which is so trendy in American right now’. marshalled by Don Was. convened in a New York studio. Three days later the Backbeat soundtrack. twelve tracks and 26 minutes. was complete. No overdubs. aural airbrushing. or technical niceties. Just like the Beatles. playing eight days a week in Hamburg’s dives. they buskcd it.
‘The only source material we had was Beatles bootlegs of them playing at the Starclub. these really raw kind of recordings.‘ says Moore. ‘lt‘s like three-chord rock. It’s amazing. it’s like all the material was the same formula and that was just like the beginning of bands rocking and rolling like that.’
‘The key thing.‘ recalls Bob Last. ‘was that
Grunge kings unite to reproduce t
‘The key thing was that everyone agreed early on that we would try and capture that
attitude rather than make an attempt to imitate the Beatles in any way.’
hat bludgeonlng Beatles Hamburg howl.
everyone agreed early on that we would try and capture that attitude rather than make an attempt to be slavishly realistic or imitate the Beatles in any way. That’s why it works — ironically. because we took that approach, you have a much more authentic sense of what was going on in the film.’ Last joined the nascent Backbeat project two years ago, and was heartened that from the outset the producers and the director acknowledged that the music would be a critical element, instead of the last minute rush that so often characterises music for films. ‘For me this is always the best way, you get a chance to fight for the resources you need and make sure that the whole approach was integrated right from the start.’
Naturally. the music was to be more than window-dressing. Last. drawing on his experience as past manager of everyone from The Fire Engines to The Human League to Scritti Politti. and founder of the influential early 80s indie labels Fast and Pop Aural. tutored Stephen Dorff. Ian Hart at al in the art of walking. talking and playing like a real band. To make sure their mimed musicianship would be as authentic as possible. former Orange Juice member Malcolm Ross was hired in to help with tricky things like where to position fingers on fretboards and how to relate to your amplifier. Niggly little things. but they matter. says Last.
‘I could relate to the situation and understand what it was like to be on the stage in some dingy club. having been there plugging in cables and fending off bouncers myself. I can remember doing that with countless bands. It was kind of a strange experience. but it was fun. The whole focus was to make the actors feel like they were a band. And at the end of two weeks. they did. And that came through on stage and on camera.’ L]
The List 8—21 April l994 7