Film/Album Review: “Give My Regards To Broad Street” — Paul McCartney (1984)

This is a first for me. In a rare display of vertical integration in such a heretofore wholly insular blog such as this, I have decided to do a Two-For-Tuesday review (albeit one published on a Wednesday, and written in pieces over several days). Ahh… remember when Two-For-Tuesday was a big deal on AOR radio? And when “Heartbreaker/Livin’ Lovin’ Maid” still only counted as one tune? I loved that logic, because it worked in my favor. Of course, they felt the same about Boston’s facacta “Foreplay/Long Time” nonsense. No matter… the subject matter for this post is Paul McCartney’s 1984 project Give My Regards To Broad Street, both the feature film itself and the accompanying soundtrack album. I am doing this, because obviously I don’t have enough aggravation in my life. And for consistency’s sake. Let’s dive right in.

blgbroadmovieTHE MOVIE

Rating: 4 / 10

In what is probably one of my favorite movie reviews — that being my treatise on the epic 1978 Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band — I remarked about how that particular cinematic abortion film in question had earned the distinction of being – and I quote – “perhaps the most singularly awful embarrassment to be ever associated with the Beatles.” Well, in that assessment I had failed to accept Paul McCartney’s 1984 pet project Give My Regards To Broad Street as a function parameter. Looking back that is rather odd behavior, given that I’ve been a raving Beatlemaniac since I was 10 years old and usually like to give every qualifying statement a sense of broad historical context. After all, I’ve scarfed up anything even remotely Beatle-related like hopheads at a Shoney’s buffet. I begged my Dad to take me to see A Hard Day’s Night at a local arthouse in 1982, stayed home from watching Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom on opening day to catch a local showing of the 1968 film The Magic Christian, featuring not only Ringo Starr in a major role but a scene that featured two big, hairy, sweaty heavyweight boxers passionately making out, a scene which emotionally scarred me for years. Years, I tell you. Thanks Ringo.

So anyway, by all rights I probably should have seen Give My Regards To Broad Street in 1984. I remember Paul had a hit song from the movie with No More Lonely Nights, which received some pretty heavy rotation on MTV and contemporary radio. But the reviews were positively scathing. It was reviled as being a boring, meandering, pretentious mess with some occasional entertaining musical performances strung around a plot as inconsequential as Cliff Notes for a Dan Brown novel.

So I avoided Give My Regards To Broad Street entirely. Well, not entirely; I caught a few scenes on cable once, but they didn’t leave much of an impression as being entirely entertaining or utterly without merit. But here we are nearly thirty years later (!)… has time been kinder to Paul’s pet project? Is there gold in them hills, or is it just as singularly terrible as it’s reputation seems to indicate?

Well the GOOD news is that Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band doesn’t have to worry. Its infamous distinction as the most colossally revolting Beatles-related embarrassment remains intact.

But Give My Regards To Broad Street comes close. Very close. As in, the two shared the Green Room right before the ceremony.

And that’s not to say that the film is particularly cheesy, overwrought, cringe-worthy, or the type of disaster that makes you feel sorry for everyone involved and three generations of their ancestors. The sad truth about Give My Regards To Broad Street is that it’s a dreadful bore. The plot – and I use the term loosely – is an inconsequential, threadbare, and utterly uninvolving story-line through which the viewer trods in order to get to the songs. The story deals with Paul McCartney trying to track down the missing recordings to his latest album, stolen away by an unscrupulous business associate, while fellow ex-Beatle Ringo strikes up a romantic pursuit with a reporter, played by his real-life wife Barbara Bach.

