Monday, April 29, 2019

Born to Boogie (1972)

On another whim, I happened to watch Born to Boogie, a film about T. Rex from 1972 that is difficult to categorize. Directed by and featuring several scenes with Ringo Starr, it clearly takes a card from Ringo's goofy, playful style. Most of the film is based around concert footage from two massive concerts on the same day at Wembley. In between are some experimental and comedic scenes and a superstar jam session in which T. Rex are joined by Ringo and Elton John.

If you're a fan of T. Rex and that introduction sounds awesome, then you will probably enjoy the film no matter what else I write. But in truth, the film leaves a lot to be desired. First off, it's only just about an hour long. Secondly, of the dozen or so songs performed, three are repeated (albeit in different arrangements). Most importantly, while Ringo seems like a really fun person to hang out with, he isn't exactly a talented director.

The concert footage is decent, but it is readily apparent that it was either overdubbed or at least partially re-tracked. Harmony vocals can be heard despite no one on stage apparently singing them. Marc Bolan's hands are not always aligned with the guitar sounds, and at some points it even sounds like there are two guitar tracks. Mickey Finn's congas are mostly inaudible. Worst of all, much of the screen time is devoted to rather creepy close-ups of ecstatic young women in the audience.

The studio jam session is admittedly quite cool, but again, signs of overdubbing or re-tracking are apparent. Nonetheless, the three percussionists still have some trouble staying in time. On the other hand, John hammers at a piano with a furious intensity that is impressive to watch. While "Tutti Frutti" seems like nobody's favorite song, "Children of the Revolution" is done quite well.

The other notable segment is described as a "Tea Party" despite that it features nuns eating hamburgers, Finn ravenously eating something apparently bloody, and Bolan playing songs with an acoustic guitar, backed by a string quartet. The imagery, despite being filmed at John Lennon's estate grounds, is mostly bizarre and uncomfortable, but the music is pleasant. They play a medley of "Jeepster", "Hot Love", "Get It On", and "The Slider", all done in clever arrangements with the strings.

Other than a few bits of recited poetry, that's about all there is. Later releases add various interviews from the era, assorted outtakes, and/or the entire Wembley concerts. My interest did not quite extend that far. While I deeply appreciate the cosmic absurdity of T. Rex, Born to Boogie does not do a great job of presenting their best parts. It comes across as indulgent and uninspired. If you can handle that, it still has some fun elements, and it's easy to see why someone so strange could be so inspirational.

Score: C-


P.S. Thanks to Stereogum for offhandedly mentioning this film!

P.P.S. I never released how much Robert Smith borrowed from Bolan in the early days!

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