This sequel to That’ll Be The Day (1974) – now set in the 1960s – opens appropriately enough in a fairground, providing an obvious flashback link to the original film, the first of many cross-references.
Jim MacLaine (David Essex) – who has now left his wife and young son and is ‘on the road’ with his group, The Stray Cats – bumps into Mike (now played by Adam Faith taking over the role Ringo Starr played in the original movie) and talks him into becoming road manager for the group.
Cooped up in the back of a small van, they begin their endless trail from local dance halls to university hops. The band’s sound is typical raw early-60s rock & roll and never really changes or develops throughout the movie – somewhat unconvincingly as the Stray Cats are depicted as supposedly changing the course of rock history.
After meeting music publisher Colin Day (Marty Wilde), events escalate and the Stray Cats find themselves the subjects of fan adulation. Not surprisingly many parallels can be drawn with the lives of many sixties bands, most notably, The Beatles (the suits are a dead give away guys).
Actually, there’s a great scene containing a bit of a nod and a wink to the old Four: on a plane in the States, Jim is asked how he found America, and while he is giving his sensible answer one of the Stray Cats comments that “at least he didn’t say ‘turn left at Greenland'”.
Like a rollercoaster, the momentum of initial success catapults the group into the world of big-time manipulators.
A concert in New York finds the group suddenly under new management. A man named Porter Lee (Larry Hagman) has quietly bought 75% of the original contract without any member of the group knowing about it.
From that moment, the pressure is on, and as Jim and his group are swept along on a punishing tour of engagements and become puppets in a vast dollar game, personal conflicts mount. The group begin to resent the constant media focus on Jim while they are pushed into the background.
Jim returns to England for his mother’s funeral which is a travesty as the area is overrun with hysterical fans. Memories are stirred still further when Jim comes face to face with his wife and son – she is bitter and resentful, and the little boy is unaware that Jim is his father.
Back in America, the group tell Jim they are leaving him, and although Mike is still hovering at his side, Jim is now out on his own. And once Jim goes solo (around the mid-sixties), a bizarre thing happens. Time appears to warp a little and the latter half of the 1960s become the mid-1970s!
Perhaps the person in charge of continuity went on holiday or something, but in a scene which we date at around 1967 – 1968, there is a poster for The Rocky Horror Show clearly visible in the background. The show did not hit the stage until around 1973
Jim retreats to his hideaway in a Spanish castle to think out his superstar position and conceives the idea of a giant rock opera dedicated to women. By now a victim of drug dependence, he is persuaded to do a special global television interview (his first in two years) but dies of an overdose just as a new chapter in his life seems about to open.
All in all, the movie is most enjoyable, showing both the highs and lows of stardom, climaxing in a dramatic finale in front of the world’s cameras.
However, the highlight of the whole thing is the late Keith Moon (from The Who) as The Stray Cats drummer, J.D. His performance alone is worth the price of the DVD.
Oh yeah . . . and watch out for Mike’s limp, too. He seems to forget which leg is the duff one!
Porter Lee Austin
Rick Lee Parmentier