Keep your day job

There was a time when every band worth its position on the charts felt it necessary to star in a movie. I’m guessing this was mostly another revenue stream and extra way to capture our hard earned allowance, although since this was before the advent of the music video it also had some role to play in publicizing the songs beyond the A side of the singles. Anyhow, none of these movies were renowned for their plots or acting ability. Here are some of the more absurd examples of the pop/rock cinematic oeuvre.

1. Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter. This song (sung but not written) by Herman’s Hermits actually reached the top of the U.S. Billboard 100 in May 1965. Even more improbably, the only other of Herman’s songs to achieve the same feat was I’m Henry the VIII, I am. In case you are not familiar with its poetic brilliance, it consists of one verse (I’m Henry the VIII, I am, Henry the VIII I am, I am. I got married to the widow next door, she’d been married seven times before, and every one was a Henry – she wouldn’t have a Willy or a Sam – I’m her eighth old man, I’m Henry, Henry the VIII I am.) This verse can be repeated as necessary until it successfully induces nausea. But I digress. The movie created to bring the sentiments and poetic words of Mrs. Brown to the silver screen was your typical rags to riches plot. Herman, who is down on his luck, lives with his grandmother who happens to have a greyhound race dog that was owned by her deceased husband. The dog’s name is – wait for it- Mrs. Brown. Many hijinks abound on the way to Herman’s quest to race the dog to gain fame and fortune. Herman also happens to have a band (coincidently named Herman’s Hermits), an ideal way to earn the money required to enter Mrs. Brown into the most prestigious greyhound race in the country. I don’t exactly recall all of the details of the movie but I am sure everyone lived happily ever after. What I do know is I will never be able to regain the 90 minutes I spent watching it in 1968.

2. Help! I know that the Beatles were into Eastern mysticism but there is no excuse for this plot. As a refresher, Ringo ends up with a ring that is worn by the sacrificial victim of an Eastern cult. He can’t get it off his finger and therefore becomes the defacto next in line for execution. Various things happen, but eventually the group decides to escape capture from the cult by fleeing to the Austrian alps (certainly a highly predictable and logical plot twist), at which point they ski and make snow angels. And that’s pretty much it (aside from singing various songs including Help!). More astute students of film than myself have recognized that Help! is in fact an homage to both Duck Soup and any of the Bond films. Perhaps I should watch it again before seeing Skyfall. Or maybe not.

3. Ferry Cross the Mersey. Gerry and the Pacemakers (no, not that kind of pacemaker), were extremely popular in the 1960s and had a lot in common with the Beatles (from Liverpool, managed by Brian Epstein, produced by George Martin) and even some better success in the early days. Ferry Cross the Mersey was the song that inspired the eponymous cinematic tour-de-force in 1969. The movie is often referred to as Gerry’s version of A Hard Day’s Night. It does indeed involve ferries and the Mersey, but also the classic plot devices of car chases, mistaken identity, comic-relief grandfathers, and concerts on street corners. What more could you want – except maybe believable dialogue, consistent cinematography, and continuity specialist.