There’s a saloon a few miles away from me that I go to once a week with Tim. The Dancing Dog Saloon is or was a pub, way out in the country, which the owner Shaun has changed into a country line dancing venue. He has transformed the garden into a western town, whilst inside there must be thousands of pounds worth of country memorabilia from JD key rings to horns, spurs, posters and US licence plates.
The Dancing Dog has been featured on Top Gear and E channel and offers live entertainment, including coming soon Lonnie Donegan Jr.
Lonnie Donegan Sr was of course one of the King of Skiffle, and the UK’s most successful artist before the Beatles came along. Amongst his twenty or so hits was Rock Island Line and the story is that he received a one off payment for the song of fifty pounds and has never seen a penny more for that song.
It’s a familiar tale; Stan Webb told me the same thing about I’d Rather go Blind, still to this day featured on compilation CDs. The track features Stan’s discovery, Christine Perfect, or McVie as she is better known these days. She was with Stan’s band, Chicken Shack before joining Fleetwood Mac with her soon to be husband John.
Very few were shrewd enough to retain the rights to their material; I believe Rod Argent was one of those with all the Zombies catalogue.
It’s all changed; it was all about managers and agents in those days and what I love about the internet is that it gives control right back to the person who should have it – the artist.
(This is spooky; CJ has changed changed channels and an old episode of Top Gear is on with Tim Rice, who was literally saying the same thing as my last paragraph – cue Twilight Zone music!!!)
What has also changed is writing and writers.
A good learning ground for writers was of course the theatre. Is it a coincidence that at the height of truly ground breaking films being made in this country we had a strong contemporary theatre presence, writers like John Osborne, Alan Sillitoe and Joe Orton.
Based at the Royal Court theatre the English Stage Company included George Devine and one of my favourite directors, Tony Richardson. They produced plays such as Look Back in Anger which in their eyes was the revolution they had been waiting for. (I have the original poster as below in my hallway).
Actors at that time included John Gielgud, Laurence Olivier and the great Richard Burton, whilst Alan Sillitoe went on to write Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, truly one of the greatest films ever made, depicting life ‘up north’ in the last fifties and early sixties and one of my personal favourites. Another writer was Stan Barstow, with A Kind of Loving, and the two sequels, amazing writing.
Here’s the American original trailer for Look Back In Anger: http://youtu.be/wKk5gzEhphY
The list is endless – The Family Way (with McCartney writing the score); A Taste of Honey; Darling (with the truly gorgeous Julie Christie as below); Loneliness of a Long Distance Runner; Alfie (the original, not the awful remake); Up the Junction; Loot; Mulberry Bush; all British, all made within a few years.
These for me were the original human dramas, the kitchen sinks they were called them – I call mine kitchen dishwashers!
Today would-be writers mainly contact Eastenders or Coronation Street. There are hardly any local theatre companies now, outside London anyway, and hardly any of them will consider original work so as Basil Fawlty would say, that’s another avenue that has been closed off to us. Companies secure funding through offering rehashed Oscar Wilde or Shakespeare, and audience are down, except for the commercial productions, musicals. Many blame the internet.
You can put on your own play, we were going to do it last year, but the costs and risks simply do not add up. It is so expensive to stage a production today that it has become prohibitive really. We were lucky with Weekend Break! Now you hire a venue, with a very small capacity of around fifty, fund a cast, promote it, at a cost of at probably at least a thousand pounds a week. It simply is not financially viable.
However, the good news for writers is that with the cost of technology reducing all the time independent films will grow and the internet will be their market, and I intend for us to be at the forefront of this with Trick and the other films we have lined up for the next few years, exploring innovative ways of giving the public access to new films – internet TVs, laptops and computers, iPads etc.
Exciting times and hopefully we’ll see the creative force that came out of the UK in the fifties and sixties, be reignited and recognised once again, deservedly so.