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Paul McCartney’s “Give My Regards To Broadway Street” Reviewed

The movie is so bad in so many ways that it may well be a camp classic. Has Ralph Richardson ever looked stupider? Ringo Starr more obnoxious? Barbara Bach less attractive? Has Dave Edmunds ever been so ill used? And has a movie ever been less possible and, simultaneously, more pointless? As for Paul McCartney, since “Give My Regards To Broad Street” was all his idea, why is he equal parts pained and distracted? So you watch it expecting the music (album # 16) to push the movie through, but it doesn’t. The oldies are terrible and even the newer vintage songs aren’t much. I have nothing against “No More Lonely Nights,” an assuming and pretty ballad. I’m not crazy about “Ballroom Dancing” and “Not Such A Bad Boy” (I concur with Ringo who mutters “must we?” when asked to rehearse the latter). “No Values” is a new wavey rocker and the best song on the album.

The problem is when you take the movie an you add the recording, what you end up with is a vanity project and a refracted mirror on McCartney, who has neither real nor fake, more subdued than his public persona, a little more lost in his life, and yet in no way the real musician.

“Give My Regards To Broad Street” is a shaggy dog story, stuck in a traffic jam Paul dreams up a mysterious London where Paul is taking loans from shady characters, and losing the masters of his new album and will lose his fortune if he can’t find them by midnight. It is an aimless movie highlighted (if that’s the word) by a fight during “Ballroom Dancing” and a long fantasy sequence set to “Eleanor Rigby” -McCartney wearing mutton chops as his world spirals into  nightmare. It ends happily enough though in 2017 some of McCartney’s conspicuous coolness (a car phone!) seems a little too much rubbing our noses in it. Here is another clue: movies about dreams, unless it stars Alice, are by definition a waste of time,

It is a bad movie and not as bad but not good album. Mixing oldies from the Beatles era, indifferently remembered, “Yesterday,” “The Long And winding Road,” and, for some strange reason, four songs off revolver, with Wings hits like “Silly Love Songs” and later vintage “Wanderlust” and “Ballroom Dancing,” plus new songs “Not Such a Bad Boy,” “No Values” and the only song missed here “No More Lonely Nights”. The album ends with BBC Radio circa WW2ish “Goodnight Princess”.  There is nothing very memorable here of course, the MORish overarranged Revolver songs are somewhat on the terrible side. But it does prove one thing, McCartney’s greatest gift is as a composer and not as an arranger, compare him to a peer -a Brian Wilson and it is clear that Paul can’t relax, the music is too thick. That was a major problem with his opera: it overstates the music.

The movie takes the concept of playing yourself, a dash of Help in the search for the masters  and a splash of Hard Day’s in its a day in the life,  as well as a British whose who of character actors and spins its wheels. But the dialogue is no good and McCartney is more wistful than anything else, he has a calm everyman that seems at odds with the story, and is also a little underwhelmed, he plays himself underwhelemed, as though he wants to remove the superhero from McCartney, he is an everyman McCartney. It is self-effacing to a fault and while it is Paul who wins the day, he does so with an all so English “mustn’t grumble”. He isn’t treated the way you know he should be treated. People are underwhelmed by his McCartneyishness. he stares at the rainy London streets, with a listless disavowal of what he is. It’s as though McCartney revealed himself to show that underneath it all there is a hole that music fills.

That’s a great idea for a musical and while “Give My Regards To Broad Street” is a terrible movie, it is terrible for very good reasons, it is terrible because it dares to portray McCartney as a completely bland figure. Unfortunately, both the album and the movie show blandness in a boring way. McCartney isn’t gifted enough as a movie producer to do the difficult and he is so involved with the movie, he screws up the music. The album is one of his worst (second to Driving Rain). Yet, the image of McCartney in the back of car looking at the rain is a new paradigm for the master songwriter.

Grade: C-

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