Paul McCartney – Give My Regards to Broad Street (1984)

History: Paul, as a lover of film all his life, was given the opportunity to write a screenplay. He chose to pursue it much in the way the Beatles’ films were done, being primarily a music based film with a thin plot to tie the songs together. The critics hated it and the crowds did not flock to see it, but they did at least buy the soundtrack album. The album features a mix of some of Paul’s Beatles tunes re-recorded with his current band as well as some from his solo career and four new songs.

My own personal history and initial prediction: I’ve never seen the film before and beyond the obvious older tunes mentioned on the soundtrack I don’t think I know the songs here, unless once I hear them I’ll realize I just don’t know the titles. My general knowledge is that this was a sort of passion project for Paul which was a bit of a commercial failure. I figure this can’t be too much worse than that strange Ringo/Ognir Ratts tv special Ringo came up with to promote Bad Boy, and even if it’s boring, we’re still getting to hear Paul play a lot of good songs.

Review: While I technically listened to the soundtrack alone before watching the film, I do think you essentially need to talk about both at once to really get them. As I said in the history section, this is clearly Paul trying to emulate the style of something like A Hard Day’s Night, which was essentially a day in the life of the Beatles. Here the plot is that Paul just finished an album the day before, and he sent off one of his bandmates, Harry, to deliver the master tapes to the factory for release. Harry had spent some time in prison previously, so when the tapes don’t show up at their destination and Harry is nowhere to be found, the label assumes he’s run off with them. Paul wants to believe that Harry has truly reformed, but as the day goes on he keeps imagining that maybe Harry really did run off with them, or otherwise get forced into giving them up. The rest of Paul’s day is rehearsing songs, filming music videos (two in one day!), and making a radio appearance. He visits a mutual friend who has items around his apartment that correspond with some of the dream sequences Paul has been having before finally wandering over to the Broad Street station and finding the tapes abandoned on a bench and Harry trapped inside an old building he thought was as bathroom.

The problem with the story elements is that they really have no momentum to them whatsoever. We’re giving a supposed looming threat that the studio will be bought out by some corporate heavy if the tapes aren’t returned, but they’re just mean looking folks in suits and sunglasses with no characterization. Everyone keeps wondering where Harry is in between songs, but there’s no real forward movement to the scenes at all. Tracy Ullman plays Harry’s girlfriend, and she does a decent job looking sad and worried for him, but she literally has nothing to do beyond cry and get chauffeured around by Paul and his roadie in between shoots before being dropped off at home. We see one flashback of Harry and Paul meeting, but there’s not a whole lot to the scene to give us much sympathy for Harry or know much about him, or why Paul believes in him so much. There’s also very little humor here. There’s a very tall and large built man who shows up that I think is supposed to be comic relief, but it’s not well executed. It all just falls very flat. The only scene that really made me chuckle is the first rehearsal, where Paul tells Ringo to play with brushes, and he spends an entire two songs digging around the studio for them. When he finally finds them and sits back down at the kit, it’s time to switch back to sticks. It works solely because Ringo has as much natural comedic timing as he does with his drumming.

So it’s really all about the song sequences here, and they are.. adequate. The Beatles songs are not better than their original versions but they’re well executed, no doubt with George Martin’s help in arranging the instrumentation on them. The songs from Pipes of Peace and Tug of War also come off well since we’ve largely got the same team working behind them here too. The two music videos are really fun, “Ballroom Dancing” getting this fun dance battle in the middle of it and “Silly Love Songs” featuring Paul, Linda, and the group in amazing new wave makeup and hairstyles while a robot dancer performs in front of them. The “rehearsal” songs also work well as performance based music videos of the band playing together. Of the new songs “Not Such a Bad Boy” is probably my favorite, and the band seems to be having genuine fun while playing it in the film as well. The extended part of “Eleanor Rigby,” titled “Eleanor’s Dream” is also a really great extension of that song and the video to accompany it is well executed.

Overall, I can certainly see why this wasn’t a success, and I can’t help but wonder where the blame should be placed. Did no one tell Paul what wasn’t working here because they figured it would sell regardless with his name on it? Or did people tell Paul it had issues and he decided to ignore them to just do what he wanted? I feel like either is a plausible answer. It feels very much like he was still trying to make a Magical Mystery Tour style film in the 1980s, and if that was the case it really should have been a little more out there and gone straight for an arthouse style release rather than typical theater release. While the whole film is available for viewing on Youtube now, your time may be better spent just looking up the music sections.

Singles released around this time:

“We All Stand Together” – In the theaters Give My Regards to Broad Street was also proceeded by the short “Rupert and the Frog Song” which Paul and Linda also produced. Paul does all the male voices in the short including Rupert and wrote the song that is the main focus of the short. It’s a cute animated feature where Rupert goes out for a walk and discovers a gathering of frogs that happens every couple hundred years where they all sing and dance together. It’s light and fluffy and a decent way to spend 13 minutes of your time. The song is decent too.

“Do They Know It’s Christmas?” – This is a really obscure moment, but Paul was asked to make an appearance on this record and was too busy to come in and record with everyone so he recorded a phone message that they included on the B side. While most of the other celebrities featured on this side send messages to feed the world or wishing everyone a happy Christmas, Paul’s is him saying sorry he couldn’t be there followed by a chuckle. It’s a little strange and out of place amongst the others really.

Next Time: We’re hitting a point where Paul is far more productive than the other two, so we’ll once again be following him with his next release, Press to Play.

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