The cast doesn’t look like their buying into it, either. Sir Paul seems game but none-to-enthused about the entire affair. Ringo might have been there for the paycheck alone, who knows… There are also appearances by Bryan Brown and Tracy Ullman, who add some flair to their roles, but overall this is a staid and lifeless affair. If you have any interest in the film, it’s most likely for the music. Paul and company do some pretty impressive work here and there; he has the good sense to open with Yesterday and performs many beloved Beatle chestnuts along the way, including For No OneEleanor RigbyHere There and EverywhereGood Day Sunshine, and The Long and Winding Road. Hmm… that’s four songs from Revolver alone! Where’s the love forRubber Soul?! Unfortunately, all of this is countered by what appears to be an Andrew Lloyd Webber-inspired rendition of McCartney’s Silly Love Songs, in which he and a group of face-painted musicians perform this classic (I still think it’s a classic; it’s my blog, so there!) alongside a very 1980s breakdancer in a piece of work that, upon retrospection, would have fit right in with the Sgt. Pepper’s movie. And then there’s this godawful ballroom dancing sequence that would have been that much more entertaining had it been awful in a campy, cheesy way. Instead, it was little more than a quizzical exercise in ennui.

The end result just lies there flat on the screen, expecting to be absolutely adored by fans but doing nothing to really earn it, save for coasting on nostalgia for a time long since past. By any discernible means, Give My Regards To Broad Street is a bust. Even the rather impressive cinematography featured in the “Jack The Ripper/Eleanor Rigby” sequence does little to polish this turd. Beatle fans who have been avoiding the film since 1984 can just keep on keeping-on for another 30 years.

blgbroadalbumTHE ALBUM

It’s really hard to hate on an album that features four songs from Revolver sung by Paul himself.

The Give My Regards To Broad Street sessions began in December 1982 and continued through July 1984, encompassing the pre- through post-production of the film. Paul continued his association with George Martin and Ringo during this time, which of course included the remaking of six Beatles classics. The sessions actually included demos of four other Beatles/McCartney songs that either were never finished or didn’t make it into the film: “Fool On The Hill”, “Hey Jude”, “Martha My Dear”, and “Band On The Run”. In the fall of 1984 the movie was finally released to absolutely dreadful reviews (akin to the one you just read, hopefully) and terrible box office. The soundtrack, however, was a commercial hit (if not a smash), going Gold in the US (just missing the Top 20) and Platinum in the UK (where it hit #1).

Looking back at my film review, I definitely seem to be more interested in the music than anything else. And truth be told, there’s almost little point in discussing Give My Regards To Broad Street — the album. It’s not that the record stinks(although by association with the movie, it couldn’t look good), but rather it’s entirely unnecessary. Of the 15 tracks, 12 are re-recordings of Beatles classics, Wings songs, and ’80s solo material. And why bother? They’re not as good as the originals, or they’re just as good as the originals which weren’t that good to begin with. They’re not bad remakes, necessarily, just not required, ya know? Was anyone really clamoring for a new take on “Silly Love Songs” or “Wanderlust”, or even “So Bad”, which had just been released as a single earlier that very same year?

Of the new songs, the hit single “No More Lonely Nights” really stands out. It’s actually quite a lovely song with a killer chorus. Probably one of Paul’s better solo ballads, it was a Top 10 hit in the US and UK. David Gilmour contributed a heck of a nice guitar solo outro, while Dave Edmunds laid down the rhythm guitar track. “No Values” came into being, Paul claimed, straight from a dream ala “Yesterday”. Yeah… not quite as good a song, which features Edmunds and Ringo. “Not Such A Bad Boy”, on the other hand, is a catchy little rocker, again with the type of chorus that really hooks you in. Great guitar playing from Edmunds. The final new song, “Goodnight Princess”, is a big-band, Busby Berkley styled instrumental. Cute and charming, but not quite essential.

I haven’t heard any of the bonus tracks, although I remember hearing the “dance mix” of “No More Lonely Nights” back in the 80s, and it seemed goofy and embarrassing at the time. Your mileage may vary. “Not Such A Bad Boy” and “No More Lonely Nights” are both strong tracks. The remakes are unnecessary. “Goodnight Princess” is a throwaway, and “No Values” is the only really weak cut. Give My Regards To Broad Street is a curiosity at best. Worth a listen, and for McCartney fans probably worth a purchase just for “Lonely Nights” and “Bad Boy”.

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