An intelligent soundtrack and a decent snapshot of Lennon’s musical influences.
David Quantick 2009
From The Hours and Times and Backbeat to All You Need Is Love and The Bee Gee’s Sgt Pepper’s, there are a lot of movies inspired by the life and/or work of John Lennon. Nowhere Boy is the current hip contender, being directed by art star Sam Taylor-Wood, approved of by Yoko Ono, and focusing on Lennon’s teenage years and relationship with his mother Julia and his effective foster mother Aunt Mimi.
Released to favourable reviews, the movie was written by Control scriptwriter Matt Greenhalgh, a fact which is the best indicator here of how things go musically with the film. Just as Control was stuffed with appropriate period music, most of which was a direct influence on that film’s real life main character Ian Curtis, so Nowhere Boy has an excellent, and well put together collection of songs that influenced or surrounded the young John Lennon. We get the obvious – Gene Vincent’s Be-Bop-A-Lula, Little Richard’s Rip It Up, and even Bill Haley’s Rock Around The Clock – and we get the connoisseur rockers, from Wanda Jackson’s Hard Headed Woman to Buddy Knox’s Party Doll. The effect is both exciting and knowledgeable, like a teddy boy professor ripping up a university library with a sexy knife.
And, just as Control featured its cast performing and playing Joy Division songs, so Nowhere Boy extends the same courtesy to its own actors, who are heavily featured as The Nowhere Boys, performing pre-Beatles material originally recorded by Paul and John’s skiffley act The Quarrymen. The results are perfectly acceptable, and may well be the only place you’ll ever hear a cover version – or any version – of the spectacularly obscure very early Lennon and McCartney composition In Spite of All the Danger.
With the sensible addition of Lennon’s Mother at the end, this is a decent snapshot of Lennon’s influences and an intelligent soundtrack document, an excellent sister compilation to the soundtrack of Nick Moran’s Telstar, and a good record to buy anyone who wants to know what, musically, made John Lennon the artist he became